Tim Boucher

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Encyclopedia

Shape Wars

Tantathawe

The name of Benda’s royal court on the Island of Ovarion.

Zalthyrmians

Zalthyrmians are a group of frequency beings whose nature and substance was traditionally said to be composed of living language. When alchemists of old spoke of the Language of the Birds or of the Green Language, they were speaking of the Zalthyrmians, who are said to flit across the skies and all dimensions speaking their words of physical wisdom, of actual undeniable truth.

As the sable golek, Machef, explains to the company in the Place Below:

“The blue lights are their language. Their language is their heritage, which they bequeathed to the Place Below, though their domain crossed many, many realms. Their heritage is tangible and visible at times, as in that cavity, or flitting about the tunnel. The words describe the place, and are written in the place. If you have eyes to see and ears to hear and heart to understand, you can read and speak the language. The language gives us light in the dark places. As we speak the language, so can we pass through the places bodily, but we beings must bring our bodies along too, for that is our nature. The Zalthyrmians, when they left, according to their nature, passed into their language as light. This was only after they had explored completely all worlds, and encoded in each place their findings and the peculiar beauties they had there partaken of as witnesses.”

“They say the Zalthyrmian tunnels, at times, go along the veins of the Great Vine itself, from whence each ensuing world as fruit is born.”

Quatrian legend says that when the Quatrians descended the Web of Matarax from the terror and turmoil of the Shape Wars, they rejoiced, stepping onto the new land out of the mists. And in their rejoicing, they burst out into song, a classic Triangulon air which made present in their minds all they had left behind and opened space in their hearts for all that might come, in the fullness of time. From far off, the Zalthyrmians are said to have heard their marvelous singing, and came to watch these new people, babies born into a newly budded world.

As the early ancient Quatrians developed their intricately beautiful culture and civilization, music was always at its core, even during the Ages prior to the ascendancy of the House of Song. It was woven into the fabric of life, and within short order, the Zalthyrmian watchers could not disguise their excitement and joy over the beauty of the Quatrian magico-musical lifestyle. And when the Quatrians held their grand open-air spectacles, the Zalthyrmians would fly down and flit about as living, dancing blue lights, merging and blending with the singing and spectacle of the performers, accenting and amplifying. The participants at the spectacle would see wondrous illuminated shapes and symbols in the sky to match the music and the mood, and the voices of the performers, so bedecked in Zalthyrmian glamour could be heard at great distances, across plains and forests, over mountains, and sometimes even over seas on clear starry nights.

Why Zalthyrmians at a certain point in Middle-Late Quatrian history came less and less frequently to accompany Quatrian musicians is not known, but was the subject of much political debate in Classic Quatrian society. Many blamed general malaise, cultural decadence, or lack of artistic inspiration or depth of passion in the current and preceding generations of musicians, and advocated for a return to classical Quatrian values. An anonymous renegade faction published birch bark manuscripts blaming the rigid hierarchical structure of the ruling Priesthood of the Hypergeum. The manuscripts used an esoteric system of runic writing, which they claimed was taught to them in their dreams by Zalthyrmians who had been exiled to those realms.

The manuscripts, most of which have been lost, outside of a few fragments are purported to have told allegorically the story of the First Hunter, who saw the First Deer in the First Forest from far off and chased after it tirelessly, day and night. We know and reconstruct much of this tale from other sources, including folktales and extant songs. It is said that such was the power, beauty and majesty of that animal, so enthralled was the hunter that he simply could not stop until he found it and understood it completely. The desire to possess it in turn possessed him. The hunter and the prey ran and ran, the whole world over, day, and night. Until finally first the deer was the one to falter, slipping on an icy rock in the deep frozen wastes of the world. The man caught up to it, leapt on it, and like a wild animal himself driven to rage, with his hands, he broke its neck. With his teeth, he ripped open its skin. And with his nails, he stripped off the animal’s hide. With his eyes he saw there on the inner face of the skin darkly colored spots and specks, lines and stripes. And with his mind, he perceived it and with his heart he comprehended it. It was the living runes, the writings of the Zalthyrmians, the tracings of truths, the wisdom encoded in matter, accessible to one and all, hidden only under the skins, and in the hearts of all things.

As this egalitarian mystical Romantic Quatrian and even semi-Anthuorian revivalism was considered a threat to the ruling powers during the House of Song, the sect was ruthlessly suppressed, and the birch groves wherein they grew their living manuscripts were burned, and the grounds ritually salted.

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