Friday, January 27, 2012

Cotery: Xenos

Above the immense, endless expanse of The Dream, surrounded by the painted jewel-like stars, sits the Abyss: dark, eternal, hungry, nothingness. Almost nothingness: suspended within that frame of darkness is the bright, strange, chromatic world of The Colour. The Colour is a surreal two-dimensional world, an epitome of "foreign", "exotic": every culture's memory of nature, origin, creation and destruction, renderd in bright, burning colour, always foreign and unfamiliar, filled with nature's strangest endeavours. The Veridian's endless forests and hunting beasts, the Cyan's eternal swirling deep, the Magenta's bright Savage Jungle. Almost nothing is known of this strange unfathomable world, or it's equally strange in habitants...

The Xenos are exactly that: foreign, strange, alien. Their ways are not the ways of The Parliament, let alone the Coteries. Their existence has been known for centuries, treated first as a threat, then a curiosity, and now a possible genuine ally. The more humanity explored, the more was added to the Dream. The stranger worlds met by humanity, the stranger The Dream became... and the more regularly the Xenos left their Colour to visit the Coteries' Dream. The left the Canaries as a peace offering: their ways are alien, savage, quizzical. They are exuberrant, understanding, pro-active, yet defensive. Whatever it is they are keeping from The Parliament.

And now, with the advent of the New Parliament, and the Kiwis' contact, they have been accepted into the Parliament.

- - -

In short, Xenos are the foreign birds, non-Western cultured strange societies from a strange two-dimensional colour world, within the Abyss. They have strange culture, purpose, & emotions. And they are many and varied.

Some Xenos are startlingly similar to the Coteries of The Paliament, only strange, different and changed. The Riverstates and Mourning Veil both have Oriental, expression-focussed counterparts within the Xenos; The Green bare resemblance to travelling Plainsmen, The Dirt to great stone cities hewn from cliffsides, and The Eye bare similarities to the devastating temple armies of the Hummingbirds.

Some Xenos are Explorers: powerful wrariors unaffiliated with a Tribe, sent by their bright Patron into the Dream to establish contact and support with The Coteries of The Parliament. The Canaries were the first, and have almost lost all their contact with The Colour, becoming purely members of The Dirt, but more recently a Kiwi established contact with The Green, and have found a place as ambassadors.

However, some Xenos are just impossible to comprehend in comparrisson to the Coteries. The Ocean-worshiping Penguins are closest to the "nest" structures seen within the Coteries, with their Little & Blue tribesmen, their Rockhopper excitement priests, the Albino barbarians, and the impossibly powerful and beloved Emperors, embodiments of The Cyan itself.

The exuberant Peafowl stand aside from their seemly closest relatives, the Chickens, with their luxurious, decadent lifestyles: one Maharahja Cock tended to by their many Hen Wives, entire Tribes made of a single family.

The Previously mentioned Hummingbirds operate a bizarre bonechilling army structure with thousands of Warriors ready to die in the name of their "Nectar" drinking High Priest, similar to Humanity's Aztec Cultures.

The Emus, Ostriches, Cassowaries, Kiwis & Bustards are the nomadic plainspeople, great hunters, crafters and gatherers: powerful with insight and effort, but neglecting of home and civilization - the stylings and gifts of their fashionistas, the Flamingoes, more than make up for the lack of a roof over their head. Unlike those relatives of Doves & Pigeons who have learnt to live amongst the rocks and cliffsides, great hewn cities within stone, working with the resources of Stuff to create Ideas to rival the Mockingbirds, ancient cultures worshipping their god-like Immortal Queens, the Paradises.

But perhaps most striking of all are the hyper-intelligent Parrots: Scholars and collectors of language, Song & artistic writ, the Mackaws, the most intelligent and brightest of all ruling their intelligocracy with seeming benevolence.

- -
The biggest identifying mark of a Xenos is the pure colour: Xenos are bright and colourful creatures, unsubtle in their appearance. Playing a Xenos requires at least one colour represented as brightly as possible in both clothing and skin.

Playing Xenos is a little less straight forward than playing in a standard Cotery. Firstly, decide if you want to play on your own as an Explorer, an Ambassador or an Exodite.

  • Explorers are very powerful, and start with many Qualities and Songs, making them as powerful as both a Bishop or a Knight. However, they have duties to do in the name of their Patron: establishing contact with another Cotery allows further of that Xenos Winged to play in that Cotery (see Kiwis in Green), but partially strips them of many of their abilities. Disobeying their Patron could be worse though.
  • Ambassadors represent the Xenos to the Winged's Parliament. Their goal is to seek representation and influence within the Parliament. Ambassadors often start with a powerful Artefact to help them achieve this.
  • Exodites are loners breaking off on their own, investigating the big wide, mad dream. They have no group standing, and are not expected to create group ties. They start with a powerful artefact to help them (Like a weapon, or pet, or transport) 
Bring a Xenos concept to a GM, and Qualities and Songs will be decided and discussed.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Three Fictions Added:

The Circle & The Stork

The Circle & The Stork
By Michael Evans

Ishmael ascended his fourteenth marble staircase of the day. This, he thought, was getting ridiculous. His frustration effervesced from him as he pulled himself up along the oaken banister, before being dispersed by a light breeze of satisfaction blowing down the stairway. The palace was very protective of its reputation. Ishmael had snorted derisively at the opulence of the first staircase he encountered; silver leaf all over the banisters and a deep blue carpet embroidered with abstract depictions of famous storied romances from across the River-States. Since then, the palace had been presenting him with increasingly more grandiose, not to mention taller, sets of stairs to climb. The last one literally had diamond-encrusted steps, clearly a pointed remark upon Ishmael's outrageous bare-footedness.

Ignoring the pain and trying very hard to concentrate upon his destination, Ishmael continued to climb. The palace was very tall, but not as tall as it thought it was, which was what really counted here. Being constructed from raw desire in the Dreaming, it was a creature of whim and caprice, always insisting upon positive attention. It didn't have any fixed topology and, whenever anyone within was travelling from room to room, it would invent a route of a believable length with a few interesting features on it, before presenting the traveller with wherever they had been trying to reach. It enjoyed including upward climbs, just to give the impression that ones destination was a place of great importance, and to generally add to the gravity of the situation. It would also occasionally do this to get back at raggedy storks that had irritated its sensibilities. Ishmael thought that, by focusing very hard upon his desire to finish his journey, and perhaps whistling a tune about it as he climbed, he could make the place conform to his wishes.

At the fifteenth staircase, he tossed a black scarf of pure resignation across his shoulder, giving up the battle of wills entirely.

Satisfied with its victory, the palace erected exquisitely engraved, jewel-studded, solid silver doors before him, an ostentatious prize for his efforts. The stork raised a single, thick black eyebrow.

“You're trying a little too hard now, you know?”

Ishmael nearly tripped over a final step up to the doors, which he swore he hadn't noticed before. Scowling, he put a hand to the handle before him.

“Excuse me, sir!”

Ishmael snapped his head around to face the speaker. A short, white-feathered duck in a very expensive-looking black suit waddled towards him in a stately fashion. Ishmael noticed threads of distilled emotion woven into his jacket, which presumably accounted for the sombre and official feeling radiating from the bird.

A very specific sort of desire, Ishmael thought. The desire to have ones authority recognised, and taken seriously.

“Sir!” the duck called again. “Ishmael Carrick?” The stork turned around fully.

“Yes, that's me,” he answered, before adding. “Who are you?” Leaving a moment for an appropriately shocked silence, the duck responded.

“Now really, this really isn't the season for that sort of attitude you know!” Pushing against the urge in his mind to defer to the duck, Ishmael spoke again.

“I was invited here by your lady, personally and by name. You can either choose to treat me appropriately as a guest of honour in this palace, or you may watch me leave and explain to your lady how your ill manners were to blame.”

The wide grin the duck gave in response was far from heartfelt.

“Of course sir,” he responded with ironic obsequiousness. “Her highness will see...” The duck sniffed the air, casting his eyes suddenly over the stork's eclectic apparel, before alighting them upon his scarf. “Where did you get that... garment sir?” Following his gaze, Ishmael took a hold of one end of the scarf and explained.

“It's a corvid thing; a strand of despair. Fell off the back of one of their ridiculous black coaches. I find it... suitable for certain situations.”

“Well it's certainly not suitable for meeting her highness!” the duck declared, seeming happy to have something to be properly cross about. The stork merely nodded, and folded the scarf away into one of his various pockets. The duck coughed conspicuously, then went on from where he had left off previously. “Her highness will see you now.”

“Right,” Ishmael turned and pushed at the doors. Despite their apparently metallic nature, they swung open with little effort and the stork soon found himself gazing into the royal chamber.

Light fell abundantly from the high-vaulted, transparent glass ceiling, as did strings of pearls which dangled from the roof to almost touch the polished marble floor. Drapes of fine, light blue silk hung between the strings, softly rippled by gentle gusts of wind with no obvious source, all arranged such that no side of the room was visible from any other. Moving through the pattern of illumination and shade created by this furnishing, Ishmael breathed in deep to announce his presence, before being cut off.

“Good day Mister Carrick.”

The voice chased a shiver though all of Ishmael's hollow bones. It seemed to emanate from the walls, resonating through the very essence of the room itself to reach him. It spoke with all the authority of the chamber, and yet its beauty was undeniable.

“I am very pleased you that decided to come,” the speaker continued. “This matter is of the utmost gravity, and I trust only your counsel.”

Each consonant had a solidity and a potency all of its own, each vowel was effortlessly lyrical. Ishmael had no will to resist her.

“It was no decision at all, my Lady. You ask, I come.”

A breeze flew all around the chamber as Ishmael pushed aside another veil, trying to reach the throne. He could feel her smiling at his comment, the rippling silk smiling with her.

“As much pleasure as I take in your flattery Mister Carrick, there is too little time for it now. We shall, therefore, make a presumption of your deference and speak straightforwardly of this business.” Ishmael gave a low nod, even though he didn't think the Queen could see him.

“Of course, why have you brought me here?”

A brief pause followed, the air stopped blowing and the silk was stilled. The Queen responded, her words suddenly overflowing with tragedy.

“Gabriel is dead!”

The echoes from the walls sounded like a thousand whispers repeating the news, as though each figure in each mural was informing its neighbour. Waiting a moment for the clamour to die down Ishmael spoke hesitantly.

“And, um, who was he again?”

The air shuddered with the Queen's next intake of breath.

“He was my questing knight, my champion in foreign parts of the Dreaming. Always he would venture, always he would bring back something for me.”

“Ah, yes,” said Ishmael, remembering, and awkwardly continuing. “The crane. You have my condolences, Lady.”

“Thank you, Mister Carrick,” the Queen released a little of a grief from her voice, letting it disperse across the room. “He was brought here this morning, just having bled all he could from wounds sustained on his last journey. He spoke no words, but his passing has left me with a number of... important questions.”

“I thought it wasn't the season for that, my Lady.”

“It is not justice that I seek,” the Queen continued. “He always would bring something back for me, and his last journey was no exception. It has given me a desire for something far greater than simple retribution.”

“What did he bring you?” As Ishmael asked this question, a sheet of paper fluttered down from behind a silk curtain, landing in his left hand. Upon it was a drawing of a simple geometric shape.

“A... circle m'lady?”

“Not a mere circle Mister Carrick,” the Queen corrected as she ever did; benevolently, but with no doubt as to the correctness of her antithesis. “A perfect circle. It is not a shape, you see, but a symbol.”

“A symbol of what my Lady?” As Ishmael asked this question, he pushed aside another veil. Suddenly, he found himself gazing upon the form of the Queen; Argenta the swan, both familiar and marvellous. Her feet and lower legs were encased in tall-heeled boots of crushed glass, wrapped in intricately patterned threads of silver lace. Her skirt was silken and purest white, and her thick, feathered robe extended a metre or so on either side of her, falling across the wide marble eyrie of a throne upon which she sat. She wore a corset wrought of silver, covered in flowing patterns modelled from the gentle ripples of intention that travel across the River of Consciousness, the whole thing a monument to her patron. Her long white hair was draped over her shoulders, and she had obscured her face with a large fan of black feathers.

“It is not my wish that you look upon me!” she yelled savagely, and her admonishment echoed mercilessly through the chamber. Ishmael hurriedly replaced the veil and stepped backwards, lowering his eyes.

“I'm very sorry m'lady!” he pleaded. He waited for a few, silent seconds, relieved to hear no more shouting, before continuing hesitantly. “What, my Lady, what does the symbol mean?” A few more seconds passed. The answer the Queen gave was cold and simple.

“It is one of the Forms.”

“What?” Ishmael uttered, disbelieving. “The Forms? The perfect versions of all ideas?”

“Yes Mister Carrick, those Forms. The ones which can grant any who possesses them absolute power over the world of the Dreaming. Gabriel the wanderer sought a legendary thing, and a legend it shall make of him. He found that elusive place in the Dreaming where the Forms are kept. Think of it, no longer would we be forced to compete with the remainder of the City-States. No longer would we have to negotiate with the Parliament upon the fate of dreams. All things of concept, of meaning and of imagination would be my possessions Mister Carrick, mine and no-one else's. You understand now why I desire this?”

The stork blinked. He certainly did understand.

“And you got all of this from a picture of a circle, my Lady?” he hardly dared to question her, but felt he needed to be certain about the idea, before it swept them both away.

“Gabriel was ever cryptic, but I always could understand his meaning. I am not mistaken.”

“Fair enough my Lady,” Ishmael blinked, allowing himself a moment for the idea to settle in, to feel the possibilities writhe beneath his feathers, to the taste of his desire for the Forms on his tongue.

“I can tell easily how much you want to be a part of this Mister Carrick, and it is most fortunate for you that I happen to need your services. Only the storks know the River well enough to be able to trace his passage back to where he found these... treasures, and the only stork I trust is you.”

“I think it is you who is flattering me now, m'lady, I steal and cheat and rip off a good mark when I have to... or want to.”

“Naturally, but when it comes to me, I have no doubts about your integrity, or your loyalties.” The Queen permitted a little warmth and familiarity to slip into her hypnotically superior tones. “What do you need Mister Carrick? I wish to commence our venture without delay.”

“Well,” Ishmael began, musing for a moment. “As well as a boat and a crew, seeing as I, well, lost my last one, I'll need to see the corpse...”


By Dan Osbaldeston


John Clare lay huddled on the floor, fighting the evidence that he was in a greenwood glade rather than in his cell in the asylum. If he was aware of the figures who stood over him, he was careful to show no sign for Dr. Prichard had made it plain that they didn’t like him to speak of such visions and dreams.

“He surely deserves better of us, Thorne”, mused King Locrinus. “He has always dreamed of the Forest and praised it in his poetry. Yet look at what we have made of him…”

“He is a poet whose lines will outlast the grey blight, my liege.”

“That, perhaps. But also a man driven to madness by the emotions we wring from him.”

Thorne shrugged as he drew forth despair, desire and nightmare, paying no attention to Clare’s moans and screams. “Poets belong to us, and those who write of nature all the more so. Inspired by the muse, touched by the divine or simply mad; theirs is an art we can harvest. I’ve been farming them for a long time.”

The poet faded from the forest glade to resume his hospital imprisonment, already forgotten by the two bird dreams as they continued their conversation.

“Yes. Still, I would prefer allies and heralds to slaves and cattle.”

“This way is more efficient.”

“’Efficient’? You speak like a factory owner, Thorne.”

Thorne stiffened with anger at the insult. “And you speak like a King who has lost his taste for battle”, he snapped in response; an easy thrust that he immediately regretted. He could have cut much deeper had he wished, but Pheasants should not be so lightly stirred to wrath.

Locrinus sighed heavily. “Perhaps I do. Perhaps I have.”

Thorne breathed again.

“I am old, Thorne. I have seen this land invaded time and again. I have seen invaders grow to love it in their turn and when in time a land became a nation, I have seen those people make war against each other. I’ll never deny the glory of battle, but I begin to question the wisdom of it.”

“How so?” Thorne kept himself to two words, but his mind chattered on. Yes. You are old. Tell me your doubts and your weaknesses, for there are others who might claim the Greenwood Crown and sit the Oak Throne…

“Haven’t you noticed? Great forests slain to build ships, good land given over to factories to manufacture cannons and rifles. That’s how they fight wars these days. There was a time when striking a blow put you within arm’s reach of your own death, but now? A peon can kill an admiral with a lucky shot from a hundred yards away and they’ll call it fate. Kismet.”

Thorne looked sidelong at his King. “You know that they’ll sing songs about Nelson for a hundred years or more? There’s a great wealth to be gained from such memories and songs. We could grow fat as geese on such.”

Locrinus nodded, toying with his torc. “But those songs will be about pride and battle, not about love for the land. They’ll be songs about making wars rather than the reasons for fighting them. They’ll be about Nation rather than Land.”

Thorne frowned, beginning to see Locrinus’ point and where it might lead, but not yet ready to abandon his hobby of tortured poets. “I’ve shaped poets for hundreds of years. Taillefer, de Ventadorn, Chaucer, Mallory, Spenser, all the others. Have we not profited?”

Locrinus smiled. “I don’t deny it, for we have feasted on the emotion you’ve milked from your poets and from every dreamer who has heard their words. But now I’m asking you for something more. Thorne, this is my charge to you - shape me a poet whose lines will inspire an awe of nature; whose poems will make people love the Land at least as much as the Nation. I want verses that will inspire people to look at lakes, at hills, at forests, at flowers and value them as highly as their own kin, as highly as their own king. Make me a bard who lauds the Green and turns phrases so well that love of the Land will take root in every soul. Make me a poet who knows what every word is worth.”

Thorne paused, weighing the effort he was being asked to expend versus the likely result and the level of personal satisfaction he might gain, and the likely result of refusing. Eventually, he bowed before the pheasant. “As you command, my liege.” He hesitated for a moment longer before adding, daringly, “It’s not going to stop humans using guns, you know. The ‘Glorious Twelfth’ will come around every year and the slaughter will continue. This won’t bring the Bustards back.”

For a few dangerous seconds Locrinus went very still, his knuckles white around his spear. Mastering his wrath, he managed to answer calmly. “No. But now we have the Capercaillie in their place. Woe betide the Coterie who I learn was responsible…”

Swan In Snow

Swan in Snow
By Claire Bowden

The sound of singing reached her. It was all that reached her. Ah, if only that were true.
The aching hearts that poured their desperate cries into the river ... even with her own mighty powers they were never truly quiet.

It was snowing. She walked through the snow. It was snowing because it should snow. Out there were winter festivals, and how were the people to celebrate living through winter if a proper winter didn’t come? The poetic snow of How It Should Be fell softly and delicately upon the soft and delicate, and the indelicate members of the cotery made themselves scarce. She was thinking.

A beautiful voice swirled with the snow flakes; This journey, this ancient journey... she knew what it sang of ... to winding roads ... felt it ... and walls of stone ... in every vane and barb and deep into the centre of her. It goes on, it goes on so long...

She knew snow should be cold, but she chose not to feel it. She wondered when she had last let herself feel anything. When had she last laughed? Things had been different, when she’d been found. Just another grubby duck eking out a living. The joy, oh the bliss and ecstasy as they had folded her prized velvet waistcoat away and asked her to describe what she would wear now. The turning over of fabrics and the examining of jewels. The admirers, old and new, come to sing and show and do...

And will we never be free, of this melancholy?

She did not cry. But now there was routine in their devotion, sycophancy in their verse. Or perhaps it was in her head. Love me! Love me! she heard every day from directions as myriad as the melting diamonds that settled on her plumage, but it was always tinged with doubt. Storks and Cranes had shown her the purest love but it always had to be polished after a few months. No one, not even the most skilled had learned how to preserve that beautiful, glittering moment indefinitely.

A body and a land that is no nearer... what had she achieved? A great many things. What did she have to show? She could not now think. Wild horses will race on... the dream will go so ... what is there to pull them? ... on and on. Relentless.

She sighed. She let go. There was joy, bliss, ecstasy waiting for a cygnet who had waited long enough. She let herself drop from the frosted balcony at the end of the walk, plummeting towards peace, and felt something at last.