Lio

Unity

15 years ago
They kept the cryo pod on the bridge, but let me sleep in her quarters. Compared to the rest of the ship, the room felt fit for royalty. The room was ventilated, the chlorine swapped for oxygen. The cot felt like an actual bed, large and spacious but most of all, soft.   I spent weeks in that room. It was the only place on the ship I could be without having to wear a suit. I read books, I watched the logs mom kept over the years hoping it would feel the same as having her there, I read what few books mom managed to save from earth… I cried.   We searched for a while, but when the crew decided mom couldn't be saved with their effort alone, they dumped me on Safeharbor, our rusty home away from home.   I was just a little girl when mom left. The crew of The Sea of Names became my new family. I know better now, but for a while I felt like they abandoned me too. Everyone always leaves.   They let me take whatever I wanted when it was time to leave. I took three things, each displayed prominently next to mom's cot. They seemed important to her.   The first was a coin, silver though I later found it was made of nickel. It had a face on one side, an eagle on the other.   When I asked Victoria about it she chuckled. "Pocket change," she replied. "We left earth with nothing but duffle bags and the clothes on our backs."   The second was a white cube, one with small black pips arranged on each side. The number of pips began with one and increased by one with every side. Six sides... six pips.   Finally, I claimed a small wooden chess piece, a queen. I knew the rules but never cared for the game. I always favored the queen. Even now I can't help but relate to her.   So much power, the strongest piece on the board, and yet she's always at risk. The queen is vulnerable, fragile, and all everyone else wants to do is remove her from the board, or use her for their own ends. Then you consider how they always seem ready to give her away when the time is right. Yeah… that hit me hard.
   
 
Fraeia sits across from me at the table. They eye the board on the screen between us and ponder their moves carefully. They then let out a long sigh.   I look up and quickly force the words out, "I know. Chess is boring."   "Not at all. It's…" their eyes drop and return to mine, a frown forming on their face. "I already know I'm going to win."   "What? How?"   They gesture to the board, pointing to various pieces before giving a reply, "There are so many ways it could go, but some are more likely than others. I move the knight here," they pause and point to the space on the board, "and you're going to defend the pawn. It would be unwise to do anything else. At that point, it's only a matter of how long it takes."   "You just learned how to play and you're already that good?" I ask.   "It's a wonderful game," they reply, "for humans. It's designed to develop and challenge what the lebha already mastered: possibilities, behavioral prediction, thinking ahead..."   "So playing against you would be like playing against the computer."   They nod. "And if two of my kind were to play one another, it would always end in a draw."   I shield my eyes and glance at the screen."Sorry."   "Don't be." They lean back in their chair, fidgeting with their fingers. "We're different. There are bound to be clashes."   "I just wish we had a better way of passing the time."   "We need another hour before we can warp again. Life support wouldn't last."   I fight the urge to apologize. The ship wasn't designed to have more than one crew member. I decide to change the subject, "Do the Eden have games?"   "Not-" they pause, their head turning to the side with a slight tilt. They smile and nod before speaking, "let me check my things. I'm sure I still have them."   They leave for their quarters and come back with a rectangular stone box no bigger than their hand. They set it down on the table and open it to reveal two rows of 6 stones. They're small, made of black metal, and the symbols etched into their ten sides look remarkably familiar.   I stand up from the table and rush to my quarters. "Wait a second." I come back with the small cube I took from mom's room all those years ago.   When they see it, they chuckle. "I guess we are more alike than I thought."   "What are those?"   "Well," they begin, slowly removing each stone and dividing them between us. "We call it Lio."
     
Lio, or unity, is a game developed and played by neophytes as they learn and grow on Eden worlds. The initial goal was to memorize valuable lessons regarding our culture and faith. It grew into a common way of passing time with countless variations. We will be playing it in its original form.   It begins with an equal distribution of twelve to twenty stones between two players. Further variants added new stones and allowed for more than two players. These stones have ten distinct sides, and each side will have one of ten sigils.   The sigils are the marks of ten gods, those who first emerged from The Fever Breach. I'll explain that later, just know that each symbol is a name, and that each name has its own rules and purpose. While some variations allow for more, the first ten are always present.
   

"How do you Play?"

Every sigil has a counter sigil that prevents it from being staying in play. When casting the stones, you match up corresponding sigils and the player with the most unmatched stones wins the round. That's the idea.   Being the first form of Lio, it took several revisions to get it right. Neophytes needed complexity in the game to make it more entertaining. When casting stones, you have the option to select any number of your stones cast, and recast them.   Some gods are more favorable to have on your side than others, but you don't want to cast the same sigils as your opponent. Those immediately cancel each other out before you are allowed to recast. For that reason, some gods are more appropriate given what your opponent has on their side of the play area.
  A round of play progresses in phases.  
  1. The players cast their stones.
  2. The players remove any stones that match a stone casted by the opponent.
  3. The players look at each other's stones and select which of their stones they'd like to change, then recast them.
  4. Players compare the results, removing stones that are countered. They do this until one player runs out of stones to cast. The player with more stones left at the end wins the round.
   

Sigils

 
Bhruhil, goddess of wisdom: Counters chaos and war.   Hierith, goddess of chaos: Counters wisdom and love     Oilikena, goddess of love: Counters chaos and war, and death   Daerphine, godess of war: Counters wisdom, love and life     Frelsre, god of the void: Counters stars and revelry   Yolbha, god of stars: Counters duty and void   Cinth, god of duty: Counters stars and revelry   Ulthbhe, god of revelry: Counters duty and void     Aeli, goddess of life: Counters all, but death.   Thilowe, goddess of death: Counters all, but life.
   
"So some of these gods are more powerful than others?" I ask   Fraeia gives a wide grin and narrows their eyes, "If you think about it like that, you'll always lose."   They take up their 6 stones, rattle them in their hands, and gently toss them onto the table. I do the same.   "Here's the hard part: what now?" They ask.   I scan the sigils and compare my set to theirs. "Nothing. I forgot a few, but you rolled Thilowe… death three times."   "Did I?" They reply, leaning forward and scanning the stones. They sound playful, almost cheerful the more I think about it. "Well that's unfortunate, you win if I don't recast."   "How?"   "You cast Oilikenna," they reply, pointing to my stone, "Love counters death. It's not a one to one ratio. If you can counter one, you counter all. This could be a favorable cast if Oilikenna were not present."   "But I could easily recast and end up with Oilikenna anyway. It's a risk. Doesn't death counter all but life? Why would love-"   "Thilowe and Oilikenna were lovers, and devoted ones at that. They would never get in each other's way. They only wished to spend one last moment with each other should one of them meet an inevitable end. They cancel each other out."   I frown. "That's kinda sad, actually. Sweet, but sad."   The smile fades and Fraeia nods, "You'll find that most of our surviving stories are bittersweet." They pick up two of the three Thilowe sigils and cast them again. They look at the results and the smile returns as they shake their head. "You have quite a good cast. It's hard to beat."   I look down and suddenly it clicks. Each stone is different, their sigils unique. "Lio means unity. the goal is to have as many gods on your side as possible. No one god could take on all others, save for life and death, and even they have counters."   Fraeia leans back in their chair, thrusting their finger out as if to accent their words, "Exactly."
   

The Birth of the First Gods

The birth of the first gods happens to be one of the oldest stories the lebha have. Massive warships burst forth from the breach and granted us their power. This is how the game began. It was a way of sharing that story, and the stories of these gods as individuals.   Its variations added even more complexity, granting each god unique rules that only they can do, quite similar to the pieces in chess. They added new gods, more sides to each stone and more stones to the limit of stones each player can have. For example, what if Thilowe could remove a stone from your opponent's cast before the countering phase, much like how their avatar wiped entire fleets from existence? What if Aeli could add a stone to yours the way her avatar brought ships back from complete annihilation?   Neophytes become fascinated with our myths and legends. It's more than a game, it's an evolving replica of our culture condensed to fit in the palm of our hands. Every neophyte longs to have their own set, hand crafted and custom made like mine. A set of twelve is considered ideal. The odds are just right and you're never left unable to change your fate.
     
"It's…" I pause as I consider their words. "It's beautiful."   "I agree. Thank you for this." They reply.   I look up and tilt my head, "What did I do?"   "I haven't played in a long time. These stones were more of a… what's the word? A trinket of sentimental value?"   "A reminder of the past? A memento." I reply.   They laugh and nod. "Memento. That's a lovely word."   "I can't imagine what that must have been like, literal gods bursting from a black hole." I add.   "Do humans remember their gods?"   I think for a moment and a memory stirs, an old, dusty thing from way back when. My eyes go wide. "You're going to love this. My father told me so many stories about our mythology. I remember one in particular, a goddess humans worshiped back on earth. She was a goddess of beauty, fertility, and magic. She was a goddess of love and also a goddess of war."   We hear the chime from the cockpit. With life support restored, we can warp without fear of running out of air. We both stand up from the table and Fraeia says, "She sounds fearsome. What did they call her?"   My smile stretches from ear to ear as I reply, "It may not mean the same thing or be spelled the same but... Her name was Freya."

Comments

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Jan 28, 2022 05:58 by Bart Weergang

It's always the odd things we remember people by. In my head I've always pronounced Fraeia as Freya, since you first introduced her, But you still managed to surprise me in the end of this article. a good surprise.

Jan 30, 2022 06:10 by R. Dylon Elder

Thanks so much! I'm glad it was still a surprise. I was actually worried about that.

Jan 28, 2022 09:24

A lovely and well placed reprieve from all of the death and violence! Its such a simple game that can be played at any time and so easy to expand. And at the same time so complex that it stays fun for a long time!

Check out my world World Behind the Veil!
Jan 30, 2022 06:12 by R. Dylon Elder

Thanks! I may weed expand on it and see where it goes in the future. It turned out better than I expected and I'm glad it was enjoyed!

Jan 28, 2022 10:57 by TC

Oooh god yes wonderful article!! First of all, I absolutely love how you described the game, and how seeped in myth and story it is. Thats just an amazing thing. Also I'm really glad the connection between Fraeia and Freya was made, that makes me really happy- just love it when dots are connected :') this is really awesome work!

Creator of Arda Almayed
Jan 30, 2022 06:14 by R. Dylon Elder

Thanks so much! It's not the only connection to be made either. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Jan 28, 2022 11:17 by Catoblepon

I wanna play this, I need to play this, WHERE ARE MY FRIENDS

Jan 30, 2022 06:15 by R. Dylon Elder

All you'd really need are d10 and you can lol. I was playing around with it when writing. It was kind of fun!

Apr 27, 2022 09:11 by Grace Gittel Lewis

This was a very sweet, humanizing one. It's great that you know when to stop and breathe like this, it does a lot for both us and the characters!   It's also no small feat what you did here— not only did you manage to figure out a unique board game, but you also managed to tie it into the culture of the Eden in a very believable way! Well done!

Apr 28, 2022 03:47 by R. Dylon Elder

I'm glad the slow down was appreciated. I think that would be the reason why some articles are so long. These two have a lot of character development, as you now know. I wanted to make sure they had time to grow. Thanks so much.

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