Post has attachment
Transmission: December - 2017

Artifact: The Crest of Anlor and Oswyn

The year has been dark and difficult in the Metronox. In started with an unexpected turn in the Draega corporation; the board of directors nominated a new CEO, who serves, by corporate jurisdiction, as the Knight of the Downtown district. Their pick was controversial, a well known fool and criminal. It’s been ages since the Acid Quadrant was ruled by someone so shamelessly villainous. The year continued to be harrowing through the uprooting of a conspiracy that started in Tinseltown and left great rifts in the power structure of the Clover Quadrant, as a network of courageous women dragged the sickening acts and histories of rich and sheltered men into the light of justice. And so the year closes, as one could expect, almost quietly, as compared to uproar of the turmoil before it. By now we’ve grown used to waiting up for more bad news.

The year has, for me, your humble guide, also been one of trouble and weariness. With the turning of the tide in Acid my life under the watchful eye of Draega has been a long and tiresome grind. My trips between this home and many others happen less frequently. And most of what I’m sharing with you here is just a collection of memories. Not the illumination of modern wonders that i’d hoped to bring you. No. Instead, I’m am sad to say, these stories are history lessons and favorite episodes from an already finished series.

Still. I think now to a friends advice: ”Zoom out, and consider history, and consider our place within it. Think about hope on the grand scale of all of history.”

And, as if in answer, my heart remembered an old story. I’ve got one thing left to say before the changing of the calendar.

This is a story of my most favorite kind - not a yarn spun on the copper and rusted irons of the Inner City, not a digital signal broadcast by better minds in the depths of perfect Orbaeous. No. This is a story of champions and hope, as chronicled in the histories of Aesaria, the origin point of the Draedean species, a world of crystal swords, magic words, and neverending horizon.

The Legend of Anlor and Oswyn begins in a Tower Keep built along the farthest wall of the Kingdom at the Center of Aesaria. Here the Kingdom is thin and the shape of the landscape is more natural than engineered. Beyond the final wall of the Kingdom the lands are still safe and prosperous under the watchful eye of the Tower Keeps and the civilization burning bright within its walls. Inward from this border the city grows only taller and more connected, as roads grow denser and more traveled in the direction of the greater spires. It is said that the edge of Aesaria’s metropolis holds the greatest life of peace and beauty.

The Tower Keep of Anlor and Oswyn was called the Viridian Gate, held strong by a handful of humble families and the sworn shields of some good-hearted mercenaries. Two young knights, Oswyn and Anlor, both matched in spirit and virtue, spent all of their youth and the years of first service in the good life of Viridian Gate. Oswyn was the proud heir to a Crown-blooded noble, and Anlor the favorite squire of a sellsword company called the Gray Ravens, but so far out at their edge of their Kingdom, the hierarchy of old society was mostly a story told at the dinner table. All in Viridian Gate were equals, keepers of the safety for their realm, a position most important, but also mostly easy.

So then one day comes a stranger to Viridian Gate. A ragged and elderly man, in search of aid for a kingdom far away, off any map that has been truthful for more than a generation. In those lands the maps begin to change - paths don’t always go where they say they should, and stars don’t always reveal the right direction. This is the Edge of the World. Outposts are built in service to the ancient crowns, and Watches are taken by families or companies willing to be rescuers of any lost travelers in search of safety where the world becomes wild again. The Stranger's haven was no different from the role of the Viridian Gate in many ways, just farther away, and with no guarantee the Kingdom would even remember them.

So the stranger reveals that the people of his outpost have suffered for more than a decade at the hands of a powerful but corrupted Crowned House, who, as the stranger swore by tears and oath, was in fact a league of demons working through illusory magic and conspiracy to keep his lost Keep in perpetual distress and disarray. A truth he carried into exile, and by the gods' good will alone, brought back to the Kingdom at the Center of the World.

Now, in the original telling of the tale, I would be obligated to regale you with what happens next. There are Eight chapters in a story about Fate, per the numerology of the Cosmonox. But that, to me, a raconteur of the city, is not what’s important. What happens next is easy enough for you to guess. Chapter one is about Viridian Gate, and the hearts of our young champions. Chapter two is about the darkened outpost and how these two knights each took oaths in reply to the Stranger's plight (some would say foolishly). Oswyn to the Crown of their noble family, swearing to be ready to aid Anlor with the slightest request, Anlor to the Stranger, that they would see this lost Outpost rescued from demons.

And then, both Anlor and Oswyn to each other: an oath to remember each other, and to never lose faith or hope in their friendship.

It is obvious to me that these two children did not expect what they should have from a story with Eight Parts. It hurts a bit, when I think of it. Two young idealist souls thinking their simple promises would need only to endure a brief parting.

But, instead, here is where I should tell you about Chapter three: Oswyn abandons their vigil to honor a request from the inner Kingdoms, and with great worry leaves the Viridian Gate and finds a quest put upon them to rescue another noble from the catacombs of the city. Chapter Four is where I tell you how far and away the Stranger’s Outpost really is, and how Anlor finds their heart sinking at the possibility of never seeing home again. Chapter Five is about Oswyn fighting a gigantic specter in massive black plate, failing, and being trapped inside the armor. Only to discover their mission trapped inside with them, the young noble they were tasked with rescuing. Of course they fall in love at first sight, and together defeat the walking prison, and return home. Chapter Six is about Anlor uprooting the corrupted House Crowns of the Ouptost, but at great cost, and knowing that this would only invoke the wrath and incarnation of the conspiracies dark benefactors - greater demons from beyond the edge of the world.

But none of that is necessary. Here is what you must know: Through it all they wrote letters to each other. Letters that never found their way home. Anlor, lost on the frayed edge of the map, wrote letter after letter, giving it to birds that might carry the words home. And Oswyn kept a book, a tome of records, each passage written to their dear, old friend.

These chapters take years, however, and both eventually thought the other was lost. To Anlor, the letters grew meaningless, so much so that their reports dwindled from lengthy scrolls to, eventually, just a scrawling of their shared crest, the shield standard of their friendship, on a piece of wood or a scrap of cloth. A tired effort to call home, to keep faith and hope alive in the friendship between them. To Oswyn, the book became habit, afterthought, and more a record for personal use than an account of all that Anlor would have missed, as it had started out.

Now here is what else you must understand: through dungeons and black knights, through ruins and daring escapes from demon lords, past halls of celebration and havens of rebellion, at the end of each chapter the storyteller must read you one of these letters. And as the letters shrink, one thing remains certain: Neither Anlor nor Oswyn have given up on each other. Decades pass and their faith, buried by silence, changed by the soil of their character, takes root and grows into something new.

It is this faith, I think, that summons the divine into this story, and in Chapter seven we see as the gods discuss rumor of a great army of darkness moving toward the map of the world. We see as the goddess Vearlanna, Lady of Communion, the Weaver and Mender, finds what seems a silver and green thread, the impossible connection between Oswyn and Anlor, and through it uncovers a great truth. The gods, in their wisdom, uncover the connection between the rise of the dark army and the black knight that haunted the dungeons of the oldest Kingdom, whom Oswyn conquered. They see that fate has somehow bound these two friends, and in mirror to that friendship, the black knight and his dark army.

And so, as the gods always manage in Draedean hero sagas, Vearlanna sends out one small servant to save these people. A simple Gray Raven, who finds Anlor preparing to meet a dark army with only a handful of standing soldiers, and bids the knight to pause for a moment, and to write home. Tired, distracted, Anlor idly scratches their crest of friendship on a small parchment and hands the scrap to the raven, expecting nothing different to come of it that has not already come in the past years.

And the messenger is away, taking through the paths of the sky, back to the Viridian Gate. Before the first moon rises on the Outpost preparing for siege, the crest is delivered to Oswyn, who has only been home again for one night. But without hesitation, the noble heart of the knight knows exactly what this means, and what must be done.

The Eighth and final chapter of this tale is battle. Draedean histories are full of wars and sieges and surprise attacks. It’s expected. But this is one of the best, in my opinion, because it starts as a handful of faithful swords, lead by only one Knight - Anlor, Shield of the Gray Ravens, lost warrior of the Viridian Gate - standing fast with only an ember of hope against the marching forces of a dark army. On the horizon: demons, monsters, denizens of the unmapped world, approaching to shred and burn what is named and true.

But as Anlor strides out from the ruins of the very Outpost they had come to save, the last of the people who lived in that haven now shoulder-to-shoulder at their side, a minuscule phalanx against the tide of shadow before them, none among their rank are the first to strike. Instead, as Anlor closes his eyes, and thinks back to home, to Viridian Gate, they do not see Oswyn’s spear, like a bolt of green lighting from the fog, cross the field of battle directly overhead, and pin the leader of the oncoming horde to the blackened soil they stood upon. As Anlor’s eyes open to see the army of the Viridian Gate surround the battlefield, and wade into the oncoming army, those eyes fill with tears. And Anlor never unsheaths a weapon.

The reason I love this story so much is because Draedean culture is not one for hyperbole. It is anathema to them. They tell you only what truly happened. Which is why it’s so much fun to report how this tale ends, because I’m not exaggerating or embellishing for flourish. I can tell you with utmost certainty and a special inner delight: Not a single soldier of Viridian was lost. Wounded, yes, afraid, most certainly. But against the horde of darkness no soldier fell. In that one battle, one rare for Draedean war stories, I can speak with honesty: the goodguys won, entirely, and without casualty. It is rare to be able to say that, knowing you’re only reporting the truth and not reaching to stoke the fires of hope in your audience.

Now, yes, there is some business about how Oswyn learned from their quest to the dungeons to the defeat the black knight how to fight the horde that was bound to that menace - something about emeralds and setting them in the weapons, I forget - but the important thing is that two friends never gave up on each other. Even after years, decades of silence, of not speaking or knowing if the other even remembers them; after all the room to doubt and the good reasons to move on… what saved the day was just knowing that friendship… returns. When it must, when it needs to. That friendship, when believed in, saves us, even after long silence, hopeless odds, and being very busy with other quests.

A fool might tell you that Anlor and Oswyn are fiction, but they’d be wrong. Draedeans do not mix their history with their faery stories, and accusing a teller of such tales that their account wafts of imagination will introduce you to swift correction. It is easier to disbelieve in the wonders of our past, because that relieves the burden of dealing with our own narrative. Our lives are wonderful things. Living up to the responsibility of that can be daunting.

A fool from the Inner City or other human worlds might also tell you that Anlor and Oswyn were paragons, standing over us, above us, and not privy to the nature of our own struggles. That we, who are not knights or mercenaries, cannot be expected to keep such inspiring friendships. I would roll my eyes at that, too. If a pair of young hopefuls can keep faith in each other through decades of quest and silence, we can manage to keep value in our relationships after forgetting to text someone on their birthday.

The key, I believe, is to focus not on the weight of the distance - do not let your thoughts linger on what caused the silence, on what your friend might think of your silence, on what the right words are or what the right means to reconnect might be. Sure, there were gods involved, but the message between Anlor and Oswyn was not perfect because of their divine intervention. It was perfect because they were friends, and drew a doodle of that friendship together, one neither of them could forget. Put that same faith in your own connections.

The Artifact this month is a small card that is often sent out in the Inner City - we’re big on cultural appropriation in the IC, so it won’t surprise you that many companies and print houses quickly picked upon the meaning of this tradition and found a way to mass market it. But, just like Anlor and Oswyn, the crest of their friendship has gone on to mean, in the wider worlds of the Cosmonox, just what it meant between the two knights who first drew it. I’m still here. I still remember you and treasure you. I still believe in our connection.

While I think most denizens of the Inner City consider the Legend of Anlor and Oswyn to be something like a Draedean nusery rhyme, the meaning behind it is still kept sacred. When you need to reach out to someone you miss, someone you have not talked to in far too long, someone you’re afraid might be losing faith in your friendship, you can send them this crest. It’s a way of bypassing long emails that explain your silence, accidentally making the conversation more about you than your reconnection. It’s a way of putting aside the fear and worry that someone else hasn’t thought about you in forever, sending them the crest doesn’t worry about whether or not that’s true, it simply says, “Hey, I’m still here, and I still treasure you.” It is a statement of standing dedication, and a request for affirmation of the same. All made simple, in a slip of paper you can mail with just a stamp.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment

So, more and more i'm hearing from my supporters that there is limited gain from getting printed materials. This is not a homogeneous observation. Some people dig the post cards, but not the other stuff. Some people dig the post cards and the posters, but not the other stuff. Some people would prefer to see the art online, but have no interest in physically printed stuff at all.

So i'm checking in with all y'all. First things first - your simple reply: Do you like getting all the things, or some (please let me know in the comments what stuff that is), or none. I'll happily adjust to what you would like.
votes visible to Public
Poll option image
I like Some Stuff!
I like No Stuff, i need Less Stuff, thx
I like stuff!
I like Some Stuff!
I like No Stuff, i need Less Stuff, thx
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Transmission: November - 2017

Artifact: East Grand Church of Life Worship Service Program

A recent change that runs deep through the history of this city recently came to an almost placid conclusion. Now, this topical war has been discussed and debated by higher minds than my own for more generations than I’ve known. Like the end of a very long chapter in a very old story, where you were so caught up in the narrative you almost forgot that the book takes breaks, and some stories are reborn even between the limits of Once upon a time... and Happily ever after.

I have a friend, who is not a Paladin, but his heart is ready for it. Given the chance, he could stride the halls in Aesaria, and carry a crystal blade with the boldest of that order. I’ve known him longer than most of my other Faithful friends, although our years have taken us in very different directions. There’s a lot about myself now that I would not admit to him. And a lot, I’m sure, that he doesn’t admit to me.

We took some time to meet up at a diner recently, a family place, just within the limits of Sonder, and as I stepped up behind him I could see he was reading the lower half of a newspage, digging through some story that was diced up and scattered in with the other remnants of news not worth the Front Page. His expression drew the question out of me, a look of somber concern, almost disappointment, “What’s wrong? What are you reading?”

He looked up at me and sighed, “The City has finally passed the Vantuyl Act.”

“Oh,” I let the air grow a little thicker around the quiet between us. “What are the details?” was all I could come up with to say.

The Vantuyl Act was the most recognizable name for a proposal that would finally remove the Metronox leadership from any form of religious organization. There were many acts written up prior to the one proposed by Chancellor Vantuyl, but his was the most recent and the most… engaging. Vantuyl was a known aethist and political house fire. He made it no secret that his goal was not just to remove religion from the thought process of law and government, but that he wanted to see it undone from the city as a whole.

My friend explained to me that the current version of the Vantuyl Act was so re-written and so modified by the time the City Council passed it, the nature of its effects would be almost unnoticeable to everyone living in the city. Over the last few years the majority of high councils have moved, of their own wisdom, to divide their Faith from their Authority. After a few thousand years, it just becomes apparent that Theology is often a great motivator, but rarely a good means for governance. My friend the would-be Paladin, of course, would disagree.

I could see in his expression the sense of rejection, as if the City had chosen to say, ‘This Religion is no longer true,’ when it was really only saying, ‘This Religion should not be held above the others.’ The modern, legalized Vantuyl Act was not the screed against the Faithful that made it a battleground so many decades ago. This legislation really only did one noteworthy thing: it removes The Church as the official religion of Metronox. So that the city can now be a safe place for any system of belief, or any system of doubt.

After watching his face through the explanation of it, I was made aware just how long it’s been since I had visited any of the churches that helped raise me over the years. And after we’d said our goodbyes I took some time to wander old, familiar Stepways and see about looking in on the ancient buildings I used to visit every week.

The first was easy enough to get back to. West Kelly Street Congregation, in the Exodus Quadrant. The Kelly Street congregation is one of those old Sanguinite Churches, marked by the Sanguine Cross. The Sanguinite denomination is old, and their Saints are many. They keep a strong presence in the City, both at the side of high ranking officials, and in the streets where the poorest of the City are begging for hope. Their ancient churches are often just repurposed warehouses or amphitheaters. Their central offices are always in the administration offices of a larger hospital. And they are the denomination that has stretched out and traveled the farthest beyond the city limits.

The Sanguinite Church is focused on service. Dealing with the tragic, and the immediate. Their goal, their greatest struggle, is with living a life dedicated to rescuing and healing people. Their faith is woven into that act, at every choice, and someone can’t be saved by any of the Sanguine without being reminded of the stories and the traditions that build their order, their theology and their ethics. In fact, some people are often surprised when a nurse or doctor in a difficult situation turns out to be a Sanguinite Missionary. Their religion is personal, their work is unmistakable.

West Kelly, however, is one of my favorite churches of the Sanguinite Cross. It is a tiny little building, built into the side of a Wells Mart. There is only one person of the cloth among their number, and he is the guardian caregiver to a mixed bag of citizens from all over Acid, Exodus and Sonder. The church at West Kelly is diverse, strange, a bit ragged, a bit old fashioned, and mostly just very hard to describe. There are ancient Zaithen women in proper academic regalia, young Draedean athletes wearing their family hand-me-down suits, Aruquan exiles dressed in street clothes, Machinae orphans with Sanguinite tokens emblazoned on their hull, and human families that look like the paintings from a children’s book. There is no one among them that looks like they belong, and no one that looks unwelcome.

The pastor at West Kelly will never be a Saint. He will never leave his few square blocks in the darkest part of the city, either. The first time I heard him preach he was telling stories about his time before forsaking his previous life and taking on the robes of a minister; his trials as a criminal were great sermon seasoning. The moment that stuck with me the most was when he talked about being pinned down in an alley with three other men shooting at him. He said to the congregation, “And that’s when I realized…” I waited for him to talk about the power of God, or the call to forgiveness, “I needed a bigger gun!” I knew then that West Kelly was not like the other Sainted congregations. It was authentic in a way that challenges me still.

The Sanguinite denomination does not hold your past over your head. They are honored to have your history be part of the tools you use to heal the world. Of all the Denominations of the Faithful, the church at West Kelly street taught me that there will always be more to do, and that every part of who you are is key to helping people.

The next building I wandered back to was not actually a church, but an old records archive on the campus of a university in Sonder. Being a weekend between holidays the facilities were open but felt utterly abandoned. I found my way to a little alcove below the open air stairway that goes up one side of the building. As the memories came back to me, I could hear in my heart the laughter and song of very old friends, as if nothing had changed. The same low-budget decorations were up on the walls - posters like the kind you’d see in a credit-card office, fliers for upcoming on-campus events, a fake plant, sunbleached and probably covered with the same dust that was on every leaf the last time I laid eyes on it. I rested in one of the long rows of waiting-room style chairs, trying to remember which seat I prefered back then...

This little under-used nowhere became the meeting place for a group of rebels I would meet with during the few years I dwindled at this particular university. We were under the grinning gaze of our schools officially recognized denomination: The Levanent Church of God and Truth. This was the first collection of connections in my life that were both Friends and Faithful equally in my mind. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to having a church that was my community, and not just a group I felt obligated to, or a clique that made me feel welcome without managing to help me feel like I belonged. Here, I felt truly wanted, almost respected.

Our ideas, beliefs and hopes were all just different enough that the conversation was never complacent. But we were alike in our history and ideals enough that the conversation was never stressful or harmful. I rarely felt afraid to speak my mind in that group. It was the first place where I learned to genuinely reflect on what I believe. It was the best example of a church being a place where you can grow.

Which is pretty funny, because the Levanent are not known for their community. They are known for their authority, their strict interpretations of holy text, their explicit ranks and hierarchy among the congregation. The Levanent denomination is symbolized by the Hammer of Devotion, which plays heavily into their iconography about the human heart being a piece of heated steel worked on the forge to perfection. I wonder about that metaphor, as we few were meeting in secret, breaking the rules, and hammering our own thoughts with gentle questions and sincere answers.

I sat for just a few minutes in the uncomfortable silence of that little alcove. Then I moved on.

At last my walk turned down the long driveway that runs the length of an open field. My oldest congregation was in the distance. Between my path and the yellow brick building, with it’s pinnacle white spire in the skyline, the open yard for children to play sports was a patchwork quilt of mud, late-winter green grass, and the buttergold leaves of oaks, and the ember orange leaves of maples, all gone to sleep for the season. The strange dark aquamarine windows were nearly black, the building empty until Sunday.

This was the East Grand Church of Life. The oldest church of my childhood, where I met my would-be Paladin friend, where I made my first friends among the Faithful. This was the church where I first asked questions, where I was first given answers. Where I first made memories.

It occurred to me, after such a long stroll, that this is what was different now, between myself and my history, and at the same time, probably, between this city and its diverse denizens. We are ready, now, to go forward with our own stories, and our own experiences, and see the truth without the guiderails of anecdote and teaching that has been implied necessity for so long. The church was not a part of my life, anymore. It was a part of my history.

East Grand is a church within the greater United Meridianist Movement. That well-loved denomination built on vitamin-enriched milktoast and middle-ground thinking. It’s the largest denomination in the city, and the youngest to be recognizably a church of the Faithful. It’s amazingly adept at knowing about conflicts and not getting involved, while at the same time being fiercely unstoppable when one of their own, or one even peripheral to their own, is in any kind of need.

The symbol of the UMM is a circle around a shepherd's crook. Something I find delightfully fascinating - Shepherds are essentially a fiction to most people in the city. They have not existed since the pastoral days of myth long ago, before the population of the Metronox filled every building in the landscape. And, yet, the notion of a shepherd and his flock is core in aesthetic and principle to this denomination.

East Grand was no exception. This is where you went to seek the shelter and wisdom of your Flock. Your shepherd, your pastor, your deacons. And for years I learned the stories and the theology of my congregation from men and women that I still respect to this day. Once safe within the walls of their quiet church, some difficult questions could be asked, and some leadership could even admit, “I don’t know,” something you’d never hear from the authority of the Levenant.

But, like any panacea, the cure was lost in the prescribing. The search for truth became irrelevant to the maintenance of community. The idea of belonging, the responsibility of attendance, and compliance with the traditions, became more important that the hearts of the people that made up the church. It wasn’t that they stopped caring, they just forgot that there are other ways of caring - ways that aren’t strictly founded in the Good Book or the rituals of our religion. What started as a cure for many things became, somehow, the only cure you were allowed to use. If you were struggling, it did not matter the symptoms, church was the cure.

I left East Grand to find my own stories, and to understand my religion on a deeper level. That’s where I found my friends in compassionate rebellion against the Levanent hegemony, tucked away under a stairwell in a random administration building. And from there I found the authenticity inherent in the life and actions of the Sanguinites. Before, eventually, realizing that none of these stories or traditions really belong to me.

All of this Truth was given to me by people I love, respect, and can still learn from. But when put against the actual experiences of my life, the actual truth that I find in my heart… none of them are, in their entirety, in harmony with what I believe.

I think the city feels this same truth. And while I’m sure some are still feeling hurt, betrayed, maybe even afraid of the Vantuyl Act, it won’t be long before no one even notices anymore. Being one of the Faithful - real, authentic Faithful - isn’t about reputation, it’s not about winning any fights. It’s about understanding what you believe and why you believe it. It’s about reconciling what you feel with what you’ve experienced. It’s about sharing your truth. And, in the end, that’s not much different from what anyone from any other religion will do, even the people that hate all religions.

The Artifact this month is a simple, boring program from East Grand. It’s one I’ve seen over, and over again, so many times, at every Sunday service. I found this one on my long walk, after the Vantuyl Act went into effect. It was in with the leaves across the yard, dropped or discarded, and still somehow in decent condition. I wonder what the sermon was like that week. What the attendance is like these days. I wonder how my friend, the would-be Paladin is doing, these few days into our new religiously neutral Metronox. I wonder if he knows that we still believe the same things between us, about Love, God, Life and Death, and the truth. That our only difference, really, in the end, is what you do with your Sunday mornings.


The closest I’d come to returning to a Church in this cosmonox, is the Ethlican denomination. While you find your shepherd at a UMM church, or your spiritual authority in the Levanent cathedrals, or your next mission with any Sanguinite Saint, you’ll find your own truth at an Ethlican church. This is the second largest denomination in the city, and the largest in the known worlds. It was originally founded by an allegiance between the most altruistic Faithful from Aesaria, the schools of Orbaeous, and reformists from the UMM in Metronox. I don’t know much about it yet, and I might still look into it, but for now, it’s just that denomination in the background, the one people keep saying, “Hey, you might try visiting there.” And, given how often we change in our lifetimes, maybe yet I will. Until then, let this little program be the last souvenir of my time within any church.
3 Photos - View album
Add a comment...

Playlist: Make Mum Proud

This is a collection of music i was listening to while trying to find the right words for writing a birthday post to my Mum. In my head this is the soundtrack to T.C.s roadside diner. It's all the music my Mum taught me to love. There is no order, so just let it play on shuffle.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Transmission: October - 2017

Artifact: T.C.'s Postcard

I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, and many of those miles were traveled over the hills and through the gullies of the Ozarks. And once upon a trip, long ago, I happened upon a little kitchen in the middle of nowhere, and in that place I found an old story, a wonderful family, and the perfect postcard image to capture the look and feel of driving four tires on the blacktop trails that knit the seams of Southern Foundation.

I was on the hunt for a shortcut to one of my repeated destinations, a little outpost called Gainsville, when the blacktop turned to a cloudy grey, vein-marked with black tar repairs, and divided by the dusty ghost of a yellow median. Signs had given up their vigil over this route, and I was guessing by gut rather than GPS, which showed me only driving through a beige-green section of unincorporated territory, devoid of any lines that might indicate pathways. My best chance would be gauging a steading by the Moons overhead, but the sun was still slow-simmering a drawn-out sunset, so it was serendipity that I should find the right place to pull over and wait for the proper instructions in the sky.

Most every trail that turned off of the slate and stained highway was dirt or gravel, and the buildings were far enough from the road that I could only make out their shapes. Once I passed a looming church with a proper bell in a high white tower. But for the most part the entire landscape was undetailed with human structures or even roadways.

The only exception was the tole. At every intersection, at every bend that had something of note, there would be a piece of informative art. Mostly signs, but sometimes decorated poles, or banners of painted canvas. After a few miles it became clear that the same steady hand was the creator of these relics, and they were all yellowed with the evidence of weather and years and too many suns on their once bright-colored messages. They’d been here, naming the un-named for a long while.

Then the highway, with only the warning of these old signs, split into two directions, both options being nothing more than gravel and dirt. The asphalt had ended, with nothing much more than a slow bend and a single, bold in calligraphy message, “End of Greene County.” Other signs indicated the road to Linden Falls, and another route I can’t recall, but no word of my destination.

I slowed quickly, to keep from skidding out, and for the next quarter mile let my mind chew on doubt, questioning if my trek was even worth it, as I trundled over noisy road.

Then I pulled around a shallow treeline to see a small structure with a half-circle drive, a dozen or more parked cars that could have been replicas from a retro film, and some warm light in the windows. I hesitate to call it a house, but it wasn’t a business either, it was more like a roadside waypoint, with yellow slats and shutters, like a rest stop by way of cottage.

The entire yard, porch, and siding of the complex was decorated with creative, colorful signs. The largest illuminating this unique landscape and just where I’d come to: “T.C.’s.”

I pulled my ride to the lot, let the engine idle for a moment, and then made my decision. I would stick with my original plan. Wait for nightfall, and keep to any well-worn road that still pointed me at least in the same cardinal direction as Gainsville. In the meanwhile, I would go into this strange little pit stop, and see what a “T.C.’s” was.

So I stepped out of my rig, the autumn air a bit chilled already, the sunset making everything a furnace glow of light and shadowy shapes. As I walked onto the porch I could hear the din of voices, and the rhythm of music.

Inside was a fully renovated space, built, most likely, in the first Sixties. But kept, over the generations, intact and true to the original layout. A diner and restaurant, complete with booths, and a long countertop metered by stools. And what was signage on the outside turned into watercolors on the inside, showing landscapes clearly drawn from everything nearby.

At first I just let myself find a place in the small crowd, alone at the countertop. I got out my book, an old romance paperback typically shoved into my coat pocket, and just marinated in the warm, dense air, smelling the grease and meats cooking on the grill, and listening to the music that came out like a steady river from the juke box. When I had walked in, the Mamma’s and the Papa’s were singing Monday, Monday. The timbre of the moment was perfect for my weary eyes and cruise-bruised feet.

But as the soundtrack changed to Do You Believe in Magic? by the Lovin’ Spoonful, and I heard a trio of old women laughing out loud in the corner booth, and the ding of the register rattled into loose change for someone’s bill, I found myself caught up in the whole spirit of the place, and curiosity started to whisper questions to me.

So then up to my spot at the counter walks the waitress, a youngster with blonde hair wrung up in a messy ponytail, and her nametag said “Monkey,” and her smile said it was the end of a long shift at a good place to work. I got to talking with her about the menu, her nametag (a nickname forced on her by the owner, her mother), and the history of this place that I was feeling less and less happy about leaving behind.

Turns out this diner is at the edge of very old-drawn county lines. Literally just around the bend, in the direction I was heading, the asphalt never comes back, and the dirt takes over. From there the arteries of transportation becomes veins of soil that stretch into the green lands of ranches and hunting ground. I remember barely feeling sad that my shortcut attempt had failed so miserably, but even moreso that one would have to go so far out of their way to get to this little patch of heaven.

So I soaked it all up, swearing that I would come back again, I would find the time. It’s a promise I’ve never kept to myself, and that, above everything else in this story, makes me the saddest. While I was there I tried the sweet tea, the hand made soda, and the chocolate malt. I had a double cheeseburger, onion rings, and a slice of cherry pie with ice cream for dessert. The pie tasted almost like a cobbler, with big red canned cherries that looked like bright balloons on the inside, and black-burnt prunes where they boiled up from the crust. It was delicious.

When I asked about the recipe, Monkey told me to ask the man sitting in a corner booth at a mechanical typewriter, amidst scrawled handwriting in piles of old notebooks. Monkey waved me over for an introduction, and I stood near him, feeling like I might be intruding. He wore an old green tweed coat with elbow patches, and his hair looked like a dirty mop that dragged into a silvery beard. I had a quiet chat with him for a moment, explaining my plan to wait for nightfall, how I would find a road that made it to Gainsville without taking the long highway route around the Big Range’s foothills.

He gestured for me to sit, explaining that mostly just the locals come in here, and the rest of his visitors are lost tourists or brave truckers, similar to myself, and that there was indeed a pass to take, but it wouldn’t be on many maps. If I could stay for a bit, he would draw up for me the instructions to find my way back onto the highway just north of Ava. Which was a better success than I could have asked for.

I told him I would do better with a map, if he could, and he laughed a little, saying, “No, it’s easier if you just stick to the instructions. There are signs here that will keep you on the right path.”

I remember Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills, and Nash was playing as I asked him about all that, the signs outside, the signs on all the crossroads. Then I sat down for a short history lesson, and a cure for that whispering curiosity that came with my meal.

My host was named Desmond, and he was co-owner of T.C.’s with his sister, Molly. They had purchased this truckstop diner years ago and named it after their mother. But before that they had grown up visiting this same location on every trip back home, to this part of Southern Foundation. Back then it was called Louanna’s, which was not its first name. It had been serving this dirt crossroads for a long while, and no one could remember its first name.

Before Desmond and Molly owned it the outside was just a bright yellow building. They had renamed it after deciding to buy the place on a bet with each other, to see which would sell better: their mother’s lasagna, or their grandmother’s cherry pie.

Their mother, T.C., had grown up in this very valley, a generation before. She was the youngest daughter in a pack of five kids that each ended up in some part of the local landscape. And while her life took her from the lowlands into the nearest big city, she came home often enough that Desmond and his sister were just as comfortable rolling over the hills in a compact car as they were in a rocking chair.

T.C. married a youth minister two towns over, but Desmond said they split up before he could even remember a life where they were ever together. Desmond’s Pop moved to the north side of the Starfall, and he stayed here, growing up with his mother and sister.

Claire became a coach at the only junior high in the district, and drove the local route for the schoolbus. And in her free time, she painted tole, under the ‘business name’ of Tole by TC.

As Desmond explained it to me, everyone in the area just eventually had his mother’s signs on their property. The local backroads don’t have highway signage, so the people mostly paid for T.C. to paint their mailboxes or the arrows at crossroads. The more that any given road is dirt, the more likely you were to see a hand-painted sign by T.C.

When I asked Desmond if he’d stayed his whole life in this part of the world, he laughed a bit. He said none of them had. His mom eventually moved closer to a starport, before coming home again after their grandmother died. And his sister had even spent some time in a different Lucinox, before returning home to raise his niece. Desmond himself had tried to follow in his father’s footsteps, attending university with an aim to be a pastor, but had, in the end, been more interested in telling stories. Now he was an elder in the local congregation, but he kept the diner afloat by selling stories to magazines and online sources you could only read by going to the library several miles away, and plugging into their hardline.

Some satellite communications worked nearby, Desmond explained, if you were in an open field, or a bald knob, but there were no cell towers, no SilNext hotspots. Some parts of the world, he told me, just stayed the same, seemingly unmovable by time or new traditions. He said that most people thought of this as a refusal to develop, like cultural stubbornness, but he considered it a trueness to the nature of the community. I remember him telling me all this as Herman’s Hermits reported from the jukebox that they were into Something Good.

So I was sitting in a diner, owned by a brother and sister, who had come home to their mother’s hometown, which had no name, and existed at the end of an incomplete paved highway, eating their family recipe cherry pie, and listening to the music their mother had picked out for the jukebox. And I’ve never felt so right with a place. So content to see how a story grows, reveals it’s history, and ends without really ending. Nowdays Molly’s daughter, Monkey, was working summers behind the counter, and some part of me wondered if she would ever come back here for good.

So I promised myself that I would return. A promise I’ve still not kept, and I tell myself that’s because the trip was irrationally difficult. Iit wasn’t hard to find my way, because the signs were indeed everywhere, but the road took me through shallow waterways, over terrifying rickety bridges, and out of the way of any decent gas station to the point I was nearly panicked about making it all the way on the remainder of my tank. But none of that is the real reason. I would welcome an adventure of that exact sort any day.

I haven’t gone back because life is busy, and for all of it’s magic, T.C.’s isn’t my family home. Not like the neighborhoods in Clover, not like the lights of the Inner City. When I look back on that night, and the chance encounter I had with a perfect little chapter in a family history, I try not to get down about failing to go back. I try not to wonder if T.C.’s is still open, or if Monkey is the owner now. I try to appreciate it for what it was - a warm slice of life, gooey on the inside, and easy to enjoy.

The Artifact for this week is a postcard, which I bought and never sent. I found it on the little rack next to the register at Desmond and Molly’s, one of the two dozen or so that could be purchased for loose change, each featuring a painting by T.C.

The one I wanted the most, the one that was perfect to me, is the image of the blacktop roads that roll over the hills and through the gullies of the Ozarks. Not like the dirt paths that lined the county I used for a shortcut, but the ones that connect that hidden world with the rest of Foundation. Miles and miles of gorgeous scenery, gentle hills, and the slow dance toward your destination. It’s clear that T.C. knew her way between her home and everywhere else. I’m grateful her painting captures that.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Transmission: September - 2017

Artifact: Root Beer Fizzie Postcard

Somewhere, far away, through many doors and around many turns, you’ll find a secret place beyond the Woodland. This land has many names, it is the home of the Fair Folk, the realm of the Fae, the Four Courts of Season, and the Lucinox officially recognized as Arcadia.

I’ve never been to that realm. But i know something of it. This is your introduction to what i know about the Neofae, who make their home in Metronox, most specifically in the district called New Arcadia. There you’ll find the largest collection of dreamlings in the city, tucked into the corner of the Clover Quadrant, along the wall that borders Sonder.

Thousands of years ago, even before the Silvergates opened, the city shared whispered stories of Fae creatures. Their essence is found in many children’s books and old folk songs. Some scholars accept that it’s quite likely the Fae know stepways between worlds just as our city has stepways between alleys, which is in holding with their nature. It is often spoken in rumors and folklore that Fae ancestors - or even some who still walk the worlds today - traipsed our city by pathways unmarked and unwatched as far back as when the foundations were first set.

Most of that, however, is debated.

What is commonly accepted isn’t much. The Four Courts of Season live forever somewhere in Arcadia. Their kindred travel the world and often take residence in places that suit their nature. We know that the Fae have lived for many ages, though no one has empirically proven their rumored immortality. We know that the Fae are born of three components: Name, Element, and the magic of Arcadia often called “stardust” or “whisperlights” or sometimes “glamour.”

What’s fascinating to me is the often overlooked fact that Fae folk are not always from their homeland. Any realm touched by stardust will soon find Fair Folk of their own populating the edges of perception. These Neofae reflect the seeds from which they are born, and, consequently, the nature of the realm they come from. They are in tune with the music that surrounds them.

In New Arcadia you will find all manner of Neofae. There are the Ragglings that torment some laundromats. The Burgles that can appear in a sink of dirty dishes festering too long. The Cinderooks, also called Brickhalters, who hole up in stalled out construction sites, often said to lure lazy workers into their hovels, teaching them to eat old cement and pick their teeth with discarded nails. There are Toadies that clog up the sewers, Greechers who make foolish machines in the junkyards, and Gertrolls that eat the rivots from rusted I-Beams deep below the underframe of the city.

A Fae must have these three things to exist: a Name, a Seed and Glamour.

The Seed is easiest to come by. Something physical that carries with it wonder or fear. For instance: the citysprites called “Glinters” are borne from the shards of one broken fluorescent lightbulb that used to be part of a pair. When this one half of a light is broken, leaving the still operational bulb to flicker and glint off of the broken glass, if the shards are somehow sprinkled with Stardust, you end up with this tiny creature made of glinting, spasming light, and bright shiny edges. Glinters can cut you easily, and bite if you’re mean to them. But mostly they are delicate, and like to flit around the brighter parts of the city.

The Name of a Faery is more than just a What You Call Them nomenclature. It has to carry with it the weight of what you’d speak in a story. You can’t just say, “Nixies come from old candle wicks.” You have say, “Nixies are the little people that come from candles that are almost burned but not quite. When the candle knows it will never be lit again, it will burst to life one last time, and from the soft wax, like a bird from an egg, a Nixie is born.” The name of a Fae is also it’s story, it’s reason to be whispered about, it’s nature to be displayed or denied.

When a Fae gets their own personal name, more than just the name of their kith, they become, some would say, immortal. So far it seems that any Faery once named can always be called back again, with some Glamour and their proper seed. I’ve been to at least one taylor that worked with a family-oathed Filchie - a sprite conjured from pocket lint - who had been serving the taylor’s family for unknown generations, always called back by that creatures true name. For that reason alone most Fae will not tell you their true name.

The final element is Glamour, or Stardust, the key to a Seed & Name becoming a Faery. This is the stuff that breaths life from trinkets and shadows. Stardust is something otherworldly, and can take several different forms. Most common in the city, however is the Amber Dew of the Eldertree. Massive, ancient, and planted here, according to myth, by the Faery King Raam, the Eldertree is the centerpiece to New Arcadia. It looms over the city skyline, as tall as the Winterwall of innermost Clover. And from it’s branches, at dawn and dusk, descends a gentle snow of glowing amber motes, little bubbles of light, that fall slowly, and seep into the asphalt and concrete of the city all around. This is glamour, raw, undistilled. It feeds the dreamlike nature of this district, and gives life and laughter to all the Fair Folk that call it home.

Neofae are not always simple magics. There are the named ones who come out of scary stories and bad dreams. Like the Acid Man, who, as it was told to me in childhood, would collect the batteries of children who left their electronics untended, or left old batteries in the garbage. The Acid Man would find what you improperly disposed of, and then sneak out of your closet in the dead of night, and, cracking the battery open, would pour it’s corrosive contents on your sleeping face. Or there is the Wheelwight, a legend that edges on creepy, but has always been spoken of with reverence. When your bicycle breaks and you are forced to leave it behind, or throw it away, if you loved that bicycle very much the Wheelwight will find it, repair it to better than new, and then hang it over your bed as you sleep. I once met a young Draedean who swore with a crossed-heart that this very thing happened to him in gradeschool. He still has that BMX.

I found this postcard among many on a rack of others like it. The rack was mounted on the back of a goat being marched by an old woman through the streets of New Arcadia, a long time ago. It was not my first visit, but i remember desperately wishing i knew who the artist was. It’s such a simple style, but it captures the magic of one of my favorite sprite-kith.

The image is of a familiar dreamling found throughout the Inner City, and from what i understand their kith were first borne here. Their seed is a bottlecap, twisted off of a soda that is genuinely enjoyed to the last drop. The cap is then folded in half, and left where no one can see it. From that afterthought a Fizzie is born. These little creatures often take on the 'flavor' of the soda that created them: color and personality riffing on the brand and make of their beverage soul. In the picture on the postcard you’ll see a Root Beer Fizzie, with frothy hair, and dark bubble-freckled skin, sitting on what i would only guess is the cap for her brand of soda. Most fizzies have their bottlecap as part of their body, like a hard shell on their back, under which they keep their long dragon-fly-like wings, until the cap splits open and they take flight. These wings are often translucent, but sparkle with the bubbles of a carbonated drink, and make the same sound as freshly poured soda fizzing down when they fly by you.

Most none-Fae avoid living too deep into the borders of New Arcadia. Spending time there, telling your name and getting the stardust on you, can alter you. Make you a Changeling. But if you ever get the chance to take a stroll through one of the markets there, or to watch a show as performed by Satyrs, or gamble with a grifting Pentyr, I highly recommend it. And take me with you, when you do. Not just because i would love to go back, but… for your own good, as well.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Transmission: August - 2017

The Schmitt Community Library

One of my my personal treasures is this ancient book rescued from the last remnants of a special city library collection. It’s a storygame from an old-timey pulp fiction series that was popular in the Metro through the eighties and nineties and again in the twenty-eighties and nineties. The game setting is a kitchen sink world that combines elements of old Foundation Sixgun films, Aesarian Waterkeep theater, and classic Zaithen Starblade morality tales. It’s even got a few nods to 20’s Metro Gangster Fiction. It’s a love letter to everything pulp, called Starblades, and, while I absolutely love its art and story setting, it’s a pretty crummy game. But it didn’t end up in my hands because anyone thought I would ever play it.

Inside the front cover is the real connection. It’s that little glued-in manilla envelope, just big enough to hold the ancient, hand written and physically stamped card from the Schmitt Community Library. A modern record of all the previous curious kids who picked this book up for a while, adding their own dents and rips to the pages, yellowing the edges under the Clover sun, and staining the hardback surface with soda. Some would call it used. I would call it loved.

I don’t know how long ago it was, I met a young Arcadian who was naturally at home anywhere in the Clover Quadrant. He spent his time wandering from place to place making friends as easily as you might introduce yourself. We fit into each other’s story easily enough - we both find new connections with people effortless, and treasure the authenticity we see in each other.

His travels took him through Dice Haven, where we first met, at a tiny convention for dreamers. And later, after some adventures together, he took me to a gaming club at the Schmitt Community Library. It was there I met a handful of colorful characters, some of whom I already knew in passing, but quickly found our bonds growing stronger.

The gaming club met at SCL because this tiny public space had, over many decades, developed into a sort of nexus for unexpectedly diverse and serendipitous communities. The branch, I found out later, had started in the heart of the Troth Quadrant, but was moved after a short while to a location in the Borderlands of Clover. For the time I spent there, calling it my Third Place, SCL was clearly a refuge in the Borderlands.

It was the natural outcome of spending time at SCL that one would find oneself doing more for the community than they ever expected they could.

I have never considered myself a good role-model. I can’t teach you much about money, save how to lose it or give it away. I can’t teach you how to be a leader or how to have influence, because I tend to follow heroes that most won’t believe in. I can’t make you healthy or beautiful or smart. All I’ve ever done with any reward is play with words, and dance with my stories, and puzzle over the unspoken things.

I would not, and this is my only good advice to give, leave me unattended with children or fools. The responsibility does not impress me. And the opportunity for trouble is just too tempting. I am not a good role-model, nor a teacher, nor a good sitter. I’m barely a half-step above trouble.

But in the short time I spent as member of the SCL community, I felt like more. There was something about the time a person gave to that place, something about how you were drawn in, and given a chance to be more than just a role on a team. You were part of a real force for change.

So I ended up being roped into playing a central part for this local s-f convention. I would bring my stories and my crafts, my tricks and my jokes. And we would put on this mini-con that felt so much larger than the space it was packed into.

SCL was located in a part of the Borderlands surrounded by the poorest people holding onto their lives in Clover. It’s easy to give up, to move to a corporate controlled Quadrant, to leave the artsy part of the city and just go where the cost of living is cheaper and the company jobs are constantly taking people in. But then you’re in Draeaga, LLC territory and… well. Fuck Draega.

The families that would show up to this mini-con made my heart full. It was a mix of pain, pride, joy and sorrow. Seeing people that could not afford the bigger, pay-to-enter conventions, but who loved stuff like Starblades as much as I did. They would find so much there. Free prizes, give-away crafts, candy and then more candy.

Many of the characters in the Starblades fiction are space knights that build their own mystic weapons called a “Starblade,” hence the name of their order. By the end of my time at SCL we had enough sponsors that I was running this booth where kids would build their own Starblade from movie-quality materials, just like jr. knights. Which, for the record, I believe to be the only time I’ve been left alone with energetic children and the result was creative things being made and not something ending up broken or covered in gum. Children, when their adults are not around, can be the most fun. Provided you’re not picking up the check.

The people that made up the community of SCL found it easy, for whatever reason, to make the world a better place. And while I did not start out that way, I am no exception. I wonder, sometimes, how many people in that crowd started out with as much self-doubt as I did.

So the kids would show up. And we would send them home with heads full of dreams, pockets full of candy, hands full of toys, and hearts full of joy. It’s hard not to feel like a superhero at the end of a weekend like that.

I didn’t go to the first s-f mini-con that the new Schmitt library held the year after it was re-located. I can’t recall any of my reasons, but I do wish I had gone. I believe that was the first event that marked my drifting away from the community built by SCL.

The library had been selected for the municipal equivalent of a promotion, which included a ‘renovation’ that really just moved its site from the Borderlands of Clover to the corporate lands in the Acid Quadrant. All the work our community had done became noteworthy to the elite in the city, and so it was decided that the branch would be given a larger facility. Unfortunately that facility was in Draega corporate territory.

When I first heard the bad news about what happened to SCL almost immediately after opening the doors on its new location, I spent some time reconnecting with other people that I knew were part of its broader community. I found out that there was a long period of time when Schmitt hosted a dancing class, one that annually sent its students to the Southern lands beyond the Far Wall of Aesaria, to tour the culture that originated the traditional dances they were teaching. I learned that the Schmitt branch had been moved once before - it started out, a long time ago, in the Troth Quadrant, where it was first ‘promoted’ for it’s community work and given a larger archival space in the Borderlands. I learned that the name of the library came from its founding librarian, Megann Schmitt, with two ns and two ts.

The Schmitt Community Library didn’t last long in Acid. It’s a darker part of the city. Most of the SCL community was built up over the years from the founders in Troth and the dreamers in Clover, but that community withered in the corporate district. And the newer members were fewer, and the community did not knit together. All this, of course, was on top of the way Acid handles all of its complications. Corporate rule is cold and calculated. It’s built from necessity, not from intention. It’s guided by results, not inspiration.

I heard that the library flooded. It was supposed to be repaired, but, as is so often the case in Acid, the money was never enough. The building sat, empty, for a long time. If you go there, I’m told, you can still see it, windows blocked up and the doors chained closed.

But in my memory that’s not the SCL. In my memory the Schmitt Community Library is filled with people browsing the collections, meeting on the front steps, talking in whispers around the front counter. They are all there to reconnect in the weird open rooms or around the flowers that surround the building. In my memory the SCL never moved to Acid.

That Arcadian friend of mine, he told me that the books from the Schmitt branch have been redistributed throughout the city. All the words it harbored are now in so many places.

The first to go was the large collection of donated gaming books our club had contributed. They were negotiated to be part of a book-sale in the Dice Haven market, in response to the new location being flooded. All the proceeds were supposed to repair the water damages. But, as the Arcadian tells me, the money, no matter how much was raised, would not have been enough. It’s just the way that Acid lies to you. The bad rules and cold leadership prevented SCL from ever making a new community in that new Quadrant. The Arcadian says we could have raised twice as much money as was asked, and it still wouldn’t have been enough. I still don’t know what to think about that.

I look into what happened, every now and again, on my phone or surfing the Silvernet. I find blog posts that piece bits of it together. I know the large record collection that was started by the dancing class was shipped back to a private collection in a theater owned by one of the former students. I know a lot of the costumes used from the s-f convention were passed out to the attendees at the final hosting of that event. Public records say much of the nonfiction section was relocated to a library in Troth, in the same building where the Schmitt branch first started. The rest of the fiction section - all the stories and myths and novels - were rebound as a single collection and moved into a new library in the Terminus Quadrant. A branch that is half archive, half museum, dedicated to keeping any stories that might be thrown out after a library is closed, or an estate is dissolved.

I know nothing can last forever, even a legacy is going to grow and change over time. I wonder sometimes what the real Megann Schmitt was like, and how she managed to spin so much good into his world with just the effort of starting an archive, and accidentally making such a safe place for so many. I wonder what would have happened if the library had been brought back to the Borderlands, before the Acid Quadrant hollowed it out. I wonder if I could make more wonder or goodness in this world by building a community of my own, or what community I might serve that has that same magic to give.

But mostly I just treasure the time I had as part of a group lucky enough to add their own time and laughter and gifts and tears to a community that the SCL gave life and refuge. I keep the memories safe, and the feelings fresh. I keep my gift, that old book sent to me from someone in the community after they found it at the fundraiser, and I look at the names on that library card and smile. These are just a few of the hearts and minds that gained just a little bit from the beauty and the goodness that was the Schmitt Community Library. And there is so much more than these notes. This is just one little leaf blown from that tree. It reminds me that there is so much good in the world we’ll never see, and never be able to properly thank. That’s just the way it is and it’s beautiful. Good is like the air we breath, we often forget how much it’s sustaining us.

If one little catalog of names can be proof of that much, then the city is forever safe from any evil that seeks it. There is more good in the world than we can calculate. Just like the Schmitt Community Library is more than a flooded building somewhere in the Acid Quadrant. The SCL is a collection of wondrous and beautiful moments, faces, efforts, ideas and stories. More than we can ever see.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Transmission: July - 2017

Artifact: The Constellation of Cervus and the Starless Knights

There was a time, long ago, before the opening of the Silvergates and the descent of understanding through the History War, when humans from the Metro lived by rules and beliefs we can’t help but marvel at from our modern viewpoint. Some of these lost traditions paint a foreign landscape of our past. Others tell us about the deep trenches of our nature, and the currents that run swift through all of us, back to the beginning. But some leave us despondent, and concerned, chilled by how such chapters in our history can be so misguided.

One such legend is centered around the curious nature of Starsign. When a human child is both conceived and born in the City, the sky above is always set in a pattern that becomes reflected on the newborn’s skin. A birthmark. Most often this is one of 12 constellations that appear on the child’s body as spots in an identical pattern. Some Starsign are large, and even glow on the nights when that constellation returns to the sky. Some are small, hidden away on the body somewhere, or difficult to see amidst other moles or freckles. Children born during the day bear the mark of the night before. Children born at dusk tend to have the Starsign of the constellation rising that night.

But the night sky over Metronox is a dynamic thing. There are stars there, every night, that move on paths uncharted, and unpredictable. Some move as fast as a falling leaf, others as slow as tree roots. There are stars that have been crawling along their route for centuries. And others that appear for one twinkling night, and then wink out, never to be seen again. The greater constellations all have more than one form, incorporating the different stars that rotate in and out of their structure.

Humans love to seek and tidy our patterns, sometimes making leaps in logic between causality and coincidence. What is seen as beautiful is often caught up in Starsign, how large and how luminescent your Starsign appears. Celebrities are often people born with a constellation that sparkles across their entire back, or down the length of one arm. Prominent and attractive. But heredity also plays a factor. Some Houses have been known to induce labor early to have a child born with the Starsign that better matches the dogma of their order. And even today there are little beliefs and little practices - unconscious biases - that reflect the old sayings about a person born under a certain Starsign.

The story of Cervus and Procyon takes place back in an age where the 12 constellations of Starsign were not just the ‘most common.’ They were perceived as the only signs one could be born with. And people born in the City were very much defined by their Starsign. So much so that these marks on your body - literally nothing more than reflections of the sky the day you were born - determined what jobs you could take, what religious rank you could hold, and what House you could belong to. They even determined, for most, who you could love.

I know. It sounds incomprehensible, right? That birthmarks could make rules about who you fall in love with, that whole generations of people determined their life and their love by specks on the skin? It’s hard to imagine.

But so it was.

House Falanthose was composed of dreamscribes, and admitted only those who met rigorous standards, which included, among other things, restrictions on age, demands of inheritance, and being born with the Starsign of the Quill. Their reputation was undisputed and prestigious. If what you needed was a clear window into your dreams, the artists of Falanthose could illustrate for you with immaculate clarity the visions you’ve been missing.

Among the least of these was Procyon. He never mastered an art above that of pen and ink, and quickly proved himself incapable of even the most basic results in dreamscribing. His father, however, was related to no less than three city councilors, and some profits among his endeavors provided Procyon with enough inheritance to pay the least of the entry fees. And so Procyon was given a place among House Falanthose on the minimal credentials.

To keep him from embarrassing the Elders, Procyon was sent to a lesser Tower of the Falanthose on the outskirts of Clover, where he was reduced to essentially penning notes and copying ledgers. The few times he was asked to dreamscribe for someone, the Elders made certain the client was never of high rank or important reputation. Even among those rare attempts, however, Procyon often managed to disappoint his patrons, sketching out images that were as incomprehensible and confusing as the dreams themselves.

One night, on the streets near to the Acid Quadrant, Procyon was wandering in dejected and aimless steps, and found himself confronted by a trio of women who wanted to rob him. He attempted to flee, but they cornered him and at the edge of their blades Procyon confessed he was a dreamscribe and would be willing to help them interpret their own dreams if they would spare him and not take his quill and ink.

But before the negotiation could begin, Procyon was saved by a member of the Blue Guard, who happened upon the scene while patrolling. The guardian was Cervus, and he dismantled the bandits not with violence, but with words, telling each of them what they feared the most.

This strange skill intrigued Procyon, who was exceedingly thankful for being rescued, and over time the two became friends as much as neighbors, and soon like brothers. Cervus, unlike Procyon, was born under the Starsign of the Sword, but was in fact quite adept at empathetic magic. He had spent more than a few nights with other people from the Acid Quadrant, helping them with his own self-taught dreamscribing ability, which came naturally and easily to Cervus.

Before long Procyon had earned unexpected praise and a new honored reputation within Falanthose. He did this by sneaking Cervus into his chambers when a client slept, and relying on Cervus to dreamscribe the patron’s oneiric landscape. They kept this a secret, and simply claimed that Procyon’s own talent had suddenly emerged.

It was undeniable that Cervus was the true dreamscribe. But House Falanthose held to their rules as though the tenants of their order were cut from iron more than ideas. And so Cervus, born under the sword, would not be recognized by their House.

Then, one night, standing at the border of the Summerlands, Cervus admitted to Procyon the truth in his heart. That they never felt the characteristics of their Starsign, they never felt like they belonged with the Sword. Cervus was Quill in his own mind and heart, and even in his own dreams, which he painted often. Only the marks on his body did not match that constellation. Still, he knew he belonged with other dreamscribes more than swordsmen. Procyon, who had never been an adept artist, and who had learned more than a few years worth of wisdom from his friend, was delighted. And so the two made a pact.

Cervus, who was already doing all the art for their patrons, would now paint his own Starsign into the details of every work. A new constellation, one they had invented. A signature of Cervus’ true ability. One he shared readily with the denizens of Acid, whom he had continued to help for free.

Of course, this all came to light and House Falanthose brought both of the young artists in chains to the City Council, demanding justice, and a full investigation into their deception. Cervus was stripped of his rank in the Blue Guard. And Procyon was labeled a charlatan. Both were given to Falanthose, to be imprisoned in the House dungeon.

It was proclaimed that no one born under the sign of the sword could dreamscribe.

That is, until those scores of people that Cervus and Procyon had helped came at night to the gates of Falanthose House. With lanterns and candles they stood in a circle, so many of them that they wrapped all the way around the Elder’s estate. When the local Guard came to the Elder’s call, they found a peaceful collection of people, each wearing some shred of canvas or paper, where they had cut out the signature constellation of Cervus, and pinned it to their clothing, in a show of solidarity and faith in this sword-born dreamscribe.

In the best tellings of this tale, the story ends not just with both Cervus and Procyon being set free by the Falanthose Elders, it talks about how the oldest of their captors rage and fume at the foolishness of the crowd, roaring how clearly no one is listening to their stars. And in that very moment, high up in the sky, the stars that wandered through the night many years before, on the very eve that Cervus was born, came forward again and re-aligned, becoming the constellation that was pinned on every protestor, now suddenly glowing on Cervus’ skin.

It’s a beautiful, defiant tale.

Most people don’t rehash this old yarn, though. To be honest it’s kind of uncomfortable, reminding us that there was a time when we assumed a person’s innate self, their abilities and personality, were wrapped up in some part of their body as perceived at birth. It feels trite, now, so long after that long-lost age, to tell someone that they can be true to their own stars. That they don’t have to be labeled by whatever sign they are born under.

It’s still true that most cityborn are marked by one of the 12 constellations. But we all know and understand that not every denizen is going to first enter this world on a night with all the same stars. And we are so much bigger now, this City, with humans born in other worlds wandering our streets, no Starsign to speak of. And so many other species visiting or growing up here. Those old birthmarks are just a lost and interesting detail now. Not the unfortunate mandates sometimes needlessly assigned to the people born with them.

Mostly now the constellation of Cervus is used as a symbol for solidarity. It’s a reminder of that part in the story where everyone that was helped by the sword-born dreamscribe came to stand together for the one they believed in. At a lot of rallies you’ll see that symbol, often done as part of a star chart, worn on buttons or shirts. Drawn onto makeshift flags. It’s a reminder to those that exclude or oppress: simply targeting someone born under different stars will not be enough. For every action you take against them, dozens more that love them and have been made better by knowing them will stand together at their side.

Those who wear the constellation of Cervus, are often referred to as “Starless Knights,” referencing those born under a Starsign that is not part of the known 12, as a reminder that we are not all perfectly categorical. But in it’s most commonly accepted meaning, wearing the Starsign of Cervus marks you simply as “Ally.” Or “Willing to overlook what’s traditional to get at what is true.” In some circles it even means “someone willing to choose compassion over what is traditional or even just.”

We’ve come a long way, in the Inner City, from once assuming all those born under our stars would fit into an unbreakable mold. We’ve grown out of that old thinking that is surprised or disquieted by someone being different. And if that old myth about Cervus and Procyon is at all true, it’s in some thanks to that friendship.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
If I were to write up short, first-person fiction based on the adventures i've had in the Metronox - both from past games I've played, and past stories i've written - would that interest you?
votes visible to Public
Poll option image
I'll explain in comments...
I'll explain in comments...
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Transmission: June - 2017

Artifact: Metronox Travel Posters

The city is broken into six Quadrants - areas that exist within obviously themed and clearly demarked parts of the city. All six Quadrants are the same size, and perfectly square. While it appears, to the eye, like one long, flat city, the Metro actually warps around itself, interacting as if it were the six faces of a cube.

The Exodus and Terminus Quadrants are closer to the wider world of the Cosmonox than the rest of the metro. But if you pick up a brochure bragging about what to see in the City it’s always going to point you to the four signature Quadrants: Acid, Clover, Troth and Sonder.

Acid is the quadrant with the densest population, the most wealth, and the most modern amenities. It is sometimes referred to, in whole, as “Downtown,” though that is technically only the name of it’s centermost District. Here used to be the great Labyrinth from before the opening of the Silvergates, and some sections of the city still have shards of that arcane landscape. But what dominates the skyline most is the single black spire that is Draega Tower, at the very center of the Quadrant, rising so hight it has never been fully witnessed, obscured by the cloud line high above.

When the moon rises green in this Quadrant, the weather can turn dangerous. The rain that falls on a night with an Everidian Moon is green and burns the surface of the city like acid. It blisters skin, and stains clothes. Most of the streets are glyphspelled, or plastered with synthetics to safeguard against such weather, but it does give this part of the city a well-earned nickname.

The most diverse Quadrant, outside of the sections built around the Silvergates, Clover is a world of art and beauty. The oldest and most distinct features are the two great walls: The Rusted Rampart, and the Frozen Stockade. Within each the seasons are everlasting and unchanging, giving each enclosed area their names: The Summerlands and the Winterlands. Within the Rusted Rampart, a wall of warm red metal, the Summerlands remain forever bright, sunny, and warm. Within the Frozen Stockade, a towering wall of ice, the air is crisp, dry and billowing with snow year round.

Throughout this Quadrant various forms of clover grow in different colors, each with different significance to the denizens of the city. Some sacred, some commonplace, each area has it’s own myth as to the meaning of the clover, but, like the walls that detail this realm, there is only one thing that is certain: the clovers that grow in this part of the city are beautiful and unique, and everywhere.

The most obvious feature of Troth are the two Bright Cities and the Red Castle. High over the Old Forest, you will see the bridge-built Silver City, clustered into the corners around the Fountain Sea. Above that is the White City, nowadays home to the highest ranking members of the City Council. At the highest point in the sky is the Red Castle, ancient and mysterious. This keep is home to the Blue Guard, the oldest order of knights in the Metro. Each of these is suspended, inexplicably, in place, one above the other, over the street level of Troth.

This Quadrant most obviously combines the lost parts of the city with the new. It’s only here you can find a Zaithen stratocar docked alongside a modern re-creation of a classic diner, built into the Silverstone landscape of a city floating by lost magic over the oldest forest in the Cosmonox. Troth is where tourists come to see the city at it’s most old and new, all at once.

The quietest part of the Inner City, Sonder is mostly the Mountain, a fog-draped spire of natural stone, white ice and calm wonder. The Mountain is surrounded by four Gateways, each leading up to a magical Wayhouse, all sacred destination for various pilgrims and journeyers. The Lanterngate is the start of a path to the Lantern House, where dwell healers who listen to any tale that a stranger brings to tell. The Bellgate is the start of a path toward the Belltower, the only Wayhouse of the four Gates that can be seen from the path as it starts. The Belltower rings daily to rituals, calling to many different communities, and bringing them together in service and rites. The Flowergate is barely distinguishable from the lush foliage of the Gardens of Solitude, where many spend their time in worship and meditation. And lastly there is the Grailgate, where one starts the journey up toward the Fountain House, a great archive that admits scholars and philosophers of all worlds.

Around Sonder’s gates the city is dense with schools, temples, dojos, and archives. The oldest forms of thought are stowed here, categorized and contemplated daily. And most who travel to this sacred place are in search of something, and often do not come away without something to show for it.

Each of these four signature Quadrants are the pride of the Inner City, highlighting the existing culture, the aspirations and histories of the human world, and the most marketable wonders for any tourist in search of the real Metronox Experience. As is tradition, once every 10 years the city reprints these old travel posters, and it just so happens that this summer is the anniversary of that human habit. So enjoy at glance at these old-timey treasures, and maybe come with me some time, to see what we can see in the IC.
Add a comment...
Wait while more posts are being loaded