Friday, December 30, 2022

2022 in Review




He is a good boy. He started as just a foster, and we failed utterly. Very snugglesome. Gets very offended when anyone pays attentions to things that are not Bubs. Mistakes taking a shower for drowning sometimes. 

What a good Bubs.


My grandmother died over Memorial Day weekend. She was 84, and her health had been in decline for a while. Was a fall in the kitchen that did it; bleeding in the brain. I got to visit her in the hospital before she went, but she wasn't conscious when we were there. We put on some Sinatra for her - her favorite - and I hope she was able to hear it. She loved giraffes and The Godfather and had a little cabinet full of Santas in the dining room.

Citizen Sleeper

I think I got to every ending in Citizen Sleeper (sans the post-launch stories they added), though I think my favorite remains the first. The Garden might be the 'best' ending, but I am a sap at heart, and the Len & Mina ending is just the right amount of heartbreak. Stabilizer be damned. Wouldn't be right to let them go all alone.

Chainsaw Man


Unicorn Meat

Sold some copies, people said nice things about it, I do feel proud of it. Livestream plans for it fell through, though. Educational, experience overall, though. Main lesson being A) layout can be fun! B) I could never do this full time. Can't say when another book will happen. Thanks to all who bought a copy (tell your friends!)


Never got around to finishing it - stumped right at the end. Did copy a translation guide - doing that by hand is tough. But all that aside, it is a fantastic game. I love the manual and the runes, I love the vibes, I love the fact that I, for the most part, didn't get stuck.

Rogue Legacy 2

One of those sequels that eclipses the original in its totality. Never finished it, though. Got to the final boss and realized that I didn't want to keep grinding out incremental improvements at the end. Maybe I shall House Rule my way through the end.

Vampire Survivors

A game designed to trigger the addiction loop in your brain, except not in the way video games usually do. Good game.

Elden Ring

My opinion has previously been established, and so I re-iterate: game good, except for the few places where it is not.

Everything, Everywhere, All at Once

That was this year, right? I don't go to the movies much anymore, but EEAAO was a good reason to break that habit. Legitimately hurt myself laughing with the 2001 gag. Months later at a convention I saw a couple going as the chefs from the Raccacoony bit and was quite disappointed when they mentioned that we were the only people who recognized them for it.


My opinion has previously been established, and so I re-iterate: game very good.


This has been a very good year for games, and Pentiment stands in great company. This is a special game. Clearly made by folks who understand what they're working with and have a great love of the craft. People have compared it to Disco Elysium and they are correct - it is shared substance, differing in the accidents of form. Chocolate and marshmallows.

I recommend it without reservation, of course. I can't say a whole lot about it, so as to avoid spoilers, but I will rant about the way it uses fonts.

The contents of characters' text bubbles are portrayed as if they are written manuscripts, complete with pen scratches, corrected misspellings, and gaps filled in last with red, blue, or green ink. Characters have different fonts according to their social class (with accessibility options that simplify the fonts while maintaining the visual differences, important to note), and they'll occasionally change what font their using when they find themselves in changed circumstances - we get code switching in a purely text medium using fonts! And if characters are angry or upset, there are ink splatters in the word bubble.

But then there's Klaus the printer - he and his family not only have their own font (complete with s-t ligatures that no one else has), but their text gets laid out in type face before they talk and is accompanied by a wooden ka-thunk instead of pen scratches.

The thing that sold me on the game, though, is Sebhat. He's a side character you meet early on, a visiting priest from Ethiopia, and where you and everyone else is drawn in the style of early modern Germanic illustrations (barring the elderly, who harken back to older  styles), Sebhat is drawn in the style of icons from his own church.

You don't do that unless you care a whole lot.

It is an excellently written game, containing all those things I value in art; it is perceptive, humane, heartbreaking, and a carrier of little joys. The characters are wonderfully sketched - vibrant and lifelike in all ills and good graces, and you come to love them all as the game goes on. The game eschews the cliches and tired tropes we would expect of the time period for something much more real. It's certainly one of the few games out there that understands the functioning of religion and belief, especially in that era. I made choices I regretted, I was uncomfortable with how things played out, I was _invested_.

Agh, there are things that need to be said that I cannot say in detail here. I laughed, I cried, I cursed the heavens for their blind obscenity. There's a direct reference to _Name of the Rose_ at one point, one you'd only recognize if you've read the book. It's the kind of game where the opening scene, the literal first conversation you have, is a dream sequence featuring Socrates, Beatrice, and fuckin' St. Grobian.

Steam achievements say less than half of players have made it out of Act 1. This is a shame. There is so much more.

The New Sun Re-Read

An excellent time all around. Still amazed at being able to write those monstrously huge posts, and quite pleased with the outcome.

Dwarf Fortress

Can't believe it's finally out. Still figuring out the ropes, but I shall have good stories soon enough.

Reducing Twitter Usage To Bare Minimum

Best life choice I've made in years. Now if I can just get this fuckin' collage zine together...

ADHD Medication

HOO BUDDY do those friendos do some work. We've been acquainted decades after we should have been, but now is better than never.


This was a rough year, and most of it was not a good time - especially through the summer. But I end it in better places than I began - a new & much better job (so, so much better - less money, but I actually like being there), proper medication, a very good cat, a published adventure under my belt and very nearly 500 posts on the blog.

Who knows what new hells and wonders the next year will bring.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

MSF: The Okavim and their Golems


Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps

(This entire thing actually came from me learning about Ladino, which is to Spanish what Yiddish is to German, and as I had recently written a Spanish-coded character in Amelia, I though I might as well combine the two. That and I have a great appreciation for elements of Jewish philosophy and their inclusion in MSF is a bit overdue.)

(Many thanks to good friend S.J., who provided a great deal of extremely valuable inspiration and feedback.)

The Followers

The Okavim have a very long history. In the time of the First Empire they were a loose alliance of seminomadic hill tribes, coastal city states, and oversea trading posts - not politically unified, but sharing enough similarities between their cultures that they would side with each other more often than not in opposition to the great kingdoms that surrounded them. Warriors, mystics, and sailors, was the stereotype (as far as the few surviving contemporaneous texts mentioning them go), sitting at the junction between empires.

When Darvatius came, the Okavim fought against him and for him in equal measure. The trade network had brought in iron, and that meant iron chariots, and emperor's legions did not expect to fight anyone who also possessed them. And so his armies bled out in the desert for years, eventually finding it more convenient to turn the Okavim against their local rivals than to conquer them directly.

When the First Empire collapsed and the world slipped into madness, the Okavim scatted to the compass winds as a people in diaspora. Those that survived the Years of Chaos to see the rebuilding of the world did so as a people transformed: the many tribes and groups of their parent culture had coalesced around a new religious tradition, which had just as soon dispersed back out into the world through the remains of the old trade network.

In the modern day, as it has been for centuries, the Okavim are divided into two main culture groups - the Bnei Hayam ("Sons of the Sea"), and the Bnei Haaretz ("Sons of the Earth"). Some outside scholars will use the terms "Maritime" and "Diasporic" to describe the two groups, which is functional but are becoming less used in favor of the endonyms.

The Bnei Haaretz compose the more numerous half, and their communities can be found in any city of decent size on or near the Mare Interregnum. These communities have undergone further diversification over the centuries with the influence of their neighboring cultures so that, while each is recognizably Okavim and participates in the shared cultural continuity, they are by no means interchangable (Acephavaran Okavim are not Arivienner Okavim are not Orleian Okavim are not Eostremontane Okavim are not Amdalani Okavim, so on and so forth). Much of the development in Okavim religious thought comes from Bnei Haaretz communities and the exchange of ideas between them.

The Bnei Hayam live a migratory existence across the Mare Interregnum and throughout the Belt. Most of their cultural exchange has been with the other sea peoples - the Belt Lilifio, the Amazons and Okeanides, the Jahali, the Ksiqua, the Ifeh, the Du and others - and they retain some elements of their pre-diaspora traditions. The ancient veneration of Bhâl-Deghon - a god of fishermen, sailors and weather-workers - was adapted into a mythic non-divine culture hero (drawing from the Belt Lilifio tradition of the demudem). Pouring grog oversides, line-crossing ceremonies, painting wrestling octopi on the sail, spritzing the bow with saltwater and lime juice, that's just traditional.


Okavim religion stands out among the practices of the world. While henotheism is common enough (so many gods, so little time; it pays to focus your attention), there are very few cultures that hew to it so closely as to bypass the gods altogether.

(In technical terms, which are less useful when you want to get away from pithy summaries, Avodat would be a monotheist (or otherwise extremely henotheistic) panentheism with strong mystic, esoteric and academic traditions)

Some concepts worthy of pointing out:

The Books - A semi-mythic history of the Okavim, beginning in the land of Daro and continuing up through the collapse of the First Empire, codified during the early Years of Chaos as a way of maintaining cultural unity and continuity through the diaspora. The Books are both one of the first written religious traditions and one of oldest surviving cultural institutions in the world, and have in the millennia since their writing, accumulated libraries-worth of commentary and analysis.

The Light Without End - The divine principle in Avodat belief sustains and empowers the universe through emanation, suffusing the universe with its presence while simultaneously existing beyond it. This is similar to the beliefs of the Solar Church, the Atûmaics, and the mystics of Se Tolahi, though with some critical differences.

  • The Solar Church directly associates this divine principle with the sun, and consider it the source from which the gods draw their power; Avodat grants no special spiritual position to the celestial bodies and do not consider the gods to be independent entities.
  • The Atûmaics believe that the divine principle has been obscured from recognition by another force, and that the means of ascent to it has become corrupted and dangerous. The quest to reach the realm of true Atûm from the depths of its shadow is a paradoxical, impossible, violent, and necessary task; Avodat does not believe in a antagonistic obscuring force between humanity and the divine (except, perhaps, human ignorance) and holds that the the great divide might be bridged through study and contemplation rather than spiritual warfare.
  • The mystics of Se Tolahi... I haven't given enough thought to their beliefs yet, other than they might be monotheists by way of pantheism. I'll get to it eventually. Whatever the case is, the Okavim do not agree with them on the nature of divinity and its relationship to the world.

The Unnamable Divine - Avodat is explicitly aniconist. The divine presence is indicated in art by empty space; in text, it is referred to either by titles or by a series of seven null characters. Anthropomorphic depictions or descriptions are forbidden; lower spiritual principles are often portrayed with symbolic geometric designs.

The Desert Council - A crucial event in the development of Avodat; as portrayed in the Books, a group of seventy-two mystics convenes to determine a worthy god for the Okavim to follow. After long debate they find themselves unable to come to a conclusion, dissatisfied with all the gods that have been proposed. While the historicity of the event is debated, it is emblematic of the shift from typical anthropogamist beliefs towards a system recognizable as Avodat.

The Teaching Hall - An Okavim community is built around its Teaching Hall, where services are held and religious schooling for both children and adults is found. Okavim tradition holds the divine as a mystery that might be discerned - not solved, but endlessly interpreted for its guidance - and so there has been for ages a great focus on continuing education throughout life. Who knows what new insights might be found when new minds are given the tools to discern for themselves?

The Repair of the World
- A key component of Avodat is the idea that the world remains in the process of formation, and that it is the responsibility of the Okavim (and, indeed, of the morally upright among all peoples) to work towards the improvement of the world as a whole (care for the sick, hospitality to the stranger, charity to the poor, resistance to the tyrant, and so on). The existence of Hell is, naturally, the Great Test - the last challenge to overcome, the final wound in the world.

Relations with Other Traditions
- Okavim attitudes towards the worship of other gods varies, even within the Books themselves. At most conservative interpretation (held now by only those who take on extreme isolation from the world), they are considered wholly false and their veneration is in grievous error. The mainline modern view is as follows: The Gods of Man are representational of lower emanations of the divine principle - instrumental spiritual forces of repair or testing rather than entities in themselves, their human forms an interpretive affect of the worshipers rather than a fundamental truth of the divine. Other peoples may venerate them as they see fit, as they do not bear the same responsibility that the Okavim have assumed with regards to interpreting greater mysteries.

This does not put the Okavim as opposed to their neighboring polytheists as one might expect - anthropogamist traditions trend heavily towards praxis over dogma and practical ethics over metaphysics, and so there is little competition over who gets to define how the cosmos operates - the two traditions are focused at entirely different spiritual aspects of the universe, and unified in most worldly matters.

(There is, indeed, a pair of stock characters in Lower Arivienne comedies who exemplify this relationship - an Okavim student (eccentric and head-in-the-clouds) and a Low Country witch (rustic and salt-of-the-earth), who regularly find themselves preparing for an argument over how to respond to whatever situation is at hand, and then realizing, through a series of humorous miscommunications, that they actually had come to the same conclusion from different routes.)

This rough complementarity, combined with the significant overlap in practical ethics between the two traditions (the Repair of the World meshes nicely with the Great Dûn and Wrath-Against-Injustice), leads to a pragmatic co-existence. When Hell is your enemy, the eccentricities of your neighbors are of little account (indeed, Okavim communities up and down the Arivienne provided vital support to the Maid's forces during the War of the Bull). This attitude did not emerge overnight, but has proven a long-term success.

More contentious relationships exist with the Solar Church and the Atûmaics, given the relative closeness of their cosmologies. There's a long tradition of philosophical pot-shots taken between the parties, and the disagreements can get quite animated.

Local spirits are offered their due hospitality and reverence, but in a more transactional manner than most neighboring cultures. The lack of ceremony can seem offputting to neighboring groups, but practicality works out: if it works, it works. Not getting eaten by an angry river spirit supersedes precisely how you stay on its good side.

Golems - If one knows nothing else about the Okavim, they know them for their golems.


The making of golems is not a simple task, and not one undertaken lightly. The art of imparting true life to clay is learned only by master sages among the Bnei Haaretz, perhaps only one or two in a generation, and even their knowledge of the art is kept secret unless there is great necessity. In such times when an Okavim community is endangered by threats it cannot defend against on its own - war, wizards, or monstrous beings most often - those great sages will raise a protector, bringing a divine spark in imitation of the divine emanation,

A golem is a singular being, each as unique as the river that supplied its clay and the community that it protects. Some are swift and narrow, some are vast and slow, some will speak with great eloquence and some will remain silent. All of them possess untiring strength and a soul of such raw power that they are near-immune to all magic worked against them.

But clay shaped by human hands cannot contain a soul-flame of such magnitude forever. Golems that remain active for too long will go rampant as their soul strains against the words that keep it bound in clay, lashing out in violence at the communities they once protected. Maddened golems are not invulnerable, but are so strong that more often than not the hand of its maker will be needed to undo its bindings and return it to the earth.

Those golems that recognize the early signs of rampancy will wander out into the wilderness alone, in order to spare humans from their madness. There their fires will fade out, and their bodies will be broken down by wind and water and the roots of growing things. The place where a golem returns to the earth remains holy ground, and the place retains an ember of the soul that once was. Often their makers will choose internment nearby, as penance for their part in bringing these doomed lives into being.

Once there was a wizard who hoped to steal the art of golem-making from the Okavim sages, who desecrated a golem's death-place and used the soil to build his own clay man. No one, not even the most amoral of sorcerers, has ever tried to do so again. Homunculi servants will suffice for the world's wizards; their flames are cool and dim, embers compared to the fiery souls of humans and the great furnaces of golems, and thus stable and easy to control.

Good Brother

Eighteen golems were raised during the War of the Bull, most fighting along the lower Arivienne. Good Brother is the last: indeed, he is the oldest golem ever recorded. Where the others either fell in combat or went out into the wilderness when their time was up, Good Brother has fallen into quiescence. His soul has cooled to embers, stirring to life only rarely. He has not moved in nearly a century, such that a great tree has grown into and around his body. Children play around and on top of him, at his permission ("Do not send them away" he told the site's keepers some decades ago - the longest statement he has said since beginning his slumbering years). A steady train of historians and Okavim pilgrims come to visit him, hoping for a word or two of wisdom or an insight into the past - He is indeed among the few remaining souls who remember the War first-hand.

His most noteworthy accomplishment in the war, and the source of his name, comes from his participation in the liberation of Batlian. He and another golem ("Old Gravel-Face") ended the siege nearly on their own by tearing down the main gate and then using it as a shield for the soldiers. In the days following the battle the Sable Maid arrived with reinforcements, and was seen to leap off her horse and run over to the golem. Embracing him and kissing his head, she exclaimed "Ah, bon frere! How magnificent you are!"

Good Brother was asked often about her, in the days before his quietude. "I loved her," he once said. "So did we all. It is a great curse to be one for whom men will die gladly. I do not know how she bore it."

It is said by some, though never in public, that Good Brother's life has been extended by grief - by his hopes that someday he might see her ride over the hill once more, and trace the scars on her face again, and hear her laugh a last time before he dies.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Conlang Sketchbook 1: Space-Age Pronomials

I still dabble in conlangs, and I still make very little out of that. And so, in an effort to be a little productive with this secret vice, I've started writing up individual grammatical features (often pulling inspiration from something that already exists), which is a whole lot easier to wrangle than a greater conlang project. 

So in that spirit, this is the first installment of what will hopefully be a series of novel conlang components. Maybe they will evolve into something bigger, maybe not, for now they are just bits and pieces I have dreamed up.

This system started with me remixing the verb prefixes in Klingon (as I think they're neat, and remixing things you think are neat is a good way to get started with art), and then expanding them to imply a sci-fi setting more in tune with my own tastes in the genre. (It's not necessarily a language for Mothership, but it's not not that, certainly.)

The Pronoun Prefixes

| 1st Person          |             |
| Singular            | ji- or ja-  |
| Plural (Inclusive)  | cho-        |
| Plural (Exclusive)  | ma-         |

| 2nd Person          |      |
| Singular            | tla- |
| Plural              | kan- |
| Singular (Familiar) | be-  |
| Plural (Familiar)   | san- |

| 3rd Person (Generic)  |                 |
| Person                | khe-, dan-, an- |
| Object / Inanimate    | tsa-            |
| Digital               | we-             |
| Abstract / Conceptual | su-             |

| 3rd Person (Gender) |      |
| Female              | ba-  |
| Male                | ko-  |
| Emphatic Neutral    | shu- |
| Transitional Dual   | han- |
| Simultaneous Dual   | de-  |

| 3rd Person (Other Sapients) |     |
| Aliens (Kin)                | po- |
| Aliens (Non-Kin)            | ye- |
| Thinking Machines           | za- |

| 3rd Person (Other Animate) |               |
| Animals                    | ang-          |
| Plants                     | gi-           |
| Spirits & Divine Forces    | tso-          |
| Celestial Bodies           | tso- or quan- |

| Demonstrative |      |
| Singular      | du-  |
| Plural        | dzo- |

Pronomial affixes have a couple different uses

  • They mark subject and object on verbs. As of the moment there is no separate object variant, but that might change in the future.
  • They can be attached to a noun along with a suffix to form a possessive (alienable vs inalienable determined by suffix, and right now the placeholders are -(n)eh and -ye, respectively)
  • They can be attached to a noun (or adjective, which are basically nouns anyway) to form a copula
  • They can, occasionally, be attached to a noun to further specify its definition, almost like an optional noun class.
  • They can be attached to the relativizer particle "de" to start a relative clause ie "jide" = "I who..."

Now, there's a whole lot here, but it's not as complex as it seems on the surface.

  • This is a pro-drop language - that means that you will only rarely find freestanding pronouns (since they're required on the verb), and those cases will only be where heavy emphesis or clarification is needed.
  • It is an understood thing that a person might change what pronomials they use according to their preference. Using one that is distinctly out of what would be considered ordinary is making a point, and treated as such.
  • "ja-" is the storyteller's I - it's used to indicate that the teller of the story is not the narrator of the story.
  • "khe-", "dan-" and "an-" have some shades of meaning to them; "khe-" is the most generic form usable with all people, "dan-" is specifically for humans / hominids / metahumans, and "an-" is the hypothetical person ie "one goes to the store". I might add a fourth for transhuman persons, but for now they get "tso-".
  • Plural forms of 3p pronomials, if they are marked at all, are marked with an additional affix. (right now it is "pe-" for dual and "i-" for 3+)
  • "Emphatic Neutral" is used by those who explicitly identify themselves as outside the other four.
  • "Transitional Dual" is used by those who are either undergoing a change between sexes or genders, those who so regularly, or those that wish to emphasize that change as part of their identity.
  • "Simultaneous Dual" is used by those who identify as both sexes or genders simultaneously. It may also be used by those who have an exoself or an implanted emulated intelligence that is of a different gender than their endoself ie someone who identifies as male and has a female EI running in their cyberbrain would have this pronomial applied when speaking to the two as a single unit.
  • "Thinking Machine" is most commonly used for AI and robots, but is also used by some cyborgs alongside (or in place of) their metahuman affixes.
  • Use of the divine pronomial for planets is typically the realm of poetry and literature, though some scientists will break it out when they have a Big Announcement.
  • Uplifted animals will tend to use the normal metahuman set or the kin-alien pronomial. A few groups of cultural separatists, in those times when they speak This Unnamed Language instead of their own languages, will use the non-sapient animal pronomial to make a point.
  • Kin-aliens are those that you can meaningfully communicate with. If you can only exchange some math equations, territorial claims, and some very simple trade agreements, that's non-kin. Same goes for those that have to use robot intermediaries or AI interfaces. Same goes for those you can't communicate with at all.
  • Animal and plant affixes do not differentiate between terragen or xenogen life
  • Inanimate objects can and will be given person-pronomials if they hold sentimental value. Spaceships nearly always get this treatment, and there is an obtuse set of rites and superstitions dictating what gender a ship is according to make, model, manufacture, history, and shipmind.

So yeah, there we go. Just a framework of a fragment, but I like what I've come up with. Tolkien was certainly correct in calling language construction the secret vice, but it is very much a puzzle with no end state and there is an appeal to that. Linguistics are fun!

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Fiction: Cosmotravellogue of An Anonymous Wanderer

This is a bit of flash fiction from my brief, unsuccessful attempt to get involved with the Orion's Arm community ("irreconcilable creative differences", as the music biz says. Not about this story in particular - my thoughts on critique, canon, and style were not in alignment with the site culture. No ill will, just a poor fit.)

You won't need to know anything about OA to read this. It's not a complete narrative by any stretch of the imagination (originally being intended as the introduction to planet writeups), and the second one is unfinished. Still, I am rather proud of them, and thought them worth porting over to where people can see them.



Let us begin with the ending.

It was the day after the Festival of Banners, deep in the blooming days of spring. I was nineteen, and sleeping off a hangover. Mshtane had stayed the night in my little loft above the pottery shop where I was apprenticed. Apprenticed no longer, after the previous night, when I was elevated to journeyman and the craftsmen of the guild hoisted me up on their shoulders, shouting "A new brother! A new brother!"

Mshtane rose earlier than I, and stirred me awake just long enough so that I caught a glimpse of the mole on her right buttock as she dressed herself. After so long, I still remember that clear as clean water, though I don't know why. She descended from the loft and I fell back asleep, until her voice woke me again perhaps an hour later. She was halfway between joy and panic, hurriedly explaining that a runner had come from Ketchitka with news: visitors had come down from the heavens.

The enormity of the news didn't register with me at the time - apple wine, as I've said - but even in that state I could tell the importance in the matter. Mshtane was not one to knowingly mislead anyone. So I groggily hauled myself out of bed, dressed in the clothes of the night before (as they were lying close at hand on the floor), and went out to the street and the blinding sunlight.

I remember gulls screeching in the distance, everyone milling about in the street or leaning out of their windows, everyone murmuring and muttering, the news twisting along the alleys and gaining flavor and color as it flowed. The runner from Ketchitka had climbed up on top of the fountain in town square and was crying out "Visitors from the heavens! A vessel of steel and glass come down from the stars, to land like a bird in Ozogando! Angels of distant gods, bringing gifts of friendship and peace!"

We were awkwardly pinned at the back of the crowd between a fruit stand and a group of fishermen. Mshtane squeezed my hand as the crier recited. I can't remember what she said, but I remember her face. Hope and fear in equal measure, mixed up so that one could not be extricated from the other.

And then I blink, and decades flow through my hands like water.

It's all gone now. The village that was my home exists only in my memory now, though the Solarians keep offering to pull the thread from my brain and weave a perfect virtual recreation. An arcology of millions was raised over where it lies buried. They get their ceramics, if they have any at all, from a fabricator. Qezitqani is a dead language, pieced together by a computer reconstruction and stored in a rarely-visited library virch. The banners of spring have not snapped in the breeze for many long years. Our house gods belong to the Court of the Sun now, with new names and faces.  

Mshtane is long dead. She refused life-extension, uploading, all of it. I was there when she died, feeling myself a traitor for taking the gifts the star-people offered us; a body that looked and acted as if I was not a day over twenty-five, though it had been nearly sixty years since we had listened to the crier atop the fountain.

The Solarians had been housing her in a charity hospice; the compassion of the Lord of Rays, they said, was so great that it extended even to the most stubborn of primitive peoples. Words directly from the banana-yellow vec who showed me to her room.

She had no one else: her husband had died in the chaos of the Eclipse Rebellion. Her children had wandered off to become part of some godling or another. The rest of her family and friends were scattered to the wind.

I rarely left her side for the days I was there. We spoke of life and all its struggles, and of our youth when we were only fools in love, and we remained silent.

She was more frightened of losing her soul than she was of death, and death frightened her greatly.

"Would you sing for me, Esha?" she asked me, with the pet name I'd not heard since we parted ways so long ago. "I always loved your voice."

I sang her the rites of the dying. Hear me, shades below the earth, your sister comes to you. Make a place for her in the land of the dead, o Lord of All that Has Come Before, guide her passage through the Way of Gates, o Maid of the Lamp...

The Solarians do not sit with the dying, for they have no dead. They prune mortality from their bodies and the fear of the dark places from their minds. I have done the former but refused the latter. I cannot - will not - think of her desperate eyes, of my voice breaking into sobs, of her bony hand with its papery skin gripping my own like a vice and think "how quaint".

Damn them all.

Returning here was a mistake.

I gave her ashes back to the earth, and booked a seat on the next shuttle to orbit.

There ended my first life, and there began my wanderings.


"Magmatter dreadnoughts!" Karihan spat the words out like so much phlegm and a rotten tooth. "This time next year they'll be obsolete, mark my words."

I made a noncommittal noise and continued watching the koi fish in the fountain. "What do you suppose will replace them?"

"A sharp rock!" he exclaimed, baring his teeth in that way chimpanzees do when they wish to imitate a human smile in form but not in meaning. "We'll all come full circle: Cain will kill Abel, or maybe Abel will kill Cain, Mashya and Mashyane will shake their heads and say 'he was always such a good boy...'"

I let him continue unopposed and focused instead on the distant, hazy mountains, their slopes lavender with the summer leaves and wearing their starched white caps all ready for the church luncheon. I had finished my breakfast already (Karihan, among other things, is a slow eater), and there were few others on the patio this early in the morning - less so because it was particularly early, and more that the visitors of this particular resort celebrated late into the night and slept in just as late. A pity. To come all the way into the Outer Volumes, only to partake in the same smart drugs and the same orgiastic revels as might easily be done back at home.

We, for our part, were here for hunting. The smart drugs and the orgiastic revels were appreciated diversions, but not the goal: out there on the plains and scrub forests there were phorusrhacidae.

Now when I say we were hunting, I do not mean in the typical sense. We would go out with only our bodies - augmented, admittedly, in ten thousand little ways - and our swords, to fight the murder-birds on equal footing. Phorusrhacidae can easily disembowel the unlucky hunter with a single kick, and thus prime targets for idiots such as ourselves. 

[Here, the account trails off]


Sunday, December 11, 2022

A Brief Review of Places to Buy Books and Food in Pittsburgh

This is a very on-brand post.  




Rickert & Beagle, Dormont

Pour one out for R&B. A good store, gone too soon. Still sad about it. Got the Dictionary of Imaginary Places here for $14.

Fungus Books & Records, Edgewood-Wilkinsburg

While conveniently located near both a bakery and a tea/coffee shop (I recommend both of these), the selection is scant, the shelves are unsorted, and the space is very cramped. There's an entire empty room at the back of the shop. The shelf of $5 paperbacks (decent collection of old sci-fi pulps) is stacked two rows deep so you have to remove books from the shelf to see what's behind them. I hope that the store's able to grow into its stride, but right now it's pretty rough around the edges.

Amazing Books & Records, Squirrel Hill & Downtown

My favorite. Excellent selection, great location (in Squirrel Hill, specifically: they recently moved to the Forbes strip proper, practically next-door to Games Unlimited and across from Everyday Noodles and the Bagel Factory. Downtown location is fine quality-wise, but really only to be visited if you have something else bringing you downtown.)

City Books, Allegheny-West

Visited only once, several years ago now. Selection was less "used" and more "archaic", could not find so much as a mass market sci-fi shelf. Maybe there's been some good stock turnover since then, but my short time there did not engender any desire to return.

Caliban Book Store, Oakland

Still can't get over how the prior owner was caught stealing rare books from Carnegie Main. Good store, though it is very crowded inside and thus a bit overwhelming. Right next to Phantom of the Attic Oakland.

Shadyside Books, Shadyside

The one time I visited this location I was informed that they do not (or did not, at the time) accept trade-ins. Selection felt like it was as if a bunch of retiring college professors had just cleaned out their offices all at once, but after their colleagues and favored students had all had their pick of the good stuff. Vibes were off the entire time. Did see a copy of Again Dangerous Visions when I was there, but did not buy it. Turnover might have improved things.

Half-Price Books (Ross Township)

The parking lot on this one is an absolute nightmare. If you want to visit you will have to be heading northward on McKnight Road, which I would not wish upon my worst enemies. Even if there wasn't a concrete lane divider, making a left turn out of that lot would be suicidal. McKnight Road is a blight and should be torn up and replaced with a high-speed train line.

Half-Price Books (Monroeville)

Probably your best option for a chain bookstore in the area. Big store, very good selection, have gone home with a lot of winners. I regret to this day that I did not pick up the WEG Star Wars rpg the day I happened to find it here. I've seen century-old National Geographics in there (and surprisingly numerous copies of of 40k Kill Team). Solid all around if you are on that side of the city.



Everyday Noodles, Squirrel Hill

The good shit. Sometimes you want Americanized Chinese food, I get it, episodic cravings for General Tso's are part of my life. but when you want the good shit, you go here.

Bagel Factory, Squirrel Hill 

No matter how bad the day is, it will be improved by an egg & cheese everything bagel. That's just how life works. Don't make the rules. 

Ramen Bar, Squirrel Hill 

I got really unlucky and got sick the last time I went, which is a fucking tragedy, as it is very tasty and I've not had any other bad experiences. Go get ye a bowl and a flight of gyoza (gotta have gyoza!)

Blue Monkey Tea, Squirrel Hill

Not a restaurant, but you're in Squirrel Hill already you gotta go pick up some tea. Monk's Blend and Russian Caravan are my big favorites, but the decaf peach is not to be disregarded. Lots of imported candy and snacks as well.

Madeline Bakery & Bistro, Edgewood-Wilkinsburg

Go. Go now.


Biddle's Escape, Edgewood-Wilkinsburg

Hardly 45 seconds by foot down the street from Madeline. You already got a pastry, grab a coffee or a tea while you're out. Get a GOAT oatmeal (chocolate chunks and banana slices). They have food trucks on Wednesday nights.

Nikki's Thai Kitchen, Downtown

NTK is a glimmer of light among the dirty grey nastiness and enormous, empty buildings of downtown. Just a couple blocks from the convention center. Wonderful place.

Cilantro & Ajo, South Side Flats (+ food truck)

Venezuelan street food. If you want something fried golden brown that makes your stomach happy, can't go wrong here. They've got this green house sauce, you get it with everything, it is fucking delicious. 

Mr. Bulgogi, food truck 

Korean food. Get ye some marinated beef and kimchi. Extremely good, clean plate club every time.

Mercurio's, Shadyside

The good shit, pizza edition. Char bubbles on the crust, just the right size for a full meal for yourself. Get yourself a glass of wine and gelato mwah!


Angkor, Greentree 

Supremely unassuming entry in an ugly little strip mall, but tasty as hell and the time I went in person, despite there being only 1 guy on floor staff, the man kept the rice and drinks topped off for everyone.

Big Rigs Barbecue, Monroeville

Thinkin' bout thos beans.


Apis Mead and Winery, Carnegie

Been a while since I've visited, but it's well worth dropping by. Very good mead, they had comedy and food truck nights before the pandemic and those are likely well back in swing.



Phantom of the Attic, Oakland/Greentree/Monroeville

Now, fun fact, the three Phantoms of the Attic are all independent (apparently, when the original stores were sold off part of the contract was that the name had to stay regardless of the new owner) There's one in Greentree, one in Oakland, and one in Monroeville. Never been to the Monroeville one but I know that's mostly comics, the Greentree one is both games and comics but was overall just kinda eh. Oakland is the biggest and best (technically two stores across the street from each other, one for games, one for books). Great selection of mainstream, indie, and used game books, lots of boardgames, do a 20% off everything in the store sale Black Friday weekend, and pre-pandemic they did in-store DCC games (great crowd, lots of fun)

Games Unlimited, Squirrel Hill

Recently moved into a new location and positively thriving.Excellent indie selection, you can easily find books by folks you know in the scene (last time I went I nabbed Charlie's Into the Wyrd and Wild). Will soon open up the upstairs for folks to rent tables for public games and I cannot wait. 


The Secret Manga Shop, Bellevue

A bit out of the way, small, and still getting its sea legs, but very solid selection of manga plus some extra things (local teas, imported stationary supplies, even proper hanafuda sets!) Nice little place.


Carnegie Museums & Library, Oakland

No such thing as a good billionaire, but sometimes you can build some real good stuff with their money. Always worth a visit.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

100 Texts of the Atûmaic Mysteries

"It is easier to pull a tooth from an elephant than to get a straight answer from a man of An-Hehm."


01: Against Canon - A lost work by the Venerable Deneleon, wherein the sage argues that the formalization of texts and their interpretations signals the stunted growth and eventual death of spiritual development at both the social and personal level. Known to us only through a later list of banned works; the short, dismissive description is followed by mention of Deneleon's execution for heresy.

02: Conversations with a Learned Elder - A fragment of a longer treatise on natural history, occult practice, medicine, astronomy and alchemy. Surviving chapters focus primarily on a dialogue between the author and a non-human but otherwise undescribed entity referred to only as "the Learned Elder". The author summarizes cosmological and philosophical arguments made in missing books of the test, and the Elder responds with probing questions, denials, corrections, and color commentary. (Indeed, many later scholars characterize the Elder as exasperated with the author's lack of focus and the ignorance of his more outlandish theories). The Elder presents a description of deep history, but much of this segment has been lost.

03: The Road of Incense - A lost work; Believed to contain sacramental procedures of the proto-orthodox Atûmaic tradition.

04: Gods-in-Chains - Describes a collective of deities that have been forcibly stripped of their Crowns. Too weak to maintain individual essences, they are bound together under a single Crown crafted (or more accurately, twisted into shape by the cadre of sorcerers they serve) by their human orchestrators. The component gods are rendered pale, silvery shades, each indiscernible from the rest and each speaking and acting as part of the whole. The text calls both the the god-collective and the sorcerer cadre the obet, leading some scholars to believe that the work does not describe gods at all, but wizards who are akin to gods.

05: The Wound-Bearers - Fragmentary work; Focused on the aftermath of wars among the gods, where the losers are so brutalized by the victors (so that they might never be a rival again) that their essences might never heal and their Crowns are forever damaged. This injury is often compared to hobbling or lobotomy, and the authors states that "in the sight of such damage even the theomachists might be moved to pity or mercy."

06: The Life of Epidaemus the Elder
- Hagiographic account of the stylite Epidaemus, who was said to have been fed by the birds daily for sixty-five years and to have learned their mystic language. The narrative ends with a mystic vision of the Peacock of the Sunset; Epidaemus, overcome by the miraculous visitation, falls to his death off his own pillar.

07: The Varagashrata Tract - Rambling pamphlet stating, in the typical aggressive style of the cynocephalon-school swordsmen, that the Lord Tree has not only been severed, but that it has become a trap where ascent is now impossible. The paths are now filled with the abortive results of  or consumption of the ascendant by the Conqueror Worm

08: The Great Secret History
- A text that has been in the progress of construction for the last four hundred years. The monastery responsible has been extremely secretive  regarding their great work, providing the outside world only with claims that it will, on completion, contain the entire scope of the history of the world. That it has taken so long to write, the monks say, is due to the nature of knowledge, and how new insights might render the work of decades obsolete in an instant. It is not expected to be completed for another two centuries (if optimistic) or at all (if not).

09: Against the Kingmakers - A rambling screed against the efforts of the Kingmakers to pierce the center of the Labyrinth, calling them dangerous zealots obsessed with attaining the impossible. Edited by a later redactor who shared the author's disposition towards the Kingmakers, but was significantly more coherent and balanced in their arguments.

10: The Triple Liberation - A compilation of the three principle Chainbreaker texts; Till All Souls Be Won (on liberation of the soul from the rigid precepts of atûm-rama, attaining personal enlightenment), Till All Flesh Be Freed (on liberation of the body from the madness of the Demiurge, attaining total bodily autonomy), and Till All Strife Be Ended (on liberation of society from the cycles of Blade-Law, attaining escape from the enslaving violence of mankind). Has been equal parts praised and censured with the tides of history, hated by those in power and beloved by those underfoot.

11: Queen of the Inner Earth - An account of the Inner World, the isolated people that inhabits it, and the reclusive god-queen of their civilization. The Queen remains in mourning for an unspecified loss and is tormented by an enormous demon, but despite the title there is little more information about her. Most of the work is dedicated to the customs and culture of the subterranean people, or as much of it as the author was allowed to witness.

12: The Great Isolation - The text that codified the doctrine of the Obscuration - the force or power that separates the material world from the atûm in its fullness. As presented here, the Obscuration is a natural consequence of the material universe and features no moral component - later thinkers diverge from this, introducing such concepts as the Eclipse, the Heirotyrannos, the Veil Maculate, the Blessed Ignorance, and others.

13: The Ptamnarruk Tablets
- A series of six granite tablets, with contents said to be copied from the Pillars of the Sky. Contain a list of bans and prohibitions from the Celestials, promising catastrophic retribution if they are violated. Unusual for this genre of theological text, the the majority of the proscribed actions listed were well out of the technological, social, and conceptual abilities of the bronze-age people that initially transcribed the text. While much of the tablets' prohibitions have been deciphered and correlated, modern scholars hold that between a quarter and a third of the instructions still describe actions humanity is currently incapable of performing.

14: The Tinsmith and the Devil - Folktale of an impoverished rural tinsmith who is offered a magical sack by a mysterious old man, with promises that its contents will solve any problem he might face. Each time he draws an item out of the sack, the consequences of solving the problem at hand causes a greater conflict, and the cycle of escalation continues until the tinsmith has inadvertently led to the ruin of his fortunes, the deaths of most of his family members, the destabilization of the duchy, war with a foreign nation, widespread famine and plague, and his own suicide. The story ends with the old man retrieving the sack and saying "Some times, best not to take your chances."

15: Law of Degredation - Fragmentary work. Author purports to have discovered a natural law, underlying the entire universe, that contains within it seeds of total self-annihilation.

16: Blade of White Fire - One of the few books of spirituality to be found among the laconic cults of House War. Living up to the stereotype its prose is workmanlike, its metaphors barren, its teachings blunt to the point of boredom. Indeed is was this work's chalklike dryness that inspired the formation of the Slaughter Discipline and the New-Grostesquery movement.

17: The Dreaming City - Fragmentary text; an account of vast dream-city bathed in the golden light of a sunset that never ceases, peopled with masked beings not entirely unlike men in bright patterned robes. The author claims that it is a greater oneiroscape than anything that might be crafted out of the dreams of slumbering megatherians, and that it might be reached during the ascent of the Tower Unto Heaven. The few that have reported anything at all describe only half-remembered hopes and impressions.

18: Whence the New Gods? - Collected sermon notes from the leader of a minor new religious movement (The Pure-World Rebirth Church), attempting to explain to the cult's members why no miraculous sign appeared on the moon on the appointed day, and to adjust the criteria for the beginning of the Age of Neo-Theon. Written some six weeks before the triple-murder that broke apart the movement. The writer, currently serving a life sentence, has declined all requests for interview.

19: The Amakodani - A collection of stories of the anthropogami, in three parts. The first, being the mythic story-cycle of the Theft of Fire and passage through the Age of Ice to the Lands of Spring. The second, being a collection of folk-tales and teaching stories of those gods and assorted culture-heroes. The third, a series of sermons delivered on a variety of practical ethical concerns.

20: The August Record - Legendary lost work; A potentially mythical codex detailing the names and natures of every type of supernatural being to inhabit the earth, as dictated to the First Sovereign by the wisest of all beasts. Meaningful information is scant, misinformation is rampant. Dozens of falsified versions have emerged over generations, each one an exercise in the author's use of the legendary past to justify their own theories on the nature of the world's inhabitants.

21: Book of the Mandate
- Lost work, also called Book of the Great Work. Supposedly contains a full account of the High Houses' long-term plans for the cosmos, stretched far into both past and future deep time. Most commentary that survives about the book indicate it was focused primarily on the activities of House Au.

22: The Godan Fragment - Single scrap of papyrus, as follows: "[You] need not be confused. I am a FRIEND." The anomalous majuscule lettering pattern is unexplained.

23: The Path Below - Partial text; Most known (and most violently contentious) for its conclusion that the Lord Tree possesses roots in the Underworld just as it possesses branches in the heavens, and that there is a unexplored path of ascension in a direction opposed to the traditional Triple Court - potentially with its own High Houses waiting to be claimed.

24: To Strive Against Heaven - An account of the slave called Botfly, later the atûm-rama master Akaro Do-Vedth, detailing his youth in Port Miser, his participation in the Midnight Rebellion and the 10,000 Banner War, his training in the arts of An-Hehm with the wandering knight Oras Bha, his failed ascension, and his eventual incarnation as Vatharadu of the Blackened Name. Later additions by other authors have, over the centuries, expanded this narrative to include the stories of Do-Vedth's children, students, rivals, lovers, players in both the Rebellion and the War, the rise of the Empire of Names, the Dancers' Revolution, the Four Swords Against the City of Thrones, and thousands of additional minor characters.

25: Towards Restoration of the King - Lost work; Allegedly a text of the secretive Kingmakers, detailing the purpose of their expeditions in the Underworld and the rationale backing it. Several supposed copies have surfaced over the years, all of which were later confirmed as hoaxes. Unlike most lost texts it is generally believed that copies survive, though the general agreement is that they remain firmly in the hands of the Kingmakers themselves.

26: The War of Gold
- A narrative of a primordial war among the Celestials. The victors of this conflict go on to form the High Houses, with the survivors of the losing side fleeing to the hidden places of the cosmos. An incredibly popular work both in its time and in the modern day that has shaped theological discussions for centuries, despite the author having no formal priestly training. While most of the book is clearly an extended allegory, it has been vindicated by modern science's discovery of Celestial conflict-remnants in the cosmos.

27: The Book of the Bastards of the Celestial Court - A list of the inhabitants of the Low Houses - in this context, the offspring of unions between the High Houses (that is, Au-War, Au-Flesh, and War-Flesh). These minor Celestials are often confused with those gods who have not taken any steps of ascent, who are likewise called the Low Houses. A contentious work, often criticized for being simultaneously too overt in its salaciousness and utterly pat in its logic.

28: The Right of Crowns - Lost work; One of the first major Coronist texts, it was lost during the wars with the theomachists.

29: The Book of Leviathans - A codex detailing the three orders of megatherians (the Abaians, the Cthonians, and the Simiurgh) noteworthy individuals among them, their attendant servants, cults, and mysteries, their interactions with humanity, and the nature of their dreams and the worlds contained within.

30: Seeds of Amber - Suppressed work; Contains ritual directions for the conception, gestation, surrogacy and birth of gods by mantling the processes of the Lord Tree. Excerpts appear in the world from time to time, but all known full copies remain accounted for.

31: Indivisible, Undimmed - An otherwise ordinary treatise of atûm-rama practices and meditations upon the Lord Tree, remembered for its ever-prescient and often-quoted warning: "To achieve perfect harmony with the atûm will collapse the form of the soul with catastrophic violence. Thus it is prudent to be imperfect."

32: Where Shadows Are Cast By Self - Anthropogamist exorcism manual. In this tradition, demons are believed to be formed through subtle imbalances in the human soul and feed off of it, growing and evolving according to interactions between the soul, the mind, and deeds. The text covers all levels of exorcism, from the removal of proto-demons, to the casting out of possessive spirits, and combat methods effective against manifested demons.

33: On the Splitting of the Monad - Core of the Monadist tradition, which states that the universe was created through the violent separation of the atûm into diverse components. Cited by both sides of the main dogmatic division among the tradition as evidence for the existence / non-existence of a guiding will with regards to the atûm. The splitting has been characterized by assorted parties as an inevitable natural occurrence, a divine suicide, or a directed murder.

34: Book of Invasions - Legendary record of the Fivefold Wars, where humanity came into repeated conflict with the Gods of the Tree. The storming of the Axis Mundi was met with a brutal retributive campaign that laid waste to the world for generations.

35: In the Womb of the World - Lost work; One of the first texts re-evaluating the origins of earthly life and its connection to the divine.

36: Litany of the Path of Suns - Standardized hymn and prayer book of the Celestial Church. Simplified greatly for use by the masses.

37: Book of the Starving Years - A single fragment remains of this anonymous wartime account. A woman with a red parasol arrives in the village, announcing that the army will arrive soon and is in need of provisions. When the villagers say they have nothing to give, that they have already started eating their dead, the woman notes that this is acceptable under the law of Heaven, but that the approaching army will be just as hungry and far more able to act upon it. A fight breaks out among the villagers as she leaves. The section ends as an elderly man's head is caved in by his rock-wielding son.

38: The Stone Phallus - Lost work; Believed to contain theories regarding the origin and nature of life within the Labyrinth.

39: Book of Saints and Watchers - Central sacred text of the church of that name; Recounts how at the formation of the universe, the greatest of angels attempted to contain the atûm into itself and was driven mad by the attempt. A certain number of lesser angels, seeing the suffering caused by this mad tyrant and the obscuration of the divine light, descended from the heavens in secret to teach the divine arts to humanity. These Watchers have aided, as best they can, holy men and women across the ages, in the hopes that they might find at last a sage to join together all the secret arts and forge a path out of the broken world, a sage that might be granted the tiny sliver of true atûm that the Watchers secreted out of heaven.  

40: A Tower Unto Heaven -  A rare text containing the third schema of ascent, called here both the Path of the Fool and the Path of the Wise, using the allegory of a pilgrim climbing a great mountain. Popular with those outside the traditional hierarchies and power structures of religious authority, and those otherwise inclined against the Crowned Gods, as it focuses primarily on human paths of ascent and means by which the ascendant might keep their humanity intact in the journey.

41: The Mark of Decay - Extremely fragmentary work; Implies a central thesis that the Demiurge has already been consumed, in part or in total, by the Conqueror Worm, and thus has gained the power to assault the Axis Mundi.

42: Book of Small Mercies - A slim tome of mystic reflection and ethical teachings. Of quoted for its Hearth Sermon, which centers on the belief that it is best for human beings to concern themselves with human affairs and avoid the attention or imitation of the greater powers. Ascension through the Lord Tree is both self- and socially-destructive. "Let the gods of the Tree have their tree - they are not our gods, and their ways burn too hot and bright for us to bear."

43: In Still Waters - A short booklet of prose poetry describing the coastal islands of the author's childhood. Primarily concerned with natural elements - flora, fauna, water and weather - but will occasionally draw focus further afield to the ocean and powers below it. Repeated imagery of a desolate island, covered in cypress tress, that once set foot upon can never be left.

44: Upon the Pleached Alley - A comedy of manners, of the sort popular with women of the rural aristocracy and often overlooked by most other parties. Discovered over a century later to contain a coded philosophical treatise in support of Princely's Theory of Biotic Cultivation (as laid out in The Gardened World), a theory which is quaint to the modern audience but would have been political and social suicide to say aloud at the time of writing.

45: Songs of the Concordance - Lost work; A collection of hymns, wisdom-literature and praise-poetry from all four priesthoods of the Concordance of Birds. Surviving texts that cite the Songs are near-universal in their praise of it.

46: Crown, Throne, and Domain
- Principal treatise on the study of the Crowned Gods, regarding the stages and branches of ascension, the types and ranks of Crowns, and the attributes of those gods. Significant detail is given to those ranks of gods that are deficient in some manner - lacking one or two of the traits in the title. An alternate version, rearranged according to sectarian dogmas of the time, exists under the title of Upon the Axis Mundi; it is generally regarded as unreadably dry.

47: Rites of the Dead - A slim volume of burial rites and rituals of hospitality and honor to be used with the cthonogami and affiliated psychopomps. Typically paired with The Tale of the Night Watchmen, though that work was not written until several centuries later and is concerned solely with the death-guide of the common laborer.

48: In the Domain of the God-Kings - Travelogue of a hellmerchant journeying along the God-Kings' Road during the Middle Sedevacantic Period. A breezy and easily-digestible read (as far as works regarding the Old Domain can be); the author ends up participating (or claims to participate) in a guild war, the mysterious death of a high priest, a conspiracy to re-instate a power on the Domain Throne, oversoul politicking, a journey into the Labyrinth, and a fistfight atop the Tower of the Vulture. Despite the obvious exaggerations, it is still one of the best guides to the varied cultures of the Red Lands and the West-of-West as a whole.

49: Lantern of the Gods - Lost work of popular wisdom literature. Has been partially reconstructed from aphorisms copied into surviving texts.

50: Powers of the Deep - Lost work; While early mentions in other texts indicate that it engaged with both the Eclipse and Underworld, misattribution and over-enthusiastic amateur occultists have transformed it into a lost work of ancient wisdom supposedly supporting certain theories of Abaian cults regarding the history of civilization.

51: The Eridani Accord - A legal document, often cited but rarely read, wherein the Church of the High Houses agrees to a truce with the Board by claiming only the spiritual in its dealings, leaving the material to the workings of the Chain.

52: The House of 0 - Borderline-incoherent work of theoretical mystic-physics. As best as can be determined, it proposes the existence of a location or entity (the House is described as both throughout the text) outside linear space-time, leftover from the initial generation of the universe. The author had no formal training in the sciences or theology and likely suffered from undiagnosed mental illness - however, certain fringe sects have incorporate the House of 0 into their belief systems.

53: Descent Into the Red Machine - Extremely fragmentary narrative work; Of what can be reconstructed, it depicts a band of soldiers descending into the Labyrinth, seeking to destroy a threat at its center. Much of the text appears to be action, with most surviving passages including combat of some kind - against megatherian-human hybrids, beings of inchoate Flesh, aspects of the Worm, Labyrinthine entities, and human servitors. One fragment implies a sequence involving the theft of a House War dreadnought, though this is thought to be from another lost narrative.

54: The Folding - Fragmentary work; purports to contain the methods of tay al-atûm by which the sorcerer might gain passage through the Fires of Inner Heaven and step across the world in an instant, or in greater workings across the very cosmos or through time as a river. The process is described as requiring a soul kept in strong resonance with the atûm through sacred practices, which allows the practitioner to temporarily become one with the emanation of the atûm into the universe and allows them to emerge at any place where the atûm is present. Along with this overview come warnings of the dangers present, both in malpractice by the sorcerer, and in interactions with those entities that live within the atûmaic corona. The latter half of the text, which ought to contain the instructions, has been completely lost.

55: Ethnographic Survey of the Indigenous Peoples of Daro, vol 4 - Describes rites of hospitality, purification, propitiation, thanksgiving and reconciliation for use with local agriogami, as well as guidelines for land and resource stewardship.

56: The Maramachy - Few surviving fragments, all in extremely poor condition. Leading interpretation is that the full text depicted a group of Celestials from House Au committing a killing of another entity, though the identity of this target can't be surmised from available information. Served as the basis for the controversial (unpublished) pulp novel Assassination at the Beginning of Time.

57: Manual of Death-by-Blade
- First of the sword manuals of Taran Kom. Concerns the practicalities of swordsmanship, beginning with basic principles and ending with those courses described as "sufficient for any fool to teach themselves all that remains to learn of the blade".

58: Manual of the Line of Division
- Second of the sword manuals of Taran Kom. Concerns those sword-arts that exceed the scope of ordinary combat. A foundational work of atûm-rama battle technique.

59: Manual of Swords Against Flesh - Third of the sword manuals of Taran Kom. Concerns the hunting of entities of inchoate flesh and other servants of the Demiurge.

60: Manual of the White Sword and Black Sword - Fourth and final of the sword manuals of Taran Kom. Concerns the path of ascent to the House of War. Ends in the middle of a sentence, well before it has completed its descriptions of blade-law rituals and divine combat forms. A later redactor, presumably a student of Kom's, added the final line "Let it be known that he, at last, found a worthy adversary".

61: Shapes and Shapelessness - A teacher-student dialogue, posing the question of whether the atûm possesses pre-existing qualities that defined the High Houses, or if those observed qualities are the result of the atûm emanating through a particular vessel and taking on its qualities.


63: The Book of Splendor - A series of beautiful illuminated mandalas, as painted by an artist visiting the cthonic monasteries of the Dhuryma Mountains. The elaborate mazes, while stated to be as accurate a recreation of the sand-art as the artist was capable of, lack additional context or explanation of the symbolism - the artist knew very little of the monks' native or liturgical languages and did not wish to accompany the art with his own conjecture, stating that "I was straining their hospitality enough by simply sketching out the designs. While though none of them sought to stop me, I sensed my presence was not altogether welcome - I was another foreigner come to gawk at their work and take home wild tales of exotic rites."

64: The Reversed House - Through the principle of spiritual mirroring, the author proposes a parallel triad of High Houses located in the depths (or indeed, the very center) of the Labyrinth - The Red House, the House of Tears, and the House of Stone. The logic behind these choices and the descriptions of their traits is difficult to follow and in many places contradictory, as it was born of a logical exercise rather than direct observation. It is likely, given some of the easily-disproven statements made regarding the nature of the Underworld, that the author never set foot in it.

65: The Oliphant Sage - Narrative of a mute youth orphaned by famine, who is happened upon by a band of elephants. In time he learns their language, and is taught of the Earthsong by the matriarchs. He comes to be considered a great prophet or wizard by the human inhabitants of the land, and a great many tales of his accomplishments, interventions and miracles are summarized or only briefly mentioned - presumably because they were common knowledge at the time of writing. After his death, the sage's bones are brought to the graveyard where the Great Grandmothers of the elephants are laid to rest.

66: Parasites Upon the Corpse of God
- Monadist tract on the study of demons, claiming that they are spiritual scavengers evolved to consume the remains of the Monad (that is, the physical universe) after the Splitting of the One.

67: Book of the Ursupations - Epic poem in eighteen volumes detailing the cyclical ascent, corruption, overthrow and replacement of the High Houses. Ends with the apocalyptic Breaking-of-Wheels, wherein the Axis Mundi is toppled, the upper realms are laid to ruin, and the usurpers of the High Houses find themselves unable to maintain their station.

68: The Seven Zoea -  Creation myth, in which an apelike being wanders out of the desert and rises to divine awareness by eating the fruit of the Tree of Life. Thus being elevated, the Eoanthropos gathers seven women (the Zoea) to him, with whom he sires the peoples that would inherit the earth. While beginning the narrative in a state of ignorance and even noble ambition, the Eoanthropos grows to become a violent alcoholic and paranoid tyrant unable to handle his knowledge of the divine. The Zoea rebel against him, and he is left crippled in sight but out of reach of the Tree. The Zoea, now self-liberated, hold council as to how the world might be shared among them and their children. The names, number, nature and future of the sired peoples vary so greatly by the telling that a full summary is impossible. Among the countless variants, some noteworthy inclusions are: At least one pregnancy is terminated. Two Zoea pair off and sire children with each other by consuming the sap of the Tree. Another uses the Tree of Life to transform into the Dueteroanthopos and fathers a dynasty in the wasteland. One Zoea ascends to the heavens while another descends into the earth. One splits into two beings. One attempts to graft the Tree into her own person, or her person into the Tree. One discovers a door in the desert. One gives birth to a perfect copy of herself. One commits suicide. One attempts to take the Eoanthropos' position and is cast down by the others. Many more remain to be told.

69: Madness of the Blind Tyrant - Text concerned with the Heirotyrannos and its influence on worldly affairs. Lengthy warnings against those in government or religious office who seek to understand its mindless ramblings.

70: Book of the Ten Families - One of the core texts of Atûmaism across sects and schools, which has diversified into dozens of variant schemas. Several widespread variants are shared in the table below.

Schema ASchema BSchema CSchema DSchema E
High HousesAuHigh HousesAuAtum
StarsWarLow HousesWarEclipse
Gods of the TreeFleshGreat CrownsFleshZoentropic
Obet & AzdatLow HousesLow CrownsAu-WarFossil Gods
Fossil GodsGreat CrownsGods of the WorldAu-FleshMegatherians
LabyrinthinesLow CrownsLabyrinthinesWar-FleshLabyrinthines
MegatheriansTheoamniotesFossil GodsThe Lord TreeAgriogami
AnthropogamiMegatheriansRoot GodsLow HousesBythogami
AgriogamiLabyrinthinesReverse HousesMegatheriansCthonogami
CthonogamiGods of the WorldEclipseGods of the WorldAnthropogami

71: Of the Courses of the Heavenly Bodies - A manual of astronomy and astrology, so accurate in the former that translations remain a common reference for naked-eye skywatching and most world calendars are based off of its calculations. Greatly concerned with the influence of the unfixed stars have upon the world. Maps out the seasons of activity for the Gods of the Heavenly Sphere - their wars, their revels, their lusts and their quiet years.

72: The Taboo of the Heights - Suppressed work. Long thought lost, before a near-complete copy was excavated by a contractor during basement renovations; Details the mechanics of forbidden unions among the Celestials and claims that these are not merely hypothetical sins, but that such events regularly occur in the depths of the Labyrinth, hidden from the prying eyes of heaven. Additionally, the author proposes that such unions, if enacted in a lengthy chain and in the appropriate pattern, will produce the seed of a new Monad, and that a human engineered in a similar fashion through the hierarchs and scions of the High Houses might be capable of mantling it.

73: Book of Vast Pleasures - Fragmentary erotic work of the pornotekton-priests of Bai-Ando. All known copies and reprints have been censored to near-uselessness by church and governmental authorities, leaving only secondary descriptions by the censorious authorities themselves as to its contents. An unredacted copy was rumored to have been in the possession of the Sorceress of Zan, but if she did indeed own it, the book was lost with the rest of her library in the eruption of Velterias.

74: Autopsy Report 1032-403-B - Incomplete paperwork regarding the autopsy of a "man that fell from the sky". Subject described as having golden-hued skin, extreme frostbite in the extremities, a lack of body hair, and a series of internal organs of unknown purpose made of a "tough, glossy, black substance, similar to but divergent from ordinary flesh".

75: Road of the Broken Sword - The semilegendary principle text of the aghoric saints-militant of An-Hehm. A single, extremely damaged copy survives. It has been rendered completely unreadable due to careless handling, degradation of the vellum, poor handwriting, severe fire damage, application of a bladed instrument, and repeated immersion in blood. Its provenance remains questioned, though most archivists will point to its extreme degradation as appropriate for both its contents and its kapalika writers and thus a sure sign of its legitimacy. Despite many attempts, no scholars have been able to pinpoint the location of An-Hehm, or even to confirm that it is indeed a place.

76: The Debates of Anticthoniasis - A series of letters between opposed philosophers on the subject of ethics, and whether human behavior should be in alignment with ascension through Lord Tree (Archodendronic Ethics), or aligned to existence and participation within the world (Ecumenical Ethics). Under Archodendronic Ethics, man's place in the lower world is of secondary or even negligible importance in comparison to the spiritual quest of Crowning, while under the Ecumenical school ascent entails the loss of humanity and thus damages the workings of the world.

77: The Threefold Crown and the Threefold House - A central text of the Celestial Church, providing the spiritual, political, and historical justification for the rule of the Triple Hierophant, as well as descriptions of those practices and sacraments it is the duty of the Hierophants to perform. Tends to get lost in the weeds regarding the symbolism of the Tripartite Marriage and the Hierophant's spiritual conduit to the High Houses.  

78: In the House of Flesh - A scholarly overview regarding the relationships of House Flesh to the other Celestials, humanity, and the cosmos as a whole. Numerous schools of thought are compared in detail, including:

  • True Demiurgists (Solarists / Aurists) - House Flesh is responsible for the Obscuration and is treated as interchangable with the Conqueror Worm. Flesh considered architect and / or devourer of brutally flawed cosmos and obstactle to full pneumic attunement with the atûm.
  • Pseudo-Demiurgists - House Flesh was driven mad in its attempt to take the atûm into itself after the splitting of the Monad. Similarities in function with the Heirotyrannos.
  • Khruskhanoi - As above, but House Flesh was not driven mad, and indeed is no different from Au or War's attempts to sustain the atûm within the physical universe.
  • Adversarialists - House Flesh is neither the Obscuration nor of a special atûm-bearing position, but is still otherwise opposed to the other Celestials and kept from destroying Au only through only War's martial interference.
  • Kosmonatalist - House Flesh was impregnated by Au with the atûm, thus creating the cosmos.
  • Maculatists - As above, with House Flesh consenting to the act.
  • Jahists - As above, with the act performed at House Flesh's initiative.
  • Protein-Agnostics - House Flesh has no special connection to the material universe or any hand in its creation.
  • Sarkhani - House Flesh is chief of the Celestials, with Au and War diminished to near-impotency by the Obscuration.
  • Cults of the Meat Gods - General category for all sects centered upon an aspect of House Flesh that reject cosmological arguments beyond the practical. Trend towards themes of consumption of flesh, cutting of flesh, acquisition of flesh, mortification of flesh, modification of flesh, and pleasures of the Flesh.

79: Dreams of the Deep House - Lost work; Also referred to as Dreams of the Dry House. Contents unknown, save inclusion in a book list of Underworld-related texts.

80: The Way of Ten Thousand Corpses - Extremely fragmentary work; A book of wisdom literature, supposedly granted to the author by a hierodule of House War during the Broken-Foot March. Of less interest to scholars for its contents than for the primary record of the March that it provides, and the paradox of a servant of House War acting in such an atypical fashion.

81: To Gaze Upon the Tree of Life - Highly-allegorical Zoecist codex, explaining the history and structure of life as it pertains to the Tree of Life, which in spite of its name, has no link or relation to the Lord Tree or any of its affiliated practices. it is commonly confused for a Coronist text by inexperienced students of the occult, and has caused several centuries of frustration on that end.

82: Most Delicate Flower of the Dawn - An extremely unflattering biography of Raoqanzi, who rose to the position of Solar among the Triple Hierophant after the sudden and unexplained death of the Hierophant Ptarassos. Raoqanzi was profoundly unpopular with both the nobility and religious authorities for her attempts at reform within the Celestial Church, and was commonly mocked for her low-class upbringing, her informal speech and heavy accent, and the gigantomastia she suffered from for most of her life. Modern scholarship, especially in the last two decades, has seen a revived interest in her writings and a rehabilitation of her image as a theologian and philosopher well ahead of her time.

83: Of The Paths Between High And Low - Lost work; Said to have been an exploration of the connections between the heavens, the cosmos, and the underworld, and a guide to their safe traversal.

84: The Garden of Plenty - Raunchy, farcical satire of imperial politics, with noteworthy personages translated into members of the Golden Harem. The author was sentenced to fifteen years in a colonial labor camp for his portrayal of the Minister of the Right as "a shame to the great profession of the pornotekton; equally incapable of pleasing lovers and subduing enemies; possessing of no friends and many adversaries, and in constant confusion of the latter for the former." When news of the Minister's death reached the camp three years later, the author is said to have responded, in a fit of coughing consumption, "At last, I am satisfied with life."

85: [REDACTED] - A text that has, with impossible precision, been excised in its entirety from the historical and scholastic record. The premise is entirely unknown, though some scholars have attempted to reverse engineer its subject and time period through the gaps in the record and in other texts where it is hypothesized to have been.

86: Eclipse of the Central Fire - The author of this text proposes an alternate cosmology, where the cosmos is sustained by the interplay of three great forces instead of the singular atûm of orthodox belief. The Eclipse is treated not as enemy or impediment to the atûm, but its equal, alongside a less well-understood (for its chapters are difficult to parse and poorly preserved) Zoentropic Principle. Only House Au draws from the atûm itself, with War and Flesh taking the others.

87: On Retraction and Emanation
- A work positing that the atûm is neither the remnants of a greater Monad, nor obscured by an interfering force; rather, the universe was formed by momentary condensation of the atûm (thus permitting the existence of lower-energy ontological categories and the formation of matter), after which the atûm emanated back out into the newly-made universe, suffusing it with spiritual power that is then shaped by the myriad material and energetic components of the cosmos. Widely criticized, despite its sound logic and construction, by those who maintain physicality to be illusary.

88: In the Depths of the Earth - The published logbooks of the Dhatsari Expedition. While the largest and most well-equipped expedition into the Labyrinth since the time of the Silvered Legion, Dhatsari and his men were unable to pass beyond the Third Gate and nearly half of their number died on the return to the surface due to supply loss and unexpected environmental changes. Still, the data brought back proved instrumental in establishing modern studies of the world beneath, though Dhatsari's dream of great international colonization efforts and subterranean utopias never came to be.

89: Gods of No Family - A list of all known and suspected gods and other divine beings that do not fit into the Ten Families schema. Suppressed for decades by pro-schematic factions.

90: "Where Are The Children of the Earth?" - A eulogy for the departure of the agriogami from the world. The original poem is generally considered overly-sentimental and mediocre in construction; a work of the same theme and title was written decades later by a much more skilled artist has since superseded its predecessor.

91: Burn Perfect Soul - Foremost enchiridion of atûm-rama practices as well as devil-sorcery, this work still serves as one of the base texts for modern study of the soul-power arts. Remarkably well-preserved across multiple languages.

92: Book of the Worm - Partial work; Theorizes a principle of universal degradation of both matter and spirit, a trend towards the violent self-destruction of complex systems and overall movement towards lower-energy states. Original title unknown; the text is older than the adoption of the Conqueror Worm as a concept and thus its common name was appended by a later scholar.

93: Great Book of Wonders - Lost work; Described as an account of the great heaven-spanning constructions of House Au.

94: On the Ordering of the Cosmos - A proposed "grand answer" to the universe, arranging all spiritual forces and powers into a detailed and rigid hierarchy. Greatly favors the authority of the High Houses, the central importance of the Lord Tree, and an interpretation of the 10 Families so unyielding that it was once described as "taking a hacksaw to the gods just to make them fit."

95: Against the Ordering of the Cosmos - A spirited refutation of the above, arguing that if any spiritual structure exists to the universe, it cannot be completely known nor accurately described. Furthermore the current cosmological model is, by virtue of its understandability, vulnerable to disastrous misinterpretation by those who believe it to accurately represent reality. A core assertion of the text is that the High Houses are not representative of underlying cosmological principles, but only those beings that have achieved ascension and successfully defended their position.

96: By Falsehood Gained - Coronist tract decrying the Pyroklope as a dangerous violation of natural law, as it wrongfully bypasses the stages of Lord Tree ascension and thus confers the benefits of a higher station on those who have not, according to the author, earned it.

97: At the Close of the Divine Year
- Contentious, obtuse eschatological narrative depicting, among much confusing and no-longer-culturally-relevant symbology, a final combat between the Conqueror Worm and the High Houses. While all versions share a similar premise - the Worm devouring the cosmos, ascending to the heavens through the Lord Tree, and warring against the Houses in an attempt to consume the atûm - the end varies greatly between versions. The Worm is destroyed either by a few Celestials that survive the onslaught, by its own self-destructive hunger, or by the Monad Reformed. A few Celestials might survive, or all might be killed in the attempt. The cosmos might be remade, either through the surviving Celestials building it anew from the corpse of the Worm, the Worm bursting asunder from its final meal, or the atûm simply emanating a new creation. At least one version has no remaking whatsoever.

98: The Manvantara Divergence Report - A 1600-page report by the World Ontological Monitoring Organization, summarizing 30 years of study into the apparent temporal-ontological irregularity in Earth's history. The authors of the Report conclude that a major ontological restructuring event occurred between 25,000 and 11,000 BCE, and that up to four additional events may have occurred since 300,000 BCE. Most controversially the Report suggests a grand-scale restructuring event wherein the universe was re-started in its entirety. No claims towards the parties or forces behind such events are made, citing lack of meaningful evidence. A second volume of the Report, containing an overview of the state of the world pre-Divergence Event, was published six months later.

99: An Appeal For Justice - A brutal, emotionally-devastating text written in the midst of the 80 Years War. The anonymous author decries with fiery rhetoric the inaction of the High Houses and demands that the great powers be held to account for their tacit permission of the atrocities of the age - atrocities which it is clear that the author has directly experienced. The text ends with the author despairing that justice may be impossible in a cosmos defined by the Principle Act; they offer only the self-described futile hope that the High Houses might destroy each other so catastrophically that it might topple the Axis Mundi and thus never be repeated.

100: The Book of Comfort for the Afflicted - A single passage survives, as follows: "There appeared then a fire upon the mountain, blinding-bright even at many miles' distance. Following it there was a great boom, and the vast sound of thunder rolling down the hills. Lifting his head and setting his sight upon the light, the Mighty-Among-Men spat blood and foam at the feet of his adversary and said "I have done my duty, and you have failed in yours. The line has held. She is here."