Fyaril's summer trip

Featherton houses

 
  My name is Fyaril , I'm a bird . I was born in an other time, in another place. My good friend Aneutral keeps telling me that writing should help me to learn about myself, steady my mind, and calm down the tormented streams of the Call of the Wall. However, I must confess I have no idea on what to write about.   Hmmpf. I guess I can start by talking about the house I'm in, Aneutral's mansion in the Featherton district. Though I've only been in Merinos for a couple days, I've been told it is a fairly classic bird house for the city. Higher class, of course, my friend has some standards -and a lot of money, but still, it's not particularly outstanding, nor excentric. I'm currently in one of the two study rooms : a large, comfy half sphere separated in two half floors. Though the walls are covered with thin wooden planks and spiritual paintings, I can see from the window that the outside is covered with hardened clay, the same that is used for the half-timbered houses in the rest of the town. The room is extensively furnished, more than I would need : it comprises four perches, two office tables, several shelves, as well as a large decorative mat on each half floor.   As for the rest of the mansion, it is just as well equipped. The bulk of it is structured as a half-cylinder, connected to the chimney tower That half Cylinder consists in three floors, where the heat of the chimney is most required: the kitchen, in the bottom, is entirely made out of hardened clay. It opens to the chimney with an impressive oven, about as tall as an adult bird, and to the outside with a small door and a trap allowing to heave goods from the bottom of the building. Aneutral told me a lot about this trapdoors, and says it is very expensive to get one installed if your house is above fifteen meters high. I can't really tell, though, I've got no idea of the price of things here.   The second floor is the living room. Similarly to my office, it is covered with thin wooden planks, and is heavily decorated with spiritual paintings. A small opening on the chimney wall allows to control the amount of heat the room receives. It is decorated with an impressive family tree : ancestors from centuries ago are depicted there, each one with a short text that sums up their life story. On the center of the room is a thick dining mat, where I've met Aneutral last evening. The floor connects on each side with a study room, such as the one I'm in; on the side opposite to the chimney, it connects to a small wooden entrance, where visitors enter and leave the dwelling.   Finally, the third floor is the sleeping room. Two hanging hammocks are there, separated from one another with a curtain for a bit of intimacy. Both hammocks are connected to a toilet room, where Aneutral heaves a barrel of water every few days or so. Once again the walls are covered with thin wooden planks, but these planks themselves are covered with artistic quiltings made out of a delicate fabric.   I know Aneutral keeps telling me the house is not that outstanding in the city, I still doubt it a bit. I guess I'll have to fly around a bit and see for myself.       Hi, book. It's still me, Fyaril. I've now been in Merinos for six days, and hosted by Aneutral for five. I've spent a lot of time visiting the district, and I can admit I understand why the mansion is said to be "classic". While it is almost twice as big as the average bird house, most buildings are built in a similar fashion: the walls are made out of hardened clay and logs, and isolated from the inside with thin wooden planks. The usual structure is organized around a half-cylinder, built around the chimney tower. From that central building sprout one or a few spherical extensions, built with the same materials. The roof consists of wooden tiles, with the slope oriented away from the chimney.   Another thing that surprised me was the presence of statues : almost every house seems to have at least one, often more, carved out of a single pice of wood or sculpted with clay, near the entrance. Unlike in the other bird neighborhoods I've seen, these statues are often representing animals : real ones or imaginary ones. Even though they aren't representing intelligent beings, I have seen a lot of these statues wearing clothes, or knitted hats, in the same way as a bird or a human could wear. I'll probably have to investigate this later.
 

Black kelp fiber

Hi there, book. Fyaril here, I'm still a bird and I'm still supposed to write down about things to avoid getting crazy.   I've been living in Merinos for a few days now. And I've gotta say, living in the middle of the bird district in a higher class mansion, much more than my rather turbulent arrival in the city. Needless to say, the company's been quite enjoyable as well: Aneutral is a wonderful guest !   Anyway. Today, I decided to ask Aneutral about the clothes that I see people wearing here. I mean, not that I'm surprised to see people wearing clothes, even in my own tribe we do that. No, I just couldn't wrap my mind around one of the fabric people use here. It's a bit rough, but it seems pretty solid, and I see a lot of incredibly intricate patterns, weaved with individual strings, on the robes or capes that are made out of that pattern.   You can make fun of me if you want, book. I'm coming from an isolated woodland between two mountain ranges, after all : I'm pretty much a peasant parrot....   Back to the fabric. I asked Aneutral about this, and it shewas glad to give me some details. Kelp fiber, also named "marine silk", is a precious textile used by the upper class of Merinos. Apparently, it is made out of an algae, which is some kind of plant that grows in the sea! I have to say I find it amazing that some plants can find it pleasant to grow underwater. I, for one, couldn't stand the humidity.   Apparently, the algae undergoes a long processing before it is turned into clothes. Resourceful as she is, Aneutral decided to show me a workshop where the fiber is turned into textile. We're going there this afternoon, I'll tell you more about it later    
  Hello again, book. As scheduled, we spent the afternoon in a workshop east of town, in a popular district called Kancderry. On the way, Aneutral told me more about that marine silk. I like to hear her talking, she doesn't have the same accent as the birds who taught me their tongue in Crookentoft. Apparently, the algae used to grow in the region of Merinos, in the past. However, the recent growth of the City-state as well as its pollution made the waters much less inhabitable, and no kelp has grown near the city for the last fourty years. Because of this shortage, the textile workshops in Merinos now import kelp fiber from a few places in the East. The "Kelp capital", as it were, is a small industrial town named Direadus.   Visiting the workshop was a very interesting experience. Both humans and birds worked there, each with different specialized skills. The fiber, obtained in large and heavy blankets, were first unrolled. Some of the strings were then dyed, while others were directly weaved together. Although in my opinion it should be quicker to dye the whole blanket at once, by dipping it in the dying solution, it apparently isn't. Something about allowing the dye to penetrate more deeply into the fiber, which should allow to use less dye for the same length of fiber, and to have a much more durable color.   The weaving part was the most impressive aspect. See, the fibers are collected in a very large loom, which is activated using a complex mechanism to weave together a huge lot of fibers. But this is only used for the mediocre, colorless textiles. Whenever the people at the workshop want to make a pattern, they immediately use another loom, much smaller, that allows to deal with individual string. This was the real deal. According to Aneutral, kelp fiber was first used by sailors and fishers in the East of the Crescent Coast here. Can't really tell, never been there, but I believe her. They were using the same technique as for the many complex sailing knots that they use, to create patterns on their clothes. Over time, more knots were created, using more and more sets of strings, until some very complex weaving patterns were progressively developped.   Apparently, the kelp fibers are the only textile fibers on which such intricate patterns can be made, because of their inherent properties. The fibers are very elastic, and yet quite hard, which means they won't be deformed and lose their shape over time if they are worn too much. This allows for weaving patterns that sometimes skip several ranks of fibers, or turn suddenly in a diagonal fashion.   After this short but instructive visit, Aneutral insisted on buying me something from the workshop. After a bit of hesitation, I got out with a fancy cap : dark pink and yellow, it goes rather well with my plumage. It has two tassels hanging from the sides, and a line of spiral patterns around the brows, and I really like it.   As you can read, book, or at least as you would read if you could read yourself, I'm having a good about the world in my stay here. The weather is enjoyable, my host is nice with me and takes great care of me : I wonder what the next days will bring !
 

Wooden Kelp

 
Dear book, I've been in Merinos for almost a dozen days, which is equal to a length called a "doze", here. Apparently, most people's working schedule is organized around it. Because today was the beginning of a new work doze, I joined @Aneutral at her job. Which implied moving plants around. See, Aneutral works as a herborist for the hospitals of Merinos. From what I get, she's pretty good at that.   And this is what leads me to what I want to describe to you today. You see, as I was opening a barrel that was supposed to be separated between two places, I read on the top : "Wooden Kelp, Direadus". I mentionned to Aneutral that this was the town she was talking about when we visited that textile workshop the other day. Apparently, the Wooden kelp is indeed the same plant as the one people get the kelp fiber from: it is exploited for several purposes, as it were.   Anyway, let me sum up what I gathered from everything I was told about this plant.   The Wooden Kelp grows in the north-East of the Crescent sea. It can grow very tall, as tall as a land tree, and it can live for longer than a human. The plant is often found on rocky floors, with its top close to the surface. It forms small and dense patches of marine forests, where a lot of other plants and animals live. I had never seen one of these algi before in my life, and I was thinking very literally about a tall tree, with snails and fishes and flowers growing on the trunk. Actually, the thing is quite different, according to the paintings Aneutral showed me: it looks more like a long, fat rope that is attached to the bottom of the sea with some kind of pad, and with many long and thin leaves growing out of it. The many algi that grow on the kelp don't really look like flowers either : judging from the content of the barrels we're moving, I wouldn't even have guessed that they are related to the plants we can find on the surface!   The uses of the Wooden Kelp are diverse. As I mentioned the other day, the sprout can be separated into fibers that can be dyed and weaved together to make black kelp clothese. The fibers can also be braided together, and make for a rope that can withstand being put in water for an extended period of time. I didn't know that other ropes didn't. Finally, some parts of the kelp have medical properties : the very long leaves that extend from the sprout can be dried, and eaten to soothe stomach pain, for example. What's more, in summer, the kelp makes something called sporuh spore sacks. I've held one in my beak, it looks like a small dried purse. According to Aneutral, the spores can be taken from the spore sack and powdered. They can then be made into a salve that is applied on wounds to avoid infection, without hurting as much as when you just rub salt or liquor.   By the spirits, Book, today was once again a very instructive day, as you could see if you were able to read yourself ! By the way, I really like that way of mostly talking about one thing I learned when I'm writing to you : it is easier to focus, and it helps me knowing what to talk about. I'll probably go on with that way of doing things over time.   Fyaril, out.
 

Merinos Anima Cathedral

 
Today was the last day of the work doze, and is a gathering day for the Merinos Common Cult believers. I known that this was something that was bound to happen at some point, but I hadn't really prepared myself yet. I mean, I knew that Aneutral was probably believing in some kind of religion, everyone does, but I wasn't thinking I'd be expected to join in for a gathering.   Anyway, after a fair bit of insisting, I accepted to join Aneutral. I'll grant it to them cultists, the gathering was in a very beautiful cult place: the Merinos Anima cathedral. Located right at the junction between Featherton and Minastershire, the cult place is especially accessible for the birds of Merinos, who represent a large part of its believers.   Rigt in front of the building itself, a huge market place is set up, perhaps even more impressive than the Great Mart next to the river. The market stands, though in the open air, are built out of stone and wood, and seem to be owned by the Church. On top of that, the market place has several perches, and multiple floors, which makes it much easier for bird to shop without getting stomped on by careless humans. Come to think of it, it is astounding that even after thousands and thousands of years of coexisting in the Cylinder, humans still almost always build their stuff without caring about smaller species, don't you agree?   Anyway. The market place is beautiful, and colorful : trees, and flowers are just dense enough that they seem to cover the whole place without slowing down flight in there. As for the Cathedral, it is itself crazy. The entrance consists of a series of dug down trenches that look like a reverse pyramid, surrounded by very tall towers, that are themselves connected by thin arches. The structure does make the building a bit mystical. The sculptures around the arches and towers, and on the pyramid, are so thin, the place looks like some laced clothes! It feels both infinitely fragile, and completely unbreakable.   On the center of the structure is the Anima Hall in itself : more than a hundred meters long, a gigantic wooden replica of the Cylinder thrones at its center. According to Aneutral, the replica has so precise details that you can see the different neighborhoods of Merinos if you look correctly. Around the hall, several floors are covered with precise statues of birds and humans, describing mythological stories and the process of reincarnation. On each side, small altars are exposing precious jewels. I'm not exactly a professional cultplace critic, but I guess these are relics of some kind, either enchanted to have some potency, or not.   Aneutral led me to a perch inside the structure : a dozen meters above the ground, it was high enough to have a decent view on the whole ceremony without risking being stomped or flewn on, yet without being too close to the roof: today's a bit rainy, and apparently the sound of the rain close to the roof is so loud that it makes it hard to focus on the rituals.   I'll admit to you if you don't repeat it, book, but I didn't focus on the rituals. I payed particularly little attention to the whole speech thing, I was too focused on looking at the people. From what I gathered, the end of work doze is called "Thinrest". On that resting day, the material world is close to the spiritual one, and this is supposed to be affecting the souls : the livings can more easily reach out to the spiritual world, and the souls of the dead can sometimes influence the material world or whatever. I'll tell you, I've done more than my share of spirit world visits in my time, and have never felt any difference between the days, other than the seasonal cycle or you digestion cycle I mean. But then again, maybe the spirit world works differently here in Merinos, I can't really tell since I've been blocked as of lately. - I'll tell you more about that later, book, I promise ! -   Back to the ritual. At first there was some kind of important religious person, close to the center, who gave some speech on morals. Something about how we can only try to guess, and that the most important thing is to follow what our deepest mind dictates us, as it is closer to our soul, which is itself closer to the true morale. I thought it was worth it to think things through, to be on the lookout for logical fallacies, and to do your best not to contradict yourself, but their guess is as good as mine. After the speech, there was a ceremonial dance, accompanied with songs to put people in a trance to join the spirit world more easily. I'll admit that this was really beautiful : birds and humans were in complete communion, and were dancing with beautiful dyed silk ribbon, it felt like a rainbow fire was burning around the center of the hall. The important religious took one relic from its pedestal, and placed it on their cupped hands. The relic started producing a dark light, as it was activating. I can't really tell whether this was actual darkness, or a feeling of darkness that comes from the spirit world. What I could tell, was that almost immediately after, everyone's mind seemed to open up a bit. Since I'm blocked, I don't really know if the people did connect to the spirit world, or simply opened themselves up for mental manipulation or soul visiting, but it was most impressive.   In the end, this whole ritual thingy seemed more like a convenient way to visit a beautiful Anima Hall in the midst of a gathering, than an actual conversion. I guess I'll have to learn more about this whole Merinos Common Cult later.
 
Merinos Common Cult
Hi again, Book. It's only been a few hours, but I just had the most instructive conversation with Aneutral about the Merinos Common Cult, and I thought I'd better share before I forget to.   So, first of all, the Merinos Common cult is the name given to the merinian version of the City Anima Cult. Since you weren't with me at that time, you can't really know about it, but I've been in some places that followed various versions of the City Anima Cult before, thye often have a cult place similar to the Cathedral and its marketplace. This made my conversation with Anima all the better : she taught me just as much about her own version of the cult, as the more general ones. Anyway, although it is a fairly popular religion in the city, it is not named that way because it is common to believe in this cult. No, it is Common in the sense that unlike classic Anima cults, the Merinos Common cult does believe in the fact that every living organisms are linked to one another, and that the Spirit world is a manifestation of that link.   Like other Anima worshippers, people there believe that there is a limited number of souls in the world, and that these souls are reused over time by reincarnation. After some recent social evolutions and theologic debates, to some recent debates, it is believed that every humans and perrots have a sentient soul, unlike other living organisms. If you were a bit taught about the general context of social injustice in the Cylinder, you'd easily guess that before these theological debates, Perrots weren't recognized as requiring a sentient soul. Now, this just sounds silly. I mean, it is well known everywhere that Perrots have a much better, more stable, and generally easier access to the Spirit World than humans. But guess what? Noooo, of course, we were the ones without a soul. Civilizations are weird, I'll tell you what. Come to that, I was much better in my old tribe, in the valley where no human dared to come.   Back to the cult. The core belief of the Anima cult, once again, is that the Cylinder world hosts a limited number of sentient souls, that don't really vary over time. Upon the death of a human, or bird, their soul spends a bit of time in the Spirit World, before joining another being for reincarnation. According to the Anima belief, whether a soul reincarnates in another sentient creature, or back into a lower lifeform such as an animal, depends on their life choices. The worshippers consider that upon one's death, one experiences suddenly true morale : thus they deeply feel whether they deserve to reincarnate as higher animals, or sentient beings, or not. I have to admit that I don't really understand how one can think that true morale is experienced from the Spirit World. I mean, it is basically just formed of the minds of every lifeforms around you, especially Spirits and Sentient beings: the only permanent and absolute thing about the Spirit World is the way it is built, and even that changes in a cyclic way. I'm not sure what in that made someone, at some point, think that it should be used as a decend basis for some kind of Absolute Truth about anything, even more so about moral values. But then again, I guess that's just me being a sceptical bird and not seeing that the soul of the dead obviously has a very different experience of the Spirit World than I do.   I wonder what you think about it, Book.   There's one more thing I know for sure, though : religion is good business. Because of the way souls can be reincarnated in any animals, worshippers always have to buy their meat from the Church, or ask for a priest to certify that the animal they are about to kill isn't holding the soul of their distant ancestor, or their cousin twice removed who recently met an untimely death. According to Aneutral, this kind of expertise is conducted by priests using two of the relics that are in my Cathedral. According to me, either they convince themselves of whatever they are doing is real, or they are lying to a lot of people. Perhaps a little bit of both.   The animals that are found to have a sentient soul are treated as equal, and respected as important ancestors by the community, which is also something I didn't understand. I mean, according to their reincarnation beliefs, aren't the ones that get reincarnated as animals the bad ones? Book, religion is complicated. Not to mention, contradictory.
 

Soul Observer of Beyforth

 
Alright. Hello, Book. I know it's been half a dozen days since I last talked to you. But, you see, a lot happened lately, I've been a bit busy with work. Anyway, the thing is... Remember the Anima Cathedral I've visited last doze, or so? Well, I kind of stole their relic.   What?!   Well, no, I didn't really stole it. I mean, it's not my fault if it stuck itself to my neck when I approached it, is it?   ...   Anyway, what you think of it doesn't really matter, because it's still stuck. And since I left the Cathedral with it, the whole Church is pissed off and wants to get me. I guess it will be hard to convince them that I had nothing to do with me grabbing their most precious relic, leaving with it, and then not handing it back. At the moment, I am hiding in the middle of the kelp workshop, so they don't find me, can you believe that ?   Let me describe the event. So, a few hours ago, I was visiting the Cathedral again. It was the middle of doze, and Aneutral didn't need me for work anymore. At this time of the day, the Cathedral was almost empty compared to how it is during ceremonies, so I was just taking my time looking at the statues, and the relics. And this is how it happened. At some point, I started to feel compelled to go and have a closer look at the relic that was displayed in the back of the hall, the one that had been used in last doze ritual. The closer I was, the more I wanted to get closer.   As I got closer and approached my paw to it, the relic literally started moving. It shaked itself free from its laces, before jumping and attaching to my throat. I tried to get it of, I swear! But the thing was - and still is - stuck to the tattoo I have on my neck, the tattoo that blocks me from entering the spirit world. At some point, I heard some people approaching, which is why I just got rid of one of my own jewels, something I had on my belly, and just flew upward and rushed back to Aneutral's house.   ... Which absolutely did make you look guilty.   Yes. My mind was racing. When I got back, Aneutral was already home. She immediately recognized the relic, read my terrified face, and opened for me to hide inside. She was horrified.   Apparently, the jewel that had the clever idea to attach to my neck is called the Soul Observer of Beyforth. It is old, symbolic, and politically important for the Common Cult. It was first owned by some human who lived in the other side of the Crescent Sea, in the Three Seas Empire, seven hundred years ago. It then allegedly moved a bit, as it was subsequently owned by a bird, and then another human over two lifetimes. The thing was then lost for two hundred years. Or maybe not lost lost, but no one really knows where it was during that period. It was then oddly found again by some human called Beyforth in the middle of a mountain, and brought to Merinos three hundred years ago, as the Cathedral was being renovated.   According to the religious, the relic is said to greatly improve one's connection with the spirit world. It allows, for example, to join with the surrounding minds and yet understand what is happening. And even more importantly for Anima followers, the relic allows the holder and those who they design to observe the presence of one of these sentient souls the Anima cults keeps talking about. That is, in fact, its main day-to-day use: its powers are allegedly transferred by the holder to the surrounding priests, who can work in the market place. I doubt it has this power, but this is not the time for religious skepticism : the thing is, if they think the relic has this power, then I'm wings deep in the murk because they are going to do everything to get it back.   What is more, I think the relic does have some kind of powers. Since it attached to me, I felt my spiritual blocking weaken. Either the relic is absorbing the enchantment associated with my neck tattoo, or it is doing something that makes my mind able to beat the blocking. Or something else entirely. Anyhow, I can feel that I keep involuntarily entering people's mind : I get way too much information about their mental state, or their position, than I should be able to get using only my senses. I hope this doesn't mean the Call of the Wall is about to get worse, but I'm not too optimistic.   ...   As I mentioned earlier, I'm currently hiding in the middle of a kelp storage room. The bird district is currently flooded with patrols entering homes, and trying to find me : Aneutral got me out of there from a barrel that was supposed to get down, and moved me to a warehouse she owns. The interesting thing is, the warehouse is human sized by design, but she has been a building a lot of secret supplementary storage rooms, that are bird-sized. I'm pretty sure that has to do with avoiding fraud inspection, and some shady business she is in, but I can't really know.   Aneutral is supposed to meet me shortly, so we can find a plan. I'll keep you updated, Book.
 

Clockwork pencil

Hello, Book. Hope you are well. Quick update about my situation : I have just been moved in a new storage room.   Apparently, there's a lot going on outside : the Church is boiling that they can't find me, and even if the city government is not associated with any religion, they have started an investigation about the stolen object. Since Aneutral was known to have housed a foreigner for a while, she was interrogated, and subsequently decided to transfer me somewhere else, somewhere less associated with her person. She didn't tell me more, but I kind of read her emotions against my own will, and I think she's really worried about herself. I think the best would be for me to leave the city, so that even if I am pursued, it happens far away from there.   I just hope everything will go well. In the meantime, I am stuck here, in this room full of clockwork pencils.   Clockwork pencils ?   Ah yes, I guess you can't really know about them since you're new in this world, but I have seen a lot of those being used in the past.   Indeed.   Clockwork pencils are a way to manipulate Ghostpowder, which you wouldn't know much about either. It's a bit complex to describe. See, Ghostpowder is a weird material that composes the body of what we call Shadow Creatures. It is light, almost ethereal, and it is alive. I won't get too much into details, but we can say that the diverse properties of Ghostpowder are what is used to produce enchantments. Finally, unlike a lot of materials, it exists both in the spiritual and material worlds.   Back to the pencils. These tools have a shaft and a relatively precise tip. Unlike a regular pen or pencil however, the end is connected to a source of oil, such as a small bottle, through a wire. The shaft also has room for a small cartridge, that contains the Ghostpowder. The idea is, the powder joins the oil right before being poured from the tip of the pencil. That gives a thick inky texture to the powder, which is much easier to handle, and it activates it : see, the live Ghostpowder can consume the oil to get more energy, which means it will remain active while the enchantment is prepared.   With some training, you can learn to use it to write some messages that can influence the surrounding spiritual world, for example. The pencils are even used to hardwire enchantments, which is one of the main reason why they are sold expensively. However, the preparation of enchantment is more complex than the production of spiritual messages : you usually need several types of Ghostpowder, that have different properties. From the communication cartridge, that allows a direct communication between two different parts of an enchantment, to the computation cartridge, that changes its state based on its surrounding environment, you need specialized tools to produce a decent enchantment.   Are there some of these Ghostpowder cartridges here?   I don't think so, they are in some specialized storage systems. Not to mention, I wouldn't trust myself and my Call of the Wall in the proximity of some Ghostpowder right now, and I'm certain that Aneutral wouldn't either.   You're already turning so crazy you didn't even react when I started speaking to you.   Right. I'm going to finish describing my pencils. These things were produced here in Merinos) , by a small human factory. They are made out of stone and glass, which makes them a bit expensive but also reliable : a clockwork pencil out of wood would be quickly consumed by the Ghostpowder cartridges, and thus would be quickly dangerous to handle. From what I get, the ones in my storage room will be sent somewhere in the east, and sold there in exchange for spices or plants or whatever it is they produce there. Hmm. I might want to go there.   Anyway, I'm leaving you, Book : people are approaching, and one of them is Aneutral. I should have some news about what comes next.
 

Aneutral

As I'm moving farther from Merinos by the day, I've just realized that I didn't even presented Aneutral to you, book. Best I can do to redeem myself is make her today's subject.   Aneutral is a bird , like me. Well, not exactly like me because she has a very different set of colors, and she was very definitely born in the city. But still, I guess she's more like me than I'm like you, Book, or like a human.   Yes, I think I get it.   On with the description, then... Aneutral is fairly tall. For a Perrot, again: it's not like she's a chicken, or even a human. She is just taller than me, or the other civilized birds.   Yes, yes, I get what you just mean, she's just taller than the average of your kind, just go on.   Alright, alright. Aneutral is tall, and yet relatively thin. She has the same feathers as the noble birds of Merinos: a long, blue crest, a pink back and wings with black tips, and a yellow belly. She usually combs her crest using ribbons, which makes it look more like combed human hair. You could say that physically, she's impressive. That way she looks, and her posture, it really gives her some natural authority, and a great deal of charisma.   Mentally, Aneutral is even more interesting. She has this... proud attitude, something about her that makes it clear that she is generally right, and that you'd better also be right with her. This is probably why she has had so much influence.   Influence?     Yeah, Aneutral fought a lot for birds rights. She's well known for her activity for the recognition of birds among sailors and fishers!   Tell me about her life.   I don't know that much about her life, you know? She was born in Merinos, and raised in a rich human family, some Sheherpers I believe. This is where she got her gender thing: you know, since there is no sexual difference among birds, that habit to assign social roles on people based on it has to come from humans... She left that human family when she was 10, after some incident that killed her raiser, from what I got. She didn't tell me much about it.   After that, she was raised by sailors for a while, and she acquired a massive knowledge on marine plants as time went. You know, among sailors, Perrots are poorly regarded. Since we are smaller and weaker than them, we are not that good at heaving ropes, or net fishing. Even though, her fierce character was respected by sailors. She was able to identify almost any marine plant, and she learned to direct ships toward the best shoals to fish. Later, she was recognized by a hospital in the Sheherp district of Merinos, during a scholar competition: not even because she won, but because she saved the director of the hospital from a seizure! Basically, she applyed several salves and potions, saved the human, and was hired. Since then, she quickly gained in popularity among birds for her fierce fight for their rights, and among humans for her professionalism.   In the end, she was probably one of the rare really influent birds in Merinos, and yet she remained humble. She wasn't putting herself up front when she went to the cathedral, she went to the same pub as her workers in the evening... She even hosted a weird foreigner, slightly crazy and lost in the big city! Even after I got stuck with that relic, she still helped us get out. She put herself at risk.   Come on, don't feel bad about that, Bird. Firstly, she might not be, and secondly, she helped you willingly, and did so because she liked you. Helping you was part of her endless fight for birds everywhere, and you know it.   Yeah. I just hope you're right. I hope she's alright.   Anyway, I'm leaving you for now, Book: My mind feels some tensions around me, should ask what is going on. I'll see you later.   Take care, Bird.
 

Wandrel moving fort

 
Dear Book,   How are you? Hope you are doing well, whatever 'doing well' may be for you. You know I'm alright. How are you ? Where are you ?   As I'm writing this, I am moving away from Merinos at a regular pace: I'm still wanted by the Church, as well as the government. Aneutral has convinced some Wandrel traders to take me with them, they are moving toward the East to sell some clockwork pencil, some jewels, and a bunch of other expensive things against some plants and seafood that they plan on selling back in Merinos. Although their final destination is still under the influence of the Merinos trading network, it is far enough that the Common Cult has less influence there, and I should manage to move further away and get free. I only hope Aneutral is doing well back there.   ...   Since there's not so much to do, let me just describe the thing I am in. I think it is called a Moving Fort, or something similar. Although the tribe I'm moving with has adapted the vehicle for trading, I'm pretty sure if was first it was first conceived as a military thing. But, you know, not like an animal-drawn car meant to charge toward some infantry line. More like, well, a mobile fortress. The engine is capable of transporting a huge mass at a time, but it is not too fast. It is meant to move at walking speed virtually anywhere, from a dense forest to a steep cliff, without troubles.   Although they didn't tell me much about how it works, I gathered some information from the crew members' minds. Apparently, moving forts are used a lot among Wandrels, it serves as a mobile base of operation when they wage war with each other or against other nomads. In these situations, the walls are reinforced and a ton of arms can be fired from roughly everywhere. This mobile base can follow fleeing enemies over vast distances, or flee itself while remaining a working center of operations.   How does it work? Is it animal-drawn?   No, it isn't : if it was, it would have to stop from times to times to let the animals rest. No, this thing is powered by a Ghostpowder engine.   Ah yes, I remember you mentioning ghostpowder. So how does that work?   It is straightforward, really. You have one large circular furnace, with an axis at its center. The furnace is filled with stone sticks that are engraved with consuming ghostpowder. The bigger the surface engrave with ghostpowder, the better. Fuel is dispensed on that furnace, for it to be consumed by the ghostpowder. And the cool thing is, that's it for the engine !   Really ?   Yes. The ghostpowder used here has this specific property that it can transform the energy it obtains from consumption into movement, with a great efficiency. Because the ghostpowder in the furnace is oriented toward one specific direction, as soon as you add some fuel, the axis starts rotating with a great power. Then, it is just about using clockwork to turn this rotation into the rotation of wheels, and the adaptation of the vehicle for any terrain.   That seems simple, but also very expensive.   Yes, some other engines exist that are based on burning things, using the heat to boil water, and use the movement caused by the steam. However, ghostpowder engines have a much higher fuel efficiency, which is the reason why military vehicles have them. That makes sense. And is it really safe for you to remain close to something full of ghostpowder, which is something that has a massive presence in the spirit world, as you are stuggling with the Call of the Wall ?   That is a good question. I guess it isn't really, but I can't do much about it. At least, I'm safe from the church. Not to mention, it may seem weird but the proximity of the engine both in the physical and spiritual worlds is soothing, to some extent.   Anyway, I hear it is meal time. I'll talk to you later, Book.
 

Circail Gaisgels

 
The tank has been attacked !   What ? What do you mean ?   Well, I think it is pretty straightforward to understand, isn't it ? Some bandits had a go at us, and tried to put our vehicle to a stop. They failed though, you don't simply stop a moving fort if it doesn't want to.   Who did ?   According to the Wandrels, these guys are calling themselves something like 'Gaisgels'. They are nomads living on the north east, mostly between the Psilanos Mountain ranges and the Easterlides, but apparently some of them get down to the Crescent coast. If there's one thing I'm certain of, it's that the crew doesn't like them.   Are you listening to their heads?   I'm not ! They are just insisting a lot on how those Gaisgels are aggressive, particularly so toward traders and nomadic groups. Apparently, they have waged a ton of wars in the past five decades, and something like half of them were against Wandrel groups. By the spirits, even if I wasn't trying I could feel the resentment the crew has toward them! Some of my companions' family members died only a few years back in one of these wars, and the mourning doesn't seem over.   So, tell me more about these Gaisgel.   What did you think I was about to do ?   Let's start this. First of all, the Gaisgels live in large tribal groups, just like the Wandrels. For them, family is just important as it is for Wandrels. However, they lead a slightly different lifestyle.   What do you mean?   Well, while the Wandrels interact with sedentary settlements, the Gaisgels stay further from cities. A lot of them follow the great herds that roam around the Easterlides. In addition to that, however, they regularly attack trading routes or other nomads.   Why is that so?   Not sure. It's hard to get neutral information from a lot of biased people, you know?   Are you really looking at this from the mind of the people around ?   No ! Maybe. Yes. Don't know, it's the same. Anyway, I suppose that attacking other groups is a way to obtain valuables, such as crafted goods, jewels, or enchanted objects. If you want, they are so specialized in hunting, foraging, and fighting among themselves and against other nomad peoples that they can't really sustain a massive jewel production, for example. They probably also have some sort of "code of glory", you know, something that justifies that being a good warrior and being able to steal a lot from merchants is a good thing. Can't really say. In such a situation, it's almost as if trading with other ethnicities is replaced by stealing from them. I guess we could say that other peoples get something in return, since they often hire Gaisgels as mercenaries, to escort them along trading routes or to wage wars.   I see... Civilizations are hard to understand, if you ask me.   I couldn't agree more, Book. And it gets more complex the more you know about these. I mean, even though I mostly got some info on their warring habits, I'm pretty sure there's more to them than that ! For example, I noted that while we were attacked by humans, the skies were full of Perrots and Condors. The fact is, the relations between humans and birds are probably a complex thing, yet I wasn't taught anything about it.   I think I'm going to leave you for now, Bird.   Alright, then. I'm going to see if I can help repairing the vehicle.  
 

Call of the Wall

 
Hi, Bird.   Oh hi, Book ! You come at the right time, it happens that I am here.   We should talk about your condition. You mentionned the Call of the Wall, more than once, but never got to describe it.   Ah yes, you're right. There's actually a lot I have to say about it. Plus, a part of me seems to remember someone mentionning that writing about things should help me, to some extent.   Yes. That was your friend, Aneutral.   Ah, yes. Let's begin then, shall we?   You know I mentioned several times that I am able to move around in the spirit world, yes? The spirit world is a sort of secondary universe, that is built and structured with the mental states and interaction of spirits, Shadow Creatures and sentient beings in the whole world. If you want, the spirit world is the result of the mental connection between all of these sentient things that exist. Your local spiritual landscape is made out of the mental state of the people surrounding you, as well as the presence and influence of the local shadow creatures.   Okay.   And, you see, the result of that is that if one opens up completely to the spirit world, their mind basically burns: they suddenly have to process every bit of information sent by every sentient thing surrounding them, which quickly becomes far too much fo a single brain.   So how do you and your kind manage to explore and influence that spirit world?   Coming to it. To put it shortly, we create, or enhance, mental barriers. These are made in a way to allow us to focus on a single person, for example. Or to see everything around, but more dimly, without the overload of information. Usually, the creation of this barrier is learned, and takes a while. However, in some cases such as ours, efficient mental protections are already present, and almost instinctive to learn. Or at least, they are different from other people's protections.   Isn't it a good thing to be a natural at manipulating your surroundings' mental state?   It is, but it also makes it a more rooted part of our consciousness. The spirit world becomes much more closely linked to our mind than it is to the usual person. And this is where the trouble begins, and where the symptoms appear   Please develop.   Yes. Since the spirit world is almost another set of senses for us to experience, it becomes harder to separate the spiritual experiences from the material ones.   Like when you casually say that you just felt someone approaching from afar, or that you know something is happening because people in the rest of the building suddenly got angry ?   For example. It is also like when I see hallucinated creatures from my own mind, or someone else's, are summoned into my vision. Another symptom, is the slow evolution of one's consciousness. My sense of individuality, and my consciousness, is less stable than it is for others : it can split into other beings, or extend out of my own boundaries. As you can guess, this is how you came to existence, Book. You are a part of my mind that split, acquired sentience, and now exist almost independently from me. Because of the way I talk about you with others, and because of the fact that you have the same spiritual abilities as mine, you would possibly keep on existing even if my body was destructed : you would jump and borrow the brains from others, as well as the mental powers of Shadow creatures.   I guess I would.   Because of both of these, other symptoms exist : one can involuntarily control spiritual entities, for example, which would have harmful effects. Imagine if I am working with some Ghostpowder, and I unwillingly make it into the nightmarish creature someone close by just dreamt of ! Another effect of the instability of my consciousness, is that my physical body can be taken over by other entities, as much as I can try and do the same on others.   And how does this have anything to do with the weird barriers you have ?   I'm not sure. I guess that since my mind's barriers are better controlled than they are supposed to be, they can't automatically reject an assault on my brain as much as they do for others...   So, let me sum it up. In the end, you're condemned to see your consciousness slowly decay and evolve into separate independant beings, that may move elsewhere or disappear, while your physical body will less and less understand its surrounding environment, before being destroyed by a monster you created out of thin air or being taken over by an evil spiritual entity. Even if 'you' still exist, 'you' will be divided into more and more things, merge with others, or partly be destroyed : it will absolutely not be comparable to what 'you' are at the moment. That seems both pretty sad and existentially dreadful, doesn't it?   It does. Yet, it doesn't mean I am condemned like you said : Writing with you allows me to stabilize a part of my consciousness, and Aneutral told me that she knew some places where you can learn to master the Call of the Wall, and prevent the symptoms from getting too unstable.   Didn't you talk about your tattoo blocking your spiritual abilities, in the past?   Yes, maybe I did. That tattoo was created as a mean to prevent me from developping too much symptoms of the Call of the Wall. Only thing is, since my neck got attached to that relic in the cathedral, the tattoo seems to have lost its effect. Either that is because the relic destroyed the enchantment, or because the relic is stronger than the enchantment, the result is that I'm back into the spirit world, and I am clearly stuck with an unknown object that can worsen the effects.   And now that we have left Merinos, we have to find how to get rid of it and stop your condition on our own, without Aneutral.   I guess so. We'll sort it out, Book. Don't worry too much. We're a Bird, and that's great. And even if you didn't exist back then, we got through issues in the past as well.   I guess we have, Bird. I guess we have.
   

Eastern Wandrel cuisine

 
Hello there, Book !   Bird. It's been about one workdoze since I left the big city of Merinos. Since we are in a fairly slow vehicle, the trip took some time, but I think we are about to reach our final destination : the city of Direadus. I have to admit I had a pleasant trip, for a fugitive. Meaning? Well, between the dice games and the discussions, I got along pretty well with the rest of the crew! I think they are still a bit spooked out by the way I interact with the spirit world, but they still seem to like me. This, or a part of you influenced their behavior toward you. That, too. Anyhow, one certain thing is that the meals were great, throughout the whole trip ! And this clearly wasn't caused by me. Probably. I think. ... Anyway, this traditional cuisine is what I want to talk to you about. See, the Wandrels are more than just one single culture : every tribe has its unique characteristics, its own subculture as it were. Aand apparently, the Wandrels that roam in the east of the Sheherp plains are really well known for their food, and their gourmet meals. How come ? Well, I think there's a lot of reasons for that. Firstly, the East of the Sheherp plains, unlike the West of the Cylinder is dominated by nomads : There are almost no farms or settlements ! Ah. I guess that this mean their cuisine isn't based on regular crops, but more on the surrounding things that naturally grow in the region, right? Exactly. The result is that the Wandrels here usually have a lot of courses in a meal, but not much for each course. This goes with the fact that there is a great diversity of plants that grow here, but not much of each : it's better to make a lot of small, harmonious recipes than a single weird mixture, right? I wouldn't know, Bird. Books don't eat. Right. Anyway. In addition to that, the lifestyle of Wandrels also influences their cuisine. They don't eat meat, but often raise and milk cattle. Have to say that is good, because I can't digest meat too well. They live in tribe and large families, which makes them used to long, festive meals. Usually, we have one long meal in the evening, during which people are playing games and music together, and just eat some stuffed bread the rest of the day. I'm sure you are dying to describe some of their recipes. You bet I am ! I'm just going to tell you about the courses of the last meal. On with it, then. So, it began with one appetizer. We sometimes have two or three, but this time it was one. It was a pink kale salad, like only them can do. There were some veggies, a spicy cream cheese, and some big fried insects that they call timber flea. The insect was crunchy, and was just perfect with the kale and the cheese that almost melt in the mouth.   After the appetizer, we had a glass of milk. We always do, as a way to soothe our tastebuds between each course. Otherwise, we'd soon feel like every course are mixing together, that would be horrible. I trust you on that. After that, we had two warm courses. The first one consised in some stuffed bread with a spicy sauce and some cooked nordic tomatoes. I have absolutely no idea how they do it, but the way they cook tomatoes is amazing. It still has all the juice inside, along with the spicy taste, but the outer layers are almost fried. It is such a pleasure on the tongue!   The second warm meal was entirely different. It was a carved wild carrot stuffed with goat cheese, and smoked. This one was fairly surprising as well : the slow cooking sort of mixed the cheese with the rest of the carrot, and you can feel a distinct flavour gradient. On the outside, the carrot feels smokey, and has a strong smell. As you eat through toward the inside, the flavor of the cheese appears, much sweeter than the smoked carrot.   Around the middle of the meal, we had some sort of meal cocktail. It is something a bit spiritual, from what I gather: reconnects the wandrels with their ancestors. For sure, it is tasty and hydrating ! It is based on highly fermented ale, mixed with goat milk and a bit of sugar. That prepares you for the rest of the meal : some fruit salads, and a sort of dry cake. I have a thing for desserts, I can admit it. And the great thing with how they prepare fruit salads, is that even if there's just a ton of different berries mixed together, it still feels harmonious. I just don't get how they do that.   Finally, at this point, the meals becomes more festive. Some people start singing, the elders tell some stories... And we have the syrup tea : dried herbs, the sap of a tree, and water. You see, Book, there are two versions of this. The first one, or at least the one I am talking about, is drank in the evening. I relaxes you for the night while you are listening to some tales. The second one, drank in the morning, gives you energy for the rest of the day. And that is, I think, the whole description. And you see, the amazing thing is that I probably had something this rich in new experience every single evening on that vehicle ! Thank you for that, Fyaril. Even if I can't fully understand this, I feel like this description and the time you took to make it is a token of your appreciation. Not to mention, I can read the way you think about it when you're writing, and that helps me to understand what you are talking about. Glad I can talk with you, Book. You should get some sleep, now. From what I gather, it is late, and you will probably have a long day tomorrow in Direadus.
 

Direadus

Hello, Book !   Hello, Bird. Did you reach Direadus yet ?   Yes, we're here.   How does it look?   How can the visual appearance of something matter to a book ?   It does. So ?   Mmkay. Let's just start by saying that Direadus is very clearly what you'd picture as an industrial town. Modern, densely packed, booming with activity even though it is a small town... Yes. Direadus is a factory-city, you could say that.   See, although it has something in the tens of thousands of inhabitants, which is much smaller than cities such as Merinos, the town of Direadus is often called the "Capital of seaweed". It is located on a circular bay, and is one of the rare places in the world where Wooden Kelp can be grown. They grow it, they harvest it, they dry it, they weave it, they transform it in any way you can think of.   Ah yes, that aquatic plant that is used to craft noble Merinian clothes, isn't it ?   Uhm yes, exactly. Lots of small kelp forests grow in the bay, you can find their tip close to the surface and some sort of wooden dock around the circular kelp forests. As you can guess, there are other things that are exported as well, such as various shellfishes and edible seaweed that grow on the stem of wooden kelp.   Then I guess the city has fairly good relations with Merinos , and other trading cities on the coast. Therefore, it must be inside the direct zone of influence of Merinos. It probably even has a "Merinos district", or some kind of massive structure where Merinian traders can eat and rest before getting on with their travels.   Oh yes, as a matter of fact it has ! That neighborhood is located east of town, very close to the main market place. That's actually where we are right now. It's worth mentionning that this place looks much more like a small part of Merinos that was exported here, than the rest of the town. It uses the same building materials, and the whole districts looks like it is made of one single building, with the streets paved with wood, moving up and down and crossing each other in three dimensions. It looks a lot like The Block district in Merinos, to be honest.   Look, Bird. If Merinos is important here, then we're probably not very safe yet.   What do you mean?   Well, we're still pursued because of that relic around your neck, remember ? If members of the Common Cult recognize you here, we may be either killed or captured to be judged there.   I guess we don't want that, do we ?   Indeed, we don't. Do you know if there are some other nomadic districts, or some places where people rest before moving out of the city, that are not related to Merinos?   Well, I'm not entirely certain, but I think I saw one or two taverns, close to the workshops. I guess we could go there to find out people with whom leaving the city.   Yes, we should. I suggest you go to such a tavern, and just try to either take notes for me or put me in some kind of library on the way, so I can learn more about the city.   ... Alright. Your personality is gaining strength, Book.   I was just thinking yours is losing strength, Bird.
 

The lying taleteller

Hello, Book ! I'm Fyaril's Player spirit, and I'm glad to finally meet me.   Ah. New one, I see. Falling to pieces, are we?   Today I'm going to talk to you about some game I discovered.   Have you been to a tavern as I asked you to ?   Oh, yes we did ! We are in a popular district of Direadus at the moment, where the kelp is processed and where the people go for a drink. We actually met a few people, who were surprisingly nice to us ! They even offered us some Corn Beer.   I'm pretty sure that is because you played tricks inside their heads.   Huh. Maybe, now that you mention it. Anyway, let me just tell you about the game !   ... Sure, tell me about it. Best I can do is remember things for you.   It's really interesting, it's called the Lying Taleteller. The general principle is the following : you throw three cylindric dice to obtain a story theme and two object. Then, you have to tell a story about that theme and these object. You can either tell a true story, entirely make up one, or exaggerate the facts and tell something that is based on a true story but has some made up aspects to it. However you do it, though, you have to make sure to tell it the same way.   How is that a game ? You simply tell a story, there's no winning or losing or anything, is there?   I was not over. Once you did that, the people who listened to your story have to decide whether it is true, partly based on the truth, or entirely made up. The goal for the storyteller is to have the audience mistaken. Indeed, if noone guesses right, the storyteller gets a number of points that is equal to the number of members of the audience. For example, when we played, there were six people listening. They all got it wrong because they didn't know us, and we won six points. However, if some members of the audience had read between the lines of our story, they would have gotten as much points as the number of people who guessed wrongly, plus us. So, for example, had one person guessed acurately that our story was true, they would have gotten six points as well. However, if two person had got this, they would have gotten five points, and et caetera.   Okay, I guess I got the concept. It seems like a fun way to learn about some people, to be honest. I'll just have to hope that you didn't end up telling too much about our own current troubles.   Oh, that ? No worries, Book. I didn't mention it at all. We had more than enough things to tell about our past life without talking about what happened in Merinos or the reason why we were looking to get out of the city.   — I made sure it wasn't the subject of our stories, Book.   Everything is fine, then. You can just enjoy the rest of your stay in the tavern. If you hear about some interesting stories, feel free to tell me about these. Especially if such interesting stories are told by people who are about to leave Direadus and either go in the wilderness, or in the East.
 

Congradagh mountain range

Where are we heading to, Bird ?   Oh, hi Book. Did you notice we were on the move ?   Of course I did. You know, I'm nothing but yet another part of your-our mind. Though limited, I have access to your senses.   ... Right. Well, we're going to the mountains.   What ? The mountains, as in, precisely the most dangerous areas one can decide to go to in the world ? As in, these areas darkened by the shadows of their numerous peaks, populated by diverse monsters, in which the frontiers between the Surface, the Underworld and the Spirit world are entirely blurred ?   Yes, this.   ... So, where exactly are we going, and why are we going there ?   Well, remember the other day, when we were playing at the tavern of Direadus ?   Yes, none of you talked to me for a few days after that by the way. Is that game session related to our current expedition?   Yes, exactly. See, someone told us an interesting story about some form of massive Shadow Creature, that has some great powers and lives in the mountains. I'll let another Fyaril talk about this later.   How nice of you to now fully acknowledge that your mind is falling to pieces.   I do what I've got to do, Book. The point is, that creature we were talking about might be capable of getting us rid of the Anima relic attached to our neck, and maybe even calm or reverse the symptoms of the Call of the Wall.   I see. I'll wait for the information regarding that story, then. In the meantime, let's discuss that location. Where is it ? What do you know about where we are going ?   Okay. So, that mountain range is called the Congradagh range. I guess that's a name given in the local tongue, it sounds a bit like the language spoken byCircail Gaisgels, those nomads who attacked us during our trip to Direadus. From what I got, the mountain is located north of the Balysian Sea. We'll first have to reach the estuary of a river called Greighull. After that, the mountain range is a few days of walk upstream.   Ah, yes, the Congradagh. I read about that one when you were at the tavern the other day.   Can books read ?   Well, not exactly read. But I can register the information contained in some books, especially if these books have been enchanted in some way that broadcasts their content in the spirit world. Anyway.   Obviously, there's not that much written about the mountain range, because of its inhospitable nature : mountain ranges are just piles of rocks and metal and dangerous monsters, and even nomads and Tribal Perrots are often afraid of living too clost to these. In the particular case of the Congradagh, the range is known to be organized in layers. While the outer mountains consist in tall peaks, opening up to some cliffs and glaciers, the inner mountain ranges consist in high altitude plateaus of several heights, where rivers dig deep, almost subterranean canyons. As it seems to be the case in many mountain, a particularly tall and large peak stands in the center of the range.   Ah yes, I think that Uain' Seilche, a member of the expedition group, told me about that summit. From what I understood, it has a name in the likes of "Great Cage of Something"....   Great Cage of Scathlurker. Yes, I read that name as well.   According to the story, this is where the Shadow creature we are looking for probably lives. Do you know some more things about the area?   Well, not much, but there are a few things. Firstly, the center of the mountain range is more accessible than it would seem, thanks to the river. There is apparently no real waterfall or cliff that makes it impossible to go upstream. However, the river is partly under the ground before the peak : This means you may have to get far from it at one point or another, and travel up to the plateau to avoid encounters with monsters of the Underworld. On the plateaus, however, you'll probably see some diverse environments : Some cold forests and plains in the wetter areas, some dry deserts, and even some glaciers flowing from the outer peaks. The plateaus are often populated as well, with beasts such as wild wolves, Bears, or more social creatures called Mountain Hounds, that live in farming villages and play music to communicate. Finally, there are probably some Condors that nest or build houses in the peaks. Even though we are a bird, there is no reason to assume they will be friendly toward us.   Thanks, Book. All of this is noted. We'll just hope that everything goes well enough, and that the fact that we're not alone in the mountain will help.   Let's hope so, Bird.
 

Underworld's heart

We stopped somewhere near the river, two days away from the City. In front of us, crossing the river and turning it into a small waterfall, was the reason for our stop. It looked like a vein of oddly hard rock, a large edge that came from the depth of the Cylinder and somehow managed to rise up to the ground.   The material in itself was impressive. Completely black, some purple and pink iridescence gave the impression of a light dancing beneath the surface of the rock, like some odd spirit trapped in the black material. This was the heart, or the veins, of the Underworld.   Uain' looked at us, then at the vein. They took a pickaxe, and started digging. The shade king of Congradagh Hi, Book !   As another part of Fyaril told you, we are currently moving to the Congradagh mountain range.   Yes. I was told you took this decision after playing some storytelling games with adventurers in a tavern, back in Direadus. How about you tell me about that story ? Sure ! In fact, that's why I'm here. The person who told us this story is called Uain' Seilche, it's a human. Uain' comes from a family that are members of the Circail Gaisgels, a nomadic group.   Ah, I remember the Gaisgels : they are nomads of the north that make a living by following big herds and pillaging trade routes. They attacked our vehicle on the road to Direadus, remember ? ... Maybe.   You don't remember, do you ? ... No. I guess I can't access that part of Fyaril's memories, that's weird.   I guess so. The multiplication of consciousnesses inside of Fyaril's mind is probably not a good thing overall, especially regarding the decreasing amount of things each consciousness can do. Makes sense. Also, this is the subject of our story ! Let me explain. The tale Uain' told us about is about a form of Shadow creature that live in the mountains: the Shade Kind of Congradagh.   The Shade King is said to be almost as old as the mountain itself, and for as long as it existed, it has stayed in the mountain. Some think that is because it is stuck there, cursed by some ancient gods to be the guardian of the mountains. Others think it stays in the mountain for the same reason as why we usually stay away from it : it is afraid. However, most can agree on one thing. Whether it is bound in the mountains or afraid to leave them, the Shade King is an ancient entity, that guards something.   Wait. Are you explaining me that the reason why we took part of an expedition to a mountain range, allegedly some of the least well-known and hospitable areas in the whole Cylinder, to steal some artifact from a Shadow creature, that is to say yet another menace on our already very fragile and fragmented mind ? Do you not remember how it did not exaclty end well for us last time we stole a relic ? Maybe I remember, maybe I don't. And anyway, the situation is totally different now. First of all, I never said we were going to steal anything. See, according to Uain', the Shade King is benevolent. What is more, the thing we are seeking aren't some treasure or yet another relic. It's more like an ability. When Uain' told us their story, they explained how after a bad skirmish against some Wandrel, their family had decided to take their luck in the mountains to avoid being pursued. It is at this moment that they met the Shade King.   Is it now? Yes. See, the nomadic tribe was stuck in a small canyon at the entrance of the mountain range. They were terrified, as you can guess, and they started to pray the surrounding nature spirit to allow them to spend a while there. They built effigies out of wood and dark jewels they found in the river, they prayed around the effigies every evening, and every morning they realized that they had survived yet another night. They started to think that the mountain spirits were flattered by their prayers, or at least somewhat touched by their situation.   Later in the season, the family realized that some Wandrels were still blocking the riverine exit of the mountain range. They decided to push their luck a little further, and to move deeper toward the high plateaus. Still, they kept building their wooden statues, and they kept asking for forgiveness every time they had to set camp in the mountain range.   As they reached the inner plateaus, the family encountered tribes of Mountain Hounds, and even spent one night camping near them. Oddly enough, even if the canines didn't speak, they had a similar nightly ritual as the one that the nomads were starting to adopt. That ritual even involved some small wooden statues, decorated with the dark jewels found in the river.   In the end, the Circail tribe spent almost all the autumn in the green plateaus of the inner mountain range. They visited the Mountain Hound villages, and were welcomed with a hospitality that still surprises them. Even though communication wasn't exactly easy, the hounds showed their rituals to the nomads. They led them to the center of the mountain range, where the Shade King lived. They showed them the entrance of a large cave, close to the Cave. A cave that lead to the Shade King, the guardian of the mountains.   What happened there ? Some of the members of the tribe went in, others didn't. They were either too scared to get in, or were asked to set up a camp for the return of the braver ones. Sadly, Uain' was a kid at that time, and wasn't allowed to enter the cave. However, he told us what happened when the olders came back.   Just tell me already ! Okay. Well, first of all, not everyone came back. Out of the fifty that entered the cave, only thirty three came back. However, the survivors told that they had spoken with the Shade King. Apparently, it was not speaking from a specific place, but rather from inside their head. Like, one's ears wouldn't hear anything, and yet one would know what had been said. According to the survivors, the Shade King was observing the tribe since they had entered the mountain range, and was flattered by the way they were respecting the nature surrounding them. After some pondering, He had decided to help the family. He would help the tribe to leave the mountain without being seen by the Wandrels, on one condition: some of them would have to stay with Him. They would not be hurt, on the contrary, but they had to stay.   Why ? Apparently, the Shade King wanted to better understand how human minds worked. What's more, He wanted to have them build a natural temple, some form of safe, hidden haven for respectful nomads. And now, we're finally coming where things are interesting for us. In exchange for agreeing with that, all the nomads who entered the cave were healed of every spiritual disease they had. Not only that, but some of them had some various curses and physical pain associated with ghostpowder. All of that was healed.   What ? How is that possible ? Not sure, Uain' had no idea. But they seemed certain of themselves. I suppose the Shade King has some power over Ghostpowder, maybe He can neutralize active Ghostpowder, by communicating to it ? However, Uain sounded really certain, and truthful about it.   I don't really like to be asking that, but did you try and get in their head just to make sure that we are not moving toward some kind of trap, or something similar ? Even if, if that is true, the situation seems really hopeful, I can't help but feel that it is absolutely unsafe to rush toward some mountains for some gift of an almost mythical Shadow Creature. Yes, we tried to look out for that. It's a bit harder to consciously enter one's mind than to subconsciously do so, but we didn't find any apparent anxiety while telling the story, nor any other memory that appeared to be concealed. I can't say that we know for sure where we are headed, but I feel like we can still give it a try, can't we ?
 
 

Strait cattle barge

I wonder how it would feel to be a cow forced to work on a ship.   Don't you dare getting in the mind of that cattle.   Relax, Book. I wasn't thinking about trying... I'm not even sure that cattle has such a massive spiritual presence. Anyway, it must be hard.
 
 

Crescent Fly Federation

We've reached the city of Hygelmore.   Finally.The trip accross the strait was longer than we expected.   At least, here, the Merinos Common Cult shouldn't be looking too much for us.   — Agreed.   — We should try and find a place to sleep in.   — Agreed.   While you do that, try to get me some information regarding the civilization we're in, alright?   Sure.     Book ?   Yes.   Here's what we can tell you about this place.   I'm listening. Or, you know. Paying attention.   First of all, the city is part of a bigger nation, called the Crescent Fly Federation. It consists in a group of five federated city-states, that interact together and protect each other. Hygelmore, where we are, is the second largest. A major thing about it, though, is that the city is dominated by Birds !   —Dominated is almost an understatement. There is almost no human living there. You mostly have Perrots, a few Condors, and some less sentient species that are accepted and respected. It's really visually impressive, by the way ! The whole city, its streets, its buildings, were all designed as adapted for Perrots. Pretty sure it would be hard for humans to move around in there.   How does a City-state Federation work? Also, how could such a bird-dominated area appear?   Well, I think it has a long story behind it. It became independent after the dismantlement of some human empire that spanned in the region. Though I think the region must have been full of birds before that. Can't really tell you from the surroundings.   ...   As for your first question, here it is. Each city has its local power, and democratically elects an Akshaman, and a Chief. These two personalities have the charge of running different aspects of the city : Public health, Education, and Culture for the Akshaman; Agriculture, Industry and City planning for the Chief. Also, the people doing that job at the moment are really bad it according to the population surrounding us.   — In addition to these two representatives, an assembly is elected : birds vote to elect one bird in their building, or groups of buildings. The assembly has two roles at once : firstly they hire judges or fulfill the role of jury for severe trials. If you want, that is the judiciary power. In addition, they are in charge of creating and voting laws.   — Finally, the Chiefs and Akshaman from the different town form a Federation Council. Associated with the general of the federation's armies, and the previous Governor, this Council can appoint a Governor, who is in charge of the federation's foreign policies, as well as of the control of the territories not controlled by the cities, yet part of the federation.   Are there a lot of those ?   No idea, the surrounding population seems bad at geography.   ...   However, they do know that regarding the foreign policies, the federation didn't intervene much in the past. It was mostly focused on getting its people some food, and sheltering escaped birds. However, a lot of nations and organizations don't like the idea of a whole country of independant birds, which means the federation is pretty much always protecting itself.   — Can I add something ?   'Course you can.   There seems to be a large consciousness around us, larger than just that of the citizens. It's probable that the elections and whatnot are often partly influenced by some illicit spiritual manipulation.   — Yes, though according to the population this would be illegal, it pretty much happens.   Aren't the birds trained to resist to that ?   I guess they are. Along with flight and literacy, it seems that basic spiritual training is a part of a public education of some kind. But even if that's the case, that doesn't mean everybody is as well-trained to resist mind alteration as the professional shamans. I'm pretty sure it would still be possible to influence a lot of people, by acting carefully enough.   Don't even think about it.   Alright, alright. Beside that, there's a few more thing we can immediately say. Apparently, there's a public transportation system, both in the city and between cities. In addition to that, it would seem that birds are fairly well trained in cookery, because it smells really nice.   — And lastly, there's someone that is very intently moving toward us. Should we run ?   What ? No ! Just stop writing, and talk with them. Alright, then. We'll talk to you later then, Book.   Fyaril... Your sanity loss is beyond control. I hope you can still be saved.
 

Lost stories from a childhood in Winterwood.

 
Fyaril. Or maybe, Fyarils.   Book ?   Do you remember the tales we were told when we were hatchlings?   A bit - not that much. Should we ?   I can't tell. I guess that since I do have some memory of these, that's alright. I was thinking about these, and how things have change since.   Mind to tell us about these a bit ?   Sure. Remember when we were told about the Big Bad Men ? When we were young, we wanted to explore the world around. And the tribe's Shaman kept telling us about them, these Evil Men who were waiting for us around the corner. If you stray to far away from the tribe, you will find the Men. They are tall and strong. They are a bit stupid, and they really don't like us. If you get too close to them, they will take you away and you may never see your tribe again. That's what they were telling us.   Is it ?   Yes. And you know what the funny thing is ? They were partly right. The very first time we flew away, out of anger, we were captured and taken away. We never saw anyone alive in the tribe again. However, and that's the scary part, they were wrong. It wasn't a group of Big, Bad Men that took us away, but a tribe of nomadic birds; even if they were associated with humans, a lot of other birds are. And the worst thing is, some humans were really nice and welcoming to us. In the end, there are no Evil Men versus Good Birds. There aren't really any Evil People. From their point of view, everyone is almost always doing the right thing. Only thing is, based on their backstory and context, some of these right things are opposed to one another. Unlike in our childhood tales, we can simply base ourselves on one's number of limbs, size or feathers to classify them as Evil, because Good and Evil are not really absolute things. And that's the scary thing, if you ask me.   It is.   There was also the tales of the Evil Spirits, remember ?   No.   Our parents kept telling us that if we tried too much to use the spirit world, evil spirits would come into our head. They would whisper bad things to you, and make us crazy. They would make us have nightmares, and see weird things until we can't really tell anymore if things are real or inside our mind.   Well, you've got to admit that they were right with that, weren't they ?   Indeed. The stories of these evil spirits were almost perfectly accurate description of the Call of the Wall, with the nightmares, the split personalities, the lack of distinction between the material and the spiritual worlds. The only thing they got wrong, is where the spirits came from?   What do you mean ?   Well, what they told us was that the evil spirits were lurking around, and were attracted to your head if you used the spirit world too much. But that is wrong. The evil spirits don't come from anywhere, they are always within you. They aren't entities that come from somewhere else, they are just parts of our own consciousness that rebel and separate themselves from the rest. After all, Fyaril, we used to be one single Self just a season ago. The nightmares, and other things, are just the parts of ourselves that try to control the others, and don't really succeed. The unvolontary reading of the surrounding minds is just caused by our absolute lack of self control, even increased by our fragmented minds.   That's scary too. The demons you must avoid don't come from the out side, they were always a part of you until you unleashed them.   Exactly.   There was another hatchling tale that I remember. The White Nester. It was the story of a very old bird, older than the elders of the tribe, who gave gifts to well-behaving kids. If you were behaving well throughout the year, if you obeyed, and got to sleep early, then the White Nester would visit you. It would give you gifts, such as the ability to fly faster, to jump higher, to think smarter... However, if you behaved poorly, your nest might be filled with insects.   Yuck. Do you remember if we behaved well ?   We didn't really... I remember at least one time when we woke up to a few dozen woodlouses creeping in our nest. But I don't think our parents were really that harsh on us, even though we were probably not the best behaved.   Sad to think that the only tale that hasn't proven true here is the one about a nice white birds granting you gifts...   That was my feeling as well.


Cover image: by Pouaseuille

Comments

Please Login in order to comment!