To look at spirits with your eyes, and not your brains.
"Look. If you really want to leave, please at least take that." Neri handed me something. It looked like a small, flat box, made out of tainted glass and hardened clay. On the top, a clay lid was held by a small leather strap. "What is it?" I asked. "What, you're telling me you've never seen a shadow screen before?" the merinian trader asked. I nodded negatively. "You really aren't the travelling type, kid. Okay, open the lid." I unbuckled the trap, and opened the lid. Underneath it, was what seemed to be a deep, dark hole. It went much deeper than the limits of the box, in fact. In the depths, what seemed to be eyes, or maybe fireflies, were moving, and flickering their lights here and there. It was hypnotizing, really. The trader told me: "What you're looking at is what we call the 'flux'. Or, at least, a representation of it. It's supposed to represent the intensity and the turmoil of the flux of consciousness around here. — What do you mean? — Well, you see, everything in the Cylinder is part of a sort of common flux of consciousness. The rocks, the people, the plants, the insects, the ghostpowder ... Everything communicates with everything, and adapts itself to that surrounding flux of thoughts. What you see when you're looking at the screen, is a representation of that. — But... Why fireflies? — You're seeing fireflies? Funny. See, as far as I understand, everyone sees something different. When you're looking at it, the screen just communicates the ideas of intensity, and chaos, to your brain. It's enchanted, see. A simple set of minimally treated ghostpowder, that communicates to you when you look at it. That's why it seems to go so deep or above the screen, and not just on its surface. — What do you see, then? — I knew you'd ask. Personally, I see the box as filled with water, and agitated by waves. I usually also see some clouds, or weather. The higher the water level, the more intense the consciousness flux is. The bigger the waves or the worse the weather, the more chaotic the flux is. That's the more important thing to check out if you're travelling, anyway. — Why is that so ? — Because the turmoil of the flux is the real danger. It's caused by other sapient beings, such as people, spirits, monsters, that sort of thing. The more people crammed in one area, the more turbulent the consciousness flux becomes. That's a bit of a danger for nomadic shamans and monks, all them people who use the power of the consciousness flux. For us urbanites, however, it's just an information. And in your case, since you want to travel toward Anglepreaks, you're going to need it. They have this weird infection spreading, some big spirit turning people against each other. You'll want to avoid the places with too much chaos until you're at your destination." The old trader paused. I looked at the screen again. Deep in the dark, the fireflies were gently flickering. They seemed to be slowly revolving around two vortexes: me and Neri. After all they did to me, it feels weird to leave just like that. But I mean, what else am I supposed to do? Give up on the journey ? Even if the village forgave me, I never would. "Farewell, Neri. Thanks again for everything, I'll owe you."
Developed in Merinos in the 5390s, Shadow Screens are a way to indirectly observe the consciousness flux of one's surroundings. They are extensively used by sedentary traders when they travel in the Cylinder's wilderness, as it allows to look out for dangers such as monsters, spirits or bandits without directly opening one's own mind to the consciousness flux, which is particularly dangerous for untrained urbanites. Shadow screens are also used by sedentary scholars, and enchanters. Several laboratories from the Merinos Great Library, in particular, are known to study the cyclical fluctuations of the consciousness flux. As for enchanters, they need to take into account the surrounding chaos when programming ghostpowder. While nomadic groups are usually able to directly connect to their surrounding without burning their brains, urbanites have no choice but to keep track of the turmoil via the screens. Since their invention, the use of shadow screen has spread in most of the sedentary world. While they do not equate the powers one acquires when being born and raised in the Cylinder's wilderness, they did compensate and even the odds for urbanites in the wild.