Interlude: Easter Ramble

Day 15. 64 pages, 30,044 words. Long Easter weekend flatline, although I will probably still be deleting and adding stuff throughout.

I pre-wrote as much of this long weekend’s stuff as possible, and got on a bit of a roll with it, but didn’t really have time for five entire chapters. I wanted to save as much as possible of my long weekend writing time for actual writing as well, if you can divide it up and say the blog stories aren’t actual writing, and the stuff I’m planning on printing is.

I don’t know if I’d go that far. Especially since some of this will be finding its way into the actual writing in some currently-unforeseen way, and of course all this worldbuilding and history and mythology is definitely a part of the larger story even if it isn’t explicitly written out again.

Anyway, it’s Easter … probably Sunday, I think, if my pre-writing calculations are correct. We’ve got a fun one planned but also plenty of just absolutely doing fuck-all which will also be nice. We were supposed to go and see Ilja play at a gastropub last night (gastropubs, what a fun way of saying ‘pubs with slightly classier and more expensive pub grub’), and we’ll be having the family over for an Easter dinner tonight, if all goes according to plan.

[Follow-up: So far so good, Ilja put on a great show and we had a grand chat afterwards as usual. My reindeer burger was delicious and the mämmi beer didn’t taste too much like mämmi. Next up, family dinner.]

Well, as much family as possible, with my poor old father-in-law still languishing in hospital and my poor lanttumies[1] doing night shifts the entire long weekend (ca-ching though, am I right?). Still, it should be nice. And then tomorrow I believe we’re heading to the traditional Easter bonfire up on the “mountain” that Sotunki definitely doesn’t have. Only we don’t actually have a bonfire this year because of the unseasonably dry weather conditions making it unsafe. That’s probably not okay, since it’s the first time I remember it happening in my nineteen years in Sotunki … but it might just be the luck of the meteorological draw. And a side-effect of the council being more careful now that the area is a national park / nature pre

[1] No, it’s lanttumies.

Funnily though, it’s the week following the four-day weekend I’m looking forward to (although okay, yes, four-day weekend is fucking mint). Endgame on Wednesday! Another episode of Game of Thrones on Thursday! Short week at work and then a couple of messed-up short weeks on either side of Vappu, woo hoo!

That’s enough rambling from me. Back to doing nothin’.

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Devils And Such, Part 10

Day 14. 64 pages, 30,044 words. Long Easter weekend flatline, although I will probably still be deleting and adding stuff throughout.


 

They re-entered the central well at Fallenstar and descended into the darkness of Underhell.

Earth and Hell shared a sun, which rose in the morning and set in the evening above the former and sank in the morning and ascended in the evening above the latter. Cursèd, the misbegotten and dusty work in progress beneath Hell, didn’t have a sun – and never had.

“I think the grand Divine Plan is to finish Cursèd, then add a whole new flatworld in and bump everything upwards,” Çrom said. “Then put in a sun to orbit around Cursèd and the new world, like the one that services Earth and Hell. The Eden Road holds it all up and the suns are meant to stabilise it somehow, I don’t know. I’m not a megaengineer.”

“It seems as though the grand Divine Plan has been suspended somewhere in the middle of the Cursèd-building stage,” Lotus remarked as the darkness closed in around the hopper.

“The devout might say it’s a long-term plan,” Çrom attempted.

“Are either of us that devout?” Lotus snorted.

“Are either of us going to be around to see the finished product?” Çrom shot back mildly.

“I intend to be,” Lotus declared. “You – as per our arrangement – will be dead.”

“Ah,” Çrom nodded. “Just making sure you remembered.”

There were no further checkpoints or stops. It was evident that nobody cared. They dropped through the deep dark of the stairwell, the ruddy light of Hell swiftly fading above them. Another hour ticked by.

“Most step-hoppers I have seen in action actually hopped from step to step,” Lotus noted. “This is quicker.”

“Well, down is easier,” Çrom said. “Most Eden Road traffic is either high-speed through the well, or step-hoppers crawling across each step and up. This is basically just a glorified freefall, though, so it’s not too much of a drain on our Plant feed. On the way back up, we’ll be going from step to step to allow the hopper to get its breath back each time, and it’ll take longer,” he looked back at her. “Assuming we make it back.”

“Assuming we need to take the hopper,” Lotus added challengingly, “rather than flying on Angelic wings – or swimming the darkness of Gods and Demons.”

“Well in either case, I’ll be driving the hopper,” Çrom said firmly. “Neither of those other alternatives particularly appeal to me. And besides, Clem wouldn’t want me to leave his hopper parked on the Rooftop. Remember the stern look.”

They emerged, not into darkness but the eerie pallid glow of a storybook cave. All blues and greys and pale greens, the freezing light of Cursèd came from a variety of lichens and vast fungal stalactites clinging to the ceiling of the Underhell. Or possibly the Overcursèd, Çrom speculated, although he’d never heard it called that. Maybe he could bring the term into popular parlance.

“The glowing mushrooms are a bit much, aren’t they?” Lotus interrupted his terminological reverie.

“They’re pretty bright up here, but by the time you get down to ground level the only ones that really cast much light are the big hanging ones,” Çrom told her. “And they don’t shed much. Untreated phosphorescence just isn’t a good illuminant.”

Material Depot #1 was pretty much exactly what it sounded like. From the altitude of their emergence from the central well it looked somewhat like a rather drab and utilitarian city, until you stopped to think about just how far away it was. The stacks and blocks and towers of stone and metal and other world-crafting materials were enormous, rearing over the ridiculous crumpled paper of the landscape itself, dwarfing the mountains that were themselves huge and ruggedly impressive.

Çrom had never understood why God needed a construction site for creating worlds, but he had to admit that Cursèd made a pretty breathtaking one.

You just didn’t want to spend too much time outside appreciating it, because ‘breathtaking’ was about right. It was lethally cold, and if the freezing atmoplane didn’t get you, the Ogres would. The big hairy bastards were all over the place down here, and while they had basically endless patience while waiting for the next time the Pinians pointed them at something that needed smashing, they also weren’t all that particular about what they practiced on in the meantime. The Material Depots were really the only safe places for people to live, since the Ogres – for whatever reason – steered clear of them.

It was possible God had urinated on them before going back to Heaven for an extended smoke break. Çrom didn’t like to speculate.

There weren’t many people living in Cursèd anyway. The human population numbered in the hundreds, and the local sentients – aside from the Ogres, if they counted as local or sentient – were a strange bunch. The lines were blurred this far down, and you were as likely to find a denizen of Castle Void shambling across the frozen gravel as you were to find a Cursèd native wandering the Rooftop. Of course, in the case of intruders from the Castle, you were in fact more likely to find their frozen remains smeared across a wide area and cratered with club-prints.

“Are we really going to stop at Material Depot #3?” Lotus asked.

“For the record, officially, yes,” Çrom replied. “We have to, in order to keep our flight plan intact and everything hunky-dory with the Eden Road authorities. But once we get there, it’s a relatively simple matter to slip out over the edge and drop to the Rooftop. There are several smuggler’s routes…”

“What about getting back up?”

Slightly more complicated,” Çrom admitted, “since we can’t take the stairs. Too much security above Cobler’s Farm. But we can arrange a lift,” he tapped in a set of location confirmations and the flight plan for their final leg, which was pretty effortless since air traffic was basically zero. “Five and a half hours to Material Depot #3,” he announced. “Might be a good time to get some sleep. It’s been a long flight.”

“When you say ‘arrange a lift’,” Lotus said, “what exactly are you talking about?”

“Some of us have friends in low places,” Çrom replied, climbing out of the sling and stretching his back with a little groan. “I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, considering that the next part of our journey is down into the Castle itself and your plan is still pretty much a blank page apart from the final goal. You’ll notice I haven’t been quizzing you-”

Çrom,” Lotus said sharply. She was looking past him, through the broad helm window.

Çrom turned.

“Ah,” he said.

“Is that what you’re planning to ‘arrange a lift’ with?” Lotus demanded.

“No,” Çrom replied faintly, gazing at the monstrous pale crescent of the Category 9 Convoy Defence Platform Destarion gliding through the frozen atmoplane towards them. The four great curved spires of her upper turrets shone in the lights of the giant fungi above, the colours and intensity shifting swiftly as she cruised beneath the phosphorescent carpet. The Godfang was positively clipping along. “No, that’s not how I intended to travel,” he went on, “and it’s really going to complicate things.”

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Devils And Such, Part 9

Day 13. 64 pages, 30,044 words. Long Easter weekend flatline, although I will probably still be deleting and adding stuff throughout.


 

“First time down here?” Çrom asked nonchalantly as they plummeted with deceptive grace alongside the Eden Road. He’d chosen the scenic route rather than simply plotting a course down through the central shaft of the staircase, even though it was slightly more work. The view was worth it.

“I’ve been to Burning Fweig once,” Lotus said, “but it was a covered and sealed transport all the way. Saves on the atmoplanic adjustment overheads,” she added vaguely. She’d risen from the couch and was standing beside the sling, looking out at the Hellscape below them with fascination and more than a little horror.

The circle-nations of Hell were arid and harsh, and for the most part obscured by the world’s heavy atmoplane in any case. It more than made up for that shortcoming, however, with the lurid glow of fire. Great pools, spirals and sprawling webs of red-orange outlined the vast crooked target-form of the circles, which were still barely discernible as curves despite the fact that the travellers were looking at them from an enormous height and the Eden Road sat very close to First Circle itself.

“It’s not actually as … fiery … as it looks,” Çrom tourist-guidebooked while Lotus stared. “There’s a lot of phosphorescent vegetation and geological formations that give off a red glow like molten rock without actually being all that hot. It’s still plenty hot down there,” he added, “but not exactly the famous lake of fire. If you want to see that, you go to a real Hell.”

“I’d rather not,” Lotus replied.

“Yeah, probably a good call.”

Fallenstar was an objectively more attractive city – or more specifically city-state – than the City of the Burning Fweig, despite the Infernal capital’s historical grandeur and its spectacular architectural extravagances. There was no Great Cathedral of the Sainted Madman here, no Pandaemonium Spire with its barbed and crooked tip that heated to a ruddily glowing evening beacon every day after the sun had swept by a few scant kilometres overhead. But it was picturesque, its aesthetic dictated by a more cosmopolitan philosophy that came from Fallenstar being an Eden Road city-state.

Its connection to the rest of the Four Realms was no greater or less than any other of the circle-nation cities, really – but that was easy to forget when you could look out of your window and see the stairway to Earth and Heaven rising up into the sulphurous overcast. When, in the middle of the night, the faint and diffused searchlight-beam of the Earth’s midday sun swept across your rooftop from the stairwell far above.

“Wait wait wait,” Lotus interrupted Çrom’s ongoing travelogue. “The Eden Road cuts down through the rock of Earth with no space around it – just the steps. Sunlight couldn’t possibly filter down from above.”

“Not as such,” Çrom said, pleased to have the chance to explain. “There’s actually a series of mirrors-”

“No there isn’t.”

“There is,” he insisted. “It started out as a misguided attempt to increase energy efficiency by redirecting sunlight back into Hell for a few hours each night to add to the daytime hours, but it ended up being a logistical nightmare that would only manage to pay for itself by about the Seventh Age, so they scaled it right back and made it into a sort of combination artistic installation and monument to Four Realms harmony and cooperation,” he peeped at Lotus and saw she was still looking at him flatly. “It’s true,” he protested. “Now there’s just this sort of five-minute sweep of faded light across the city around the middle of the night, and depending on the time of year. It comes from this place called Hindab’s Wink on one of the lower stairs – you can see it from the hopper as we descend into Fallenstar. Every few years the mirror gets overgrown with some kind of climbing creeper, and the citizens go out and tear it all off and polish the mirror and have a party…” he saw she was growing steadily less convinced the more he talked, so he shrugged and gave up. “You know why the city is called Fallenstar?”

“I had assumed it has something to do with Lucifer,” Lotus said, “but the fact that you’re asking means it’s probably nothing to do with him, and is in fact probably something breathtakingly stupid.”

“It is actually a little bit stupid,” Çrom admitted grudgingly. “But it is also to do with Lucifer. The city-state was originally called Fallenhome, but it didn’t really mean anything. It was founded by one of the early family dynasties of Pinian-worshipping Dragons, and Fallenhome – actually Fellynhame – was their family name. They did get a bit rebellious and secessionist-y though, and when they tried to expand their nest up into the stone of the Eden Road and control traffic, in went the Angelic peacekeepers.”

“Including Lucifer?” Lotus guessed.

“Lucifer was the Archangel in charge,” Çrom confirmed. “I’ve heard stories that the Fellynhame were actually under the influence of a Demon, and Lucifer – only an Angel at the time – killed it to earn the black wings. They also flaming-sworded the Fellynhame to kingdom come, and levelled the city that had formed around the nest. When Lucifer rose to prominence in the greater Theocratic Republic of the Circles of Hell, she oversaw the rebuilding of the city and it was renamed Fallenstar in her honour.”

“‘Her’?” Lotus said in amusement.

Çrom shrugged uncomfortably. “Lucifer doesn’t put much stock in the details, so sadly the majority of Earthly documents and stories use the masculine pronoun. For … reasons of hegemonic arrogation, I assume. But my sources among the higher undead assure me that she’s female – or she was. It doesn’t really matter, though.”

Lotus thought about this for a moment, but didn’t make any further objections. “Are there Dragons down here now?” she asked instead.

“A little clan called the Fellymae,” Çrom said, “most likely a remnant of the Fellynhame but you probably wouldn’t want to remind them of that.”

She shook her head as the Hellscape unfolded and more dark, sweltering details emerged from the smog. “What kind of humans would live here?”

Çrom smiled. “Why don’t we just continue on through without stopping to meet them?”

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Devils And Such, Part 8

Day 12. 64 pages, 30,044 words. Entering long Easter weekend flatline.


 

It was another hour to Fallenstar with two stops along the way, one for a routine security sweep and the other for ‘atmoplanic adjustment’ to the thicker, slightly-human-incompatible air of Hell. The former stop took less than five minutes, the latter about fifteen while The Happy Bumfuck was flooded with pressure-correcting mesomain gas that smelled like slightly manky seaweed. The combination of the hopper’s inter-flatworld but non-hard-vacuum rating, and their flight plan showing that they were descending straight through, meant that they didn’t need anything more extensive than a quick patch.

Neither of the stops required any sort of face-to-face contact with officials, so The Happy Bumfuck’s computer bore all the social pressure.

It wasn’t so much that the atmoplane of Hell was incompatible with human life, Çrom explained to Lotus to break the monotony, but it was just the right degree of dense, muggy and sulphur-tinted to make said life an unappealing prospect.

“I have a theory that they make it that way on purpose,” he said. “There’s no reason for the air to be loaded with brimstone in this day and age, with scrubbers and filters and airborne bonding agents and all … but it limits the human population to the little group of insane nth-generation hellmonkeys they have in residence, and the authorities can spread their hands and make baffled, earnest noises about how we’d be only too happy to up our asylum quotas, but humans just don’t like it down here.”

Lotus made a soft sound of amusement. “That’s actually what they call themselves, isn’t it?”

“What, hellmonkeys?” Çrom nodded. “I’m afraid so. They’ve really internalised the old post-Cult anthro-guilt. Made it into something of an artform,” he leaned back against his saddle-cushion. “Plus it’s hot as … well, hot as Hell down there,” he went on. “Average temperature is around 50°C, and there’s not much seasonal or geographic variation. And no real oceans, just the occasional deep well and some canals between the circle-nations. Humans are generally restricted to environmentally-controlled habitats.”

“And no ice,” Lotus said.

“No ice,” Çrom confirmed, then added with a chuckle, “except in the Haffil Mograthea,” he glanced back at her and caught her puzzled head-tilt. “You haven’t heard that story?”

“I’m afraid I’m woefully ignorant of the geography and civics of our nearest neighbours,” Lotus admitted.

“Well, to be fair this is more about folklore than goeography or civics,” Çrom told her. “The Haffil Mograthea is a house, or a fortress, or a vault, somewhere in the First Circle,” Çrom said. “A trove of the greatest treasures that the Pandaemonia stole from Heaven and Earth back in the bad old days when Hell was a rebellious frontier striving to secede from Pinian dominion,” he chuckled again. “It’s more myth than history, of course,” he added, “folklore, like I said. Hell never openly rebelled against Heaven, despite any little misunderstandings the Angelic Chorus and the Archangelic court might have had over who’s got the authority to do what. Loss of Brotherhood support would have basically left Hell vulnerable to infiltration by the Darkings, if not outright absorption – especially before Cursèd was made.”

“So it’s a make-believe house,” Lotus summarised, “holding the greatest treasures of Heaven and Earth … and some ice?”

“No,” Çrom grinned. “A single snowflake.”

“Ah,” Lotus said. “The proverbial snowflake in Hell?”

“Now you’re getting it.”

“What other treasures does the … Haffil Mograthea … contain?” Lotus asked. “I assume if any of them bestowed eternal life I would have heard about it.”

“Actually, most of the stories I’ve heard kind of make a big deal about the snowflake and don’t mention many other things,” Çrom admitted. “Some stories just conveniently link back to it and say that’s where other important items are stored. The Godslaying Gun, you must have heard of that one?”

“The weapon that slew Vort, causing Him to remake Himself as Endibline, and in turn allowing Endibline II to usurp the Darking Godhead?” Lotus asked. “I’d heard it was held in a place of high honour – and even higher security – in Palatia.”

“I’ve heard a lot of different versions of the story and all of them could be Pinian propaganda to make the Darkings look silly,” Çrom said. “They like telling stories about the Darking God getting killed. Some of the stories place the Godslaying Gun in Haffil Mograthea, though. Arguably safer than a guarded chamber in Palatia, on account of Haffil Mograthea probably not even existing. There is a sightseers’ version of the place,” he added informatively. “It’s got a special refrigerated display case with an ice crystal in it, and you can look at it for ten yachut and try to ignore the fact that the entire First Circle Tourism Board is laughing at you behind their pitchforks.”

“How disappointing.”

“I know,” Çrom agreed. “Also, most people have, you know, refrigeration units in their homes. If you want ice, there’s plenty of ice. Just none that’s what you’d call naturally occurring.”

They descended out of the central well, curved across the drab grey surface of the topmost open step-nation, and dropped into the sky of Hell.

 


– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while sitting in the carpark.

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Devils And Such, Part 7

Day 11. 63 pages, 29,915 words.


 

The Questioner at the Holy Forest Rift office was one of the most short-tempered little women Çrom believed he had ever encountered. Even Lotus appeared taken aback.

“Species,” the Questioner said before the two travellers were even in through the door of the interview room.

Çrom recognised that this was a time to not be a charming smart-aleck. It wasn’t impossible to descend to the Rooftop without using the Eden Road, but it was much more difficult. And it would be impossible to do it in The Happy Bumfuck. “Human,” he replied.

“Crew count.”

“Two.”

“I know there’s two, that’s why there’s two chairs. Close the door and sit in them.”

“Then why did you-” Lotus began.

“Official record,” Çrom said quietly, pointing to the little surveillance disc on the adjacent wall. He sat obediently and urged Lotus with his eyes to do the same.

She made a frustrated gesture with her hands instead. “Then why did she-”

Çrom shook his head urgently and waved her into the chair. “These people deal with a lot of idiots,” he explained, “and if any of those idiots wind up causing trouble in Hell, the Questioners are held responsible. And the branch of the Pinian Church that administrates Hell is not to be f- trifled with.”

It was also entirely possible, he reflected but didn’t quite dare say out loud, that the obnoxiously officious and short-tempered approach was at least partially intended to provoke a response from travellers not temperamentally suited to visiting the lower flatworlds. Of course, it was also possible this Questioner was just an irascible jerk.

“Names,” the Questioner said as Lotus grudgingly sat down. The three of them were sitting in a triangle, the Questioner’s chair a little more comfortable than theirs and possessed of wide, padded arms fitted with interface and data panels.

Çrom cleared his throat. “Çrom Skelliglyph.”

The Questioner looked up with flat dislike in her small, very dark eyes. She had, he saw with a slight queasy feeling, barely-noticeable red markings across her forehead and down one side of her dark-brown face. The Xidh text was heavily stylised and interspersed with lines and unrecognisable symbols, the whole thing further obscured by the closeness in shades between her skin and the tattoo, but it was nevertheless distinctive. She was Olmec-kin, either born or trained. They didn’t usually operate this far south, but if one had felt it was her calling to become a Questioner, then she was absolutely not to be … trifled with.

It also made it that much less likely that her attitude was an intentional ploy to unveil outburst-prone travellers, although he still couldn’t rule it out as an acccidental benefit.

“Care to spell that for me, mister Skelliglyph?” she asked levelly.

“I really wish you wouldn’t ask me to,” he still couldn’t resist twinkling, then raised his hands. “Sorry, joke,” he hastily spelled his name out.

“Çrom Skelliglyph. Jokes,” the woman said sourly, then sat for a moment. Before Çrom could do more than shift in his seat, she sharply added, “I’m just deciding which of those to grant a transit permit to.”

Lotus stifled a laugh, and when the Questioner turned her piercing black-eyed stare on her, she straightened sombrely. “Black Lotus,” she said, “the.”

“Oh, the,” the Questioner said with sarcastic mildness, and tapped at her interface. “Do you happen to have a Four Realms Census designator for that artic-” she stopped, her broad face seeming to clench like a fist.

“Yes, I do,” Lotus replied sweetly.

Çrom groaned to himself.

The Questioner, however, didn’t seem inclined to make things difficult for them as a result of this unforgivable adherence to bureaucracy. “Ascent or descent.”

“Descent,” Çrom replied, although the Questioner would already have seen this, too, from their flight plan.

“Infernal destination.”

“Throughpass to Cursèd. Material Depot #3.”

“Duration.”

“One-way,” she looked up at him again, and Çrom added, “return trip to be arranged at Material Depot #1 on ascent.”

“Resident contacts?” finally a hint of actual inquiry entered the Questioner’s tone.

“Placeholder tokens, Skelliglyph 3-3,” Çrom said. “Depot Tier 18 (Below), Gian-To Haven,” he half-leaned towards Lotus and lowered his voice. “It’s just a name,” he said. “It’s actually not a very nice…” he became aware that the Questioner was looking steadily at him again, and straightened in his seat.

“Markers of intent,” the Questioner said, opening a more intricate set of data on her interface and casting it onto the wall opposite the surveillance disc. Çrom settled back slightly in his chair and prepared for a lengthy interview.

To his surprise, the Questioner kept them for little over an hour – barely half of what he’d expected, for a private and unregistered craft – and let them go with only minor provisions and amendments to their transit plan. And a short list of repairs that needed to be made to The Happy Bumfuck before it was cleared to fly back up through the Holy Forest Rift, but those repairs had been on Çrom’s to-do list for a while and there was a good chance they’d be allowed through with another list of suggested repairs on their return, just with a slightly more insistent set of markers attached. Frankly, if they returned at all Çrom would call it a win and would be happy to make all the repairs the Eden Road authorities demanded of him.

After enjoying a slightly more flavoursome meal than the fare available on the hopper, they boarded and returned to the helm.

“That was relatively painless,” Lotus sat back on the couch while they waited for their clearance to propagate. She looked up, and frowned. “What is that?”

Çrom glanced up at the long-neglected and vaguely pornographic-looking apparatus attached to the helm chamber ceiling above his sling. “Exercise rack,” he said. “You have no idea, the back problems Centaur get.”

Their transit approval went through, Çrom brought the engine vub-vub-vub-vub-vubing back to full power, and they lofted easily out of the Holy Forest Rift Question Station. The rich, shimmering blanket of the jungle tilted underneath them, then curled like a massive frozen waterfall into the first of the great Eden Road stairs. Directly adjacent, and angling away into the purple distance, the corresponding cliff of the upward stair swung into view … but not for long.

The Happy Bumfuck dropped into the yawning gulf of the Eden Road’s central well, and descended into red-tinged darkness.

 


– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while on the bus.

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Devils And Such, Part 6

Day 10. 64 pages, 30,252 words. Still editing and cutting.


 

“What if the population were encouraged to rise up?” Lotus grew serious once more. “Throw off their invisible shackles, fling the eternal dictator in a prison of her own?”

“That’s happened,” Çrom said. “Several times. I believe she has even been thrown into the remains of the prison from which she freed Nnal, and even though the Infinites and the sentinel stones are gone, the physical place remains a home of nightmares. Not a fun place to spend time. But it never sticks. It’s just another facet of the punishment, if you want to look at it that way. Things circle back and Strangle continues to live, continues to rule.”

“And are these uprisings always externally imposed?” Lotus asked.

“Frequently,” Çrom replied, “but not always. Although that might give you the idea I know about more of them than I do.”

Every now and then, a mad researcher or renegade historian would find Strangle’s world, and she would learn the truth. Or even worse, a refugee would come screaming out of the emptiness of greater Cycleis and fall into Strangle’s domain. And she would discover that the rest of her universe was still burning. That monsters walked among the people of worlds she would never see, ruled empires so distant they would never touch the observable Corporate urverse. That broken and driven creatures burrowed and built, obsessive and mad, striving to create a place of perfect order and baffling complexity that even an Infinite mind could not pick apart. Long since the return of the dread Ghåålus to His imprisonment, the bargain Strangle had struck continued to inflict its punishment on the universe she had sold.

And she would learn that it had been hundreds of millennia and more.

“Çrom?”

“Sometimes she lets herself be overthrown,” Çrom said. “Leads her own uprising. When she finds out the full extent of what she’s responsible for, and when suicide fails, she,” he shrugged, “she’s tried everything. Same as me.”

“You could have stayed with her,” Lotus said. “Helped her.”

“I tried,” Çrom replied. “I failed.”

“Did she forget you?” Lotus asked. “When she … reset?”

“Sort of,” Çrom said, aware that this inadequate and misleading. “After she figures out what happened because of her bargain, she lives in torment for as much of the year as remains. Unable to take her life, unable to leave her world through the horrors that float just beyond the reach of its light. It gets steadily worse and worse. And then … she wakes up, remembering basically nothing, thinking that it’s the first day of the rest of her life. The first day of her conquest of a world she wished for so badly she was willing to subjugate the entirety of creation in order to have it.”

“Did you try to take her off-world?”

“Hell no,” Çrom replied. “Look, I may have given you the impression that Sabata Ramae was in some way an object of pity or sympathy. And it’s true, we had some things in common that let me understand her a little more than anyone else. Plus, I wasn’t her ecstatically bewitched slave like basically everyone else in the world, so there was that. But no. My sympathy for her is about on the level of DeColt,” he declared, “except the damage she did was greater.”

“There are those who say she was simply the first victim of the Third Dominion,” Lotus said. “That it was inevitable that Nnal would have gotten free in time. That there were too many plans afoot, that the prison was doomed to fail, and that what befell Cycleis was His punishment for daring to be the universe that held His prison. And Strangle, and her world, was just another little variation on the punishments the dread Ghåålus is famed for. A highlight, for Nnal to enjoy as the aeons go by.”

“You could be right,” Çrom conceded. “Either way, she didn’t help me to understand a damn thing about my own condition. And seeing her wake up those two first mornings…” he shivered, trying to suppress the memory and succeeding only in sharpening it. “The hatred I felt, the envy – it was more than I could bear.”

“Seeing her wake up happy?” Lotus asked softly, her eyes understanding all.

Çrom  nodded. “If Polettemy Strangle is suffering a punishment for being foolish enough to treat with the dread Ghåålus, even in ignorance, that’s just fine with me. She’s doing what she wants with her world and when you’ve seen enough of that, you realise that even if she didn’t know just what she was unleashing, she probably wouldn’t have cared if she had. She knew what she wanted and she agreed to the price it would take to get it.

“And if she and her entire world are simply aspects of another of His innumerable hilarious torments, well,” he finished, “they’re better off than a lot of others.”

“And now we’re heading into a similar place,” Lotus said.

“What?”

She pointed at the floor. “Castle Void was home to the dread Ghåålus’ prison for a time,” she said, “after the Third Dominion. Before it was relocated. Yes?”

“I suppose,” Çrom said. “It’s not exactly as severe as Cycleis, but it’s bad enough in its own way. Whatever was left untouched by Nnal has been thoroughly corrupted by the Darking Church. Although that’s a bit of an oversimplification, since they built the place.”

The hopper carried them through the sky along traffic lanes that were sometimes crowded, sometimes deserted. They arrived at the Holy Forest Rift Question Station little over three hours later.

 


– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while sitting in the carpark.

Posted in Astro Tramp 400, IACM, Oræl Rides To War, The Book of Pinian | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interlude: Getting Political

Still Day 9.

Alright. So, it was a late night last night and an early morning, and I’m already a bit weary with this whole thing but I feel it’s my civic duty to use my modest platform and my far less modest words to talk about this.

Finland had a parliamentary election yesterday. These are pretty important, certainly more important than the presidential elections even if I still consider them little more than a good way of keeping a few hundred dangerously over-enthusiastic unemployed people off the streets.

It could have gone really badly. We have a far-right populist party of our own over here, which is pretty much what it sounds like. They’re anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, EU-sceptical and basically they’re giant worthless shits and I’m going on the record and saying #YesAllPerssut. If you carry the PerusSuomalainen flag, you are doing it because you’re racist. I don’t care if that doesn’t help. Nothing helps. And I don’t care if that drives undecideds into the Perssut’s arms. They wanted to go there anyway because they’re fucking racists.

So let’s make that clear. These guys were handing out keyrings made out of imitation bullets the day before the election, with the explanation, “these were used as a solution to immigration once before.”

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Hearsay from Greens candidate Niko Mikkonen, but I didn’t find any direct refutation. Only comments from Perssut saying “right on, finally someone with the courage to suggest a real [indeed, final?] solution.”

And these are the guys who could have won yesterday.

And they nearly, nearly did.

So how it rolled out in the end was that none of the parties involved got a decisive majority, and by that I mean it seems like none of them even topped 20% of the vote. Which is fine, it’s all good, it’s what multiple party democracy should look like. The two leaders right to the final count were the Social Democrats and the Perssut. And there was a one-seat margin in it, right down to the wire.

Long story short, our team won.

My politically savvy summary.

If the Perssut had won, they would have had to form a coalition party with the same old centre-right goombahs who are too gutless to do anything useful, and we would have had four more years of the same quiet erosion of public services and very vocal demonisation of foreigners and environmental protections.

Now … now I’m not sure what happens. I very sincerely hope the SDP don’t agree to form a government with the Hitler Lite / Trump Less-Orange party, and I also hope that they do form a coalition with the other big growers in the parliament – specifically the Greens and the Left Alliance. But who knows what they’ll do?

I would even be happy if they decided to bring the Greens and the Centre Party (Kesk.) into a new government. I know, Keskusta lost big here and it’s part of the reason all the seats-gained and votes-attained stats are out of whack, we’ll get to that. But the thing is, they got hammered because they’re the stodgy-arse establishment party that just stays the course and actually does stuff. Sometimes it’s not great stuff. But the problem is, as I have already seen pointed out in a few places, they took the fall for all the dumb shit their coalition fuck-buddies made happen.

The problem with a coalition made up of establishment centrists and centre-right and far-right populists is, when shit goes bad the establishment takes the hit, and the populists just keep populistin’. Because blaming someone else and claiming to be the real victim is basically their entire fucking handbook.

The Perssut didn’t take much of a hit, because they are rubber and everyone else is glue.

And now we get to the really fun part, which is how this seems to be getting handled in the media.

It should surprise precisely none of you who have seen my posts about the anti-Nazi protests and their coverage (300 Nazis march, 4,000 people march in opposition to Nazis, and the news reports that several hundred people marched to show unity between a number of different right-wing groups of diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds, while a counter-protest involving leftists, anarchists and students was held somewhere, involving a certain number of protesters, and I’m not even exaggerating this shit), that this is somehow a victory for the Perssut.

No, I don’t get it.

I didn’t have it in me to go through all the toxic and shameless non-journalism involved, but I did spend some time and effort on at least one of the semi-legitimate ones, in Helsingin Sanomat.

It’s all in Finnish but basically it says that SDP won by an extremely narrow margin against Kok and PS, and here’s what four experts had to say about what this historically close result means.

I want to point out the very framing of this article is set in the first paragraph:

SDP piti täpärästi kiinni ykkössijasta ja nousi eduskuntavaalien suurimmaksi puolueeksi. Perussuomalaiset kiri hurjalla vaalipäivän äänimäärällä toiselle sijalle.

Translation: SDP barely managed to achieve first place in terms of parliament seats. The Perssut, by encouraging a huge voter turnout, achieved second place.

See, right from the start, they’re hand-waving aside who actually won (with a huge gain in seats, by the way) and talking up the second place getters (with a tiny increase in seats, and an overall actual drop in votes, as I get into below). Which is … why? Why are they doing this?

I mean, it seems pretty obvious to me that they have an agenda that is not served by populists becoming less popular. Or by Socialist Democrats becoming more popular.

And their experts are all hand-picked to provide justification for this opening.

Jukka Manninen is a former Kokoomus chief of planning, and Kokoomus willingly sleep with Perssut so fuck his credentials.

His statement: Sdp:n tulos on sen historian toiseksi huonoin. Vihreillä ei tullut läpimurtoa. – basically he says that SDP’s result here is its second-worst in history (they still made huge fucking gains and fucking won, dickhead). And that the Greens didn’t get the breakthrough they wanted (looks pretty fucking good to me and I hope they become part of the coalition just to tip you on your arse). So yeah. Next.

Karina Jutila’s background seems more solid but she says that this result is the death knell of three parties, including SDP. Well not in the next four years. That smells off to me. But okay, let’s see if SDP manages to turn it around, their results could have been better and from what I hear they ran into some drawbacks in the final weeks of their campaign. So watch this space.

Kestilä-Kekkonen’s statement was meh. No kidding we’re getting more polarised and tribal in our voting. Doesn’t seem to be much we can do about that, when these are the flavours we’re being offered.

And Majander’s point about people protest-voting for the Perssut because of alienation by the left … no. Just no. Stop that already, it’s so 2016. If you’re somehow managing to be alienated by the fuzzy-wuzzies, who love and accept everything … no, you wanted to vote racist all along and this is your chance to attempt to justify it. Fuck you and your excuses and your whining. I’ve reflected on the pushing-them-into-the-Fascists’-arms phenomenon before, and of course it’s a significant issue. But I hope at this point anyone who was going to be triggered into voting white supremacist is already there and is starting to come to terms with it and be honest about their own ideologies and personalities, and we can stop worrying about it.

If you’re there, you’re there. Along with the rest of the precious patriotic snowflakes. Like I said, I’m a better Finn than all of you put together.

On the other hand, Majander is former SDP so there’s his agenda, if you want to look at it that way.

Which brings us to the facts. And the facts are, when you shake out the numbers, the SDP, Greens and Left Alliance all got a sizeable bump in terms of voters. The Keskusta party took a huge hit. And Kokoomus and the Perssut also took a hit. Not a huge one, certainly not as much as I would have liked, but their parliamentary seat gains were purely a reflection of that huge chunk cut out of Keskusta.

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They lost votes. They’ve lost popularity. And I don’t care if Hitler Lite / Trump Less-Orange got more votes as a single candidate. He is what he is and his followers are what they are. Racists, or racist sheep.

– Still in carpark.

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