Green silken curtains blow open as Story Spinner Izon storms out of Avatar Dashe's Temple on the top level of the Pax Fleet Aviary Tower. Avatar Dashe, her Commanding Acolytes, and the assembled ambassadors from Federation member cultures laugh in their ceiling hung swings and loose draped lace court garb at the raven nitrated curmudgeon. Humiliated by Sloegr, the oil feathered new Forecaster General of Pax Command, Izon's professional critique opposing Viceroy Floret's fool war was laughed down by effect of the ill aimed excrement of a half blind old bird!
That carrion breathed fowl was promoted to Forecaster General two moonspans ago, ending a triumphant career on the 3rd fleet flagship Dusk Lit Gossamer. Scouting the winds for the skyship and guiding then Captain Floret during his most promoted crusades. Never doubt Sloegr was a genius of rare talent on the wing, with storm forecasting skills already legion in the songs of warriors and Acolytes alike, but it disgusted Izon greatly to see Sloegr, and her war thirsty viceroy, in a place of honor at the Aviary of a fleet which was once founded to promote peace amongst the city states and land-races of the Organic Paca Federation. Now she has reduced Izon's critique of Floret's private war into a gross joke.
Bounding down the stretched cloth hallway which wraps around the Tower's huge mycelium grown trunk Izon turns down five complete rotations of the slanted hall to his personal chamber, along the way ochre robed young Dashe incarnation candidates back out of his way fearful of the thunderous tension twisting at his brow. Pushing through the wall flap and pulling it tight behind him he is alone at last.
Breathing in the solitude of the small chamber subsides the rage from these war debates. He steps along the springy floor to pour some water from his chamber basin and wash the bird waste from his long gray hair. A few more deep breaths and the dark clouds of his rage begin to part, rays of clear thought shine through. Floret's scheme to capture a culture of webworms from the Nauskwa will be open for review for another three moonspans, today's outrage may still be overcome with a more rhetorically spun critique.
Avatar Dashe is the so called manifestation of Chronicled Wisdom. Sadly her last few incarnations have been more interested in unspeakable pleasures and the accumulation of morbid curiosities from the catabolis of the Later Oshkosh Culture rather than actually learning anything from SolDashe library about the follies which made the curiosities of that city-state so morbid. SolDasha's library is perhaps the finest collection of Chronicles ever composed. It is distressing that rather than mind Izon's compositions warning against military expansion during societies under going a 'seed casting phase', she would laugh enraptured by Sloegr's so normal humor. At least until Sloegr's distracting presence in the Temple became common place this incarnation has been finessable before, though it takes much strength of listening and patience, and usually a few vivid historical parables. Izon decides he will need strong tea to consider his next story.
As the phlogiston stove of his chamber heats water for ginkgo tea Izon looks out his window, greeted by one of the finest vistas in the know world. So tall is the Aviary that even five turns below Dashe's crowning Temple, Izon's chamber window has a view 8 turns above all the remaining canopy of SolDashe. Another 21 turns from there to the long flooded ground level canals that carry supplies to the city's 75025 citizens and uncountable residents.
Izon smiles, taking in the beauty of his city, though fairly matched in trade and wealth with Inner Bay of the Mikinz Delta far over the Dusk horizon, no city this side of the Central Ocean can be compared with SolDashe in terms of beauty or history.
Its city center a tight canopied forest of towers: green rooms hang like silk leafs on structural mycelium trunks. Connected by many paths like jungle vines pulled taught between the towers bracing each other stable against monsoon winds, floors. Dawnside of the window is the shore of Hud's Sea and pleasant waters open to the Central Ocean beyond. On that shore stands a religious Wonder, though now dead, the tallest known sea flooded Shintry Cathedral, of intergrafted trees grown to an irreproducible proportion, matching Aviary Tower's height! Killed by salted roots during the most recent sea flood many incarnations ago, preserved as a monument to the religious diversity of Paca history. Beyond the verdant city core extend hinterlands for a days ride in any direction, stocked with modest bermed houses amongst food forests and content, agreeable residents. Beyond the bike trails of the hinterlands is a great ginkgo forest planted by the same Shintry missionaries as the Cathedral itself before the Old Paca Empire even expanded to these then barren lands.
Izon looks out on faithful citizens walking across on the wind swayed translucent paths stretched between the many lesser towers of the city canopy. He then looks deeper down beyond the canopy paths at the canals and heavy built foundation levels where barge merchants and local craft people trade to support this 'Suspended City'. Between the foundations and the canopy the middle layer hosts crafts people working the shipyards. Silk tailors are refurbishing phlogiston bladders, or perhaps retiring over worked cloth to make more suspended rooms, awnings, or paths. Fire warders paint their green quartz jelly on the fabric rendering it safe from sun and fire, and impermeable to phlogiston. Bamboo twisters are weaving expandable frames to support Skyship bladders or build structural supports for, ship decks or canopy rooms.
“No doubt those workers would be happy for the calling of orders should Floret's proposed 3rd fleet retrofit go through.” Izon muses to himself, recalling that there is more than Temple degeneration and birds hungry for the spoils of battle which now has a taste for war. Over Izon's life shipyards have expanded considerably and produced the most skilled work of all the city's charities. Pax Fleet has added many ships to its fleet over his career, but thus far the expansions have been argued for to defend the Organic Paca Homeland of the Great Lakes in the outer territories from Soma incursions. Floret's proposal goes further, raiding the distant Nauskwa culture which produces these vast supplies of silk, stealing a culture of their webworms and breeding a Paca industry of websilk to expand the fleets.
Izon pours a bowl of tea. He blows on it looking out on the beautiful miracle built by these foolish war expenditures; 'beauty and foolishness are so dear to each other' he muses the old saying. SolDashe thrives with the calling to build these fleets, yet many other Cultures grow sick of paying road dues to purchase so much websilk. At the same time, none are willing to surrender the Organic City of SolPaca, and most likely the entire Lake Territory, to the toxin sired Soma of the Mispi rain forest.
Above head float 8 skyships over the city, including the Dusk Lit Gossamer. All returning from the front lines for get general repairs and more fragmentation grenades for their crusades. “Another pointless battle” thinks Izon, turning back to the stove to pour more tea. “Living in the thick Jungle, what matters the droppings of clumsy birds.” Izon gazes into the clouds as a new thought comes to him, “ambassadors sick of paying websilk may be easily swayed by the Viceroy Floret's fool headed scheme to build a greater war machine, but only because they can think of no other way to fight the Soma.”
Taking the bowl of tea away from the window's view, Izon looks at his tabletop and decides to spin a story for insight on the Soma. Candles are lit around the room, the doors of his curiosities cabinet are opened, prayers and the offering of a burnt ginkgo leaf are given before these artifacts and Source Books. Izon sits at his tabletop story spinning wheel, glass beads in hand. He spins the central disc Sunwise and casts the colorful beads moonwise. The beads bounce and skip until they find a resting place around the disc edge. Bead positions tallied, they start to draw on old yarns and call forth story patterns memorize during Izon's long apprenticeship. Emerald beads in the 13th position and the 3rd, that draws on a yarn older that 987 years. It feels scary fitting that the wilting era of the Old Paca Empire would come up.
A few spins more and much weaving of old yarns and Izon starts to be drawn into the plot of General Lunbada's long chronicled conquests. Izon's legs feel the ache of the cyclist dragoons that dominated those ancient battlefields; teams that rode across frontiers further than the settled territories of the current era; as far outwards as Vulginy Jungles and inward to the coasts of the Central Ocean; from the Dawn Coasts over deserts, planes, mountains, and forests to the Dusk Coasts. Beads skillfully cast narrow the scope to the Battle of Savage River, where General Lunbada's conquest came to a mysterious end, and the Paca culture learned to fear the Soma. Izon takes out from the shelf the Source Book of Huten, and scans its bead charts, and lens drawn images.
Entranced, Izon could smell the reek of swamp and fear passed down from that sad quagmire. Deep in the meditation Izon feels himself as Yeoman Huten. Too enmeshed in the story now to be concerned with the fool politics behind this long past offensive, Izon casts beads now only hoping that Huten might get back to his home in SolPaca from this dreary campaign. Izon forgets even the beads, the many colored disc, and his own spinning and counting, as the story of Huten fills his imagination.
Ugly wet trees, cloudy skies, and bitting bugs define the scene. Soft hilly ground make Huten's war-bike nothing more than a cart to be pulled over puddle filled ruts, it carries his pack and weapon, then is left leaned in a stack of bikes as he tries to find a dry spot to set up his tent. Sir Tellir, his team leader, marches around the muddy camp site, listening to the terrifying beauty of the Soma music which emanates from every deep dark nook of the fall-out cursed Plutoned forest. “The vile animals are mad to be happy in this corrupted waste!” Tellir yells out loud. “Born of outlaws who defied the Organic prohibition of entering the Plutoned forests, they have lost their humanity, they speak no more in any community tongue.”
In evening light the team leader turns his back to the forest and swells up to inspire his team. “None of us like to approach these dark places, not even I. Be it best such beasts keep their polluted habitat, but then at least then they should leave us to our habitat! Nay, their siren sows have seduced away foolish lads from SolGwall. Few salvaged from the Soma are ever the same, and none who stay a over the dark night of the new moon in these ever roting woods again live an Organic life with the Elements as we do. That darkness, and whatever Plutonic mysteries fill it, turns them into something more Soma than Paca. Any one of us, if consumed by this forest, might in years time be found by next years expedition amongst their madness-dart slinging hunters, as Artificial as they are.”
Seeing fear in the teams faces Tellir continues. “At dawn we enter their domain, our armor halts their tiny darts, and our pieces can drop their bark clad hunters at 55 strides. Be present, and trust your team will pull you out of this forest should a dart find your flesh. They have an encampment not far from the forest edge, and our observation balloon has mapped the brood where the SolGwall lads are. You will know them because they won't have the Soma forehead scars yet, they may resist your attempt to separate them from their siren captors, but we have tranquilizers if needed. If you see those scars on any face, as otherwise umber and rich as it may be, you are looking at a Soma, and you are to cap it.
Huten listened to Tellir and could feel the huge eyes deep and dark of the Soma radiating their gaze at him. The Soma never attack a clearing, but anyone who steps under the forest canopy does so in fear of their darts, which corrupt the mind of those struck. If not taken from the forest the victim will surly taken by the forest. Huten prepares for a long night disturbed by their haunting music.
Izon's trance loosens slightly as he stokes his courage for what visions long past the spinning wheel might spin from the Huten Sourcebook.
With Dawn the music quiets, and Sir Tellir prepares his team to enter the forest. A rear guard holds the camp, and several other commanders join Sir Tellir at General Lunbada's command yurt. Yeoman Huten's team is the first to enter the forest, in a few strides the clearing is invisible through the thick under brush. The sounds of Soma movement is all around, none can see further than ten strides in any direction. The tracker hounds are scent blind in this rotting forest, and sensing movement about the hounds panic. Darts fly in through the thicket, and drop down from the canopy far above.
Izon's beads land in a strange way, the composition which tallies as 'lust' looks back from his spinning wheel through glass eyes deep and dark.
In Izon's trance Huten stops cold, captured by fear as a song comes from all the forest, it sings in voice of Soma calls and twisted remains of once Paca words. A great terror fills the team, and they begin to run back to the clearing, busting caps into the target less forest. Huten barks “take the fallen, we can't leave them!” picking up a young squire over his shoulder turning back to the clearing. As he turns he sees crouched on a large branch a Soma siren, wearing a cedar bark skirt and cowl. Scared forehead, deep round eyes, large hands, cheek folds, and long breasts, her beauty horrified Huten and Izon equally. Huten lifts his piece toward her, and sees embedded in his wrist a dart.
Izon casts all Hutens beads that he might escape that fabled song which has tormented the Paca soul for all the years since the scattered half mad remains of General Lunbada's campaign first composed this Source Book so long ago.
As the beads jockey for place in the discs groves the trance is shattered “Krrrrawwwwk-raaa ak.” interrupts Sloegr standing in Izon's open window.