What you’re about to read requires some explanation.
You may notice that the highest tiers of my Patreon mention a game on which I have been working, a fantasy-mystery-adventure called The Cropshire Pageant of the Incandescent Ascension, inspired by the work of Gene Wolfe, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Thomas Pynchon. If my Patreon ever gets me super bucks, I’ll take the time to develop this game fully: it requires a lot of stuff and might be likened to an interactive novel, rather than the relatively short nature of my previous games. In the meantime, I tinker on it, write some scenes, and so on.
One reason the game requires so much writing is that parts of it simulate the absolutely stunning and wonderful process of archival research, meaning I’m stocking a library of worldbuilding reading material a la The Elder Scrolls. Below, then, are two in-universe “books” from the world of The Cropshire Pageant of the Incandescent Ascension. They are very weird, because the fantasy world they take place in is very weird, but by placing these two stories together you may be able to get an idea of how, in some ways, this fantasy world is very similar to our own, somewhat similar to other fantasy worlds you may have experienced, and maybe also come to understand the ways in which it is profoundly different.
News from Cropshire on the Damnable Birth of a Cat, or the Forces of Chaos Evidenced
In the late season of the year XXXXX, there was one Jack Rollin, a third-born serving-man to a certain House which will not be here named in the town of Northbrooke in Cropshire, who by report of sundry gave birth to a most damnable and monstrous cat. Being brought before the Tribunal in that town he gave witness that unto him that in dreams for several nights had come some strange black beast, like in figure first to a bear, then the following night much like a dog, and the night after like a cat, and on the next very much like man, though furred like a bear from the first, and in all these dreams these creatures had of his body carnal knowledge. He wept and wailed most piteously for he knew in his heart that these visitations were a device of Chaos and the Silent Emperor, this last form of the beast being one of that latter Fiend’s preferred bodies as is said among people of the lower sort. His stomach, he said and some attested, had swelled for only one week, making him much afraid, for as a third-born he and his wife and were by their families matched unfruitfully.
Mistakes in the case of matching occur, might say the unbelieving reader, and especially among those who stations mean they are less attuned to the ways of the Maker and the mysteries of generation. Yet the Tribunal conferred and because he was suspected of collusion with the Dark and Chaos by reason of this execrable birth, Jack Rollin was imprisoned in the Northbrooke gaol for a fortnight while his hideous progeny was taken by one Tribune, Edward Harper, for further study. The reader may remember similar tales of such monstrous births, such as the whelping of a pack of wolves to a wife in Madenbrough, or the old tale of the Vhenish King whose first-born was an awful creature without a head and a mouth and eyes in its chest, or some such similar thing, and yet did not die but walked about for six years with its limning drawn on its breast, and they may be incredulous as to how such events could transpire. But let it be remembered that the Canticles warn of creeping Chaos which comes to us at all moments and threatens to make indistinct the clear lines built since the Fall of the Tower.
Nevertheless, the Tribune Edward Harper, being suspicious of the provenance of this cat, took to a study of it to determine its nature. He found on his own another cat, from the streets of Northbrooke, and he keeping this cat and the other in wicker traps set to his investigation. The cat of the street was tawny in color and the cat born of Jack Rollin black, but in all other physical aspects they were quite similar, with the same pointed ears and six legs, though Rollin’s cat was a good deal smaller, being more newly born. Remarkable though were the eyes of this latter beast, which were a deep azure unlike the type normally seen in cats of any sort, and without the mark of seeing as present in the eyes of the other cat, whose eyes were the accustomed yellow or orange with a band of black in the center.
In dissecting the beasts Harper found them in all manner similar, with the same organs in the same configurations. Upon burning parts of the creatures however, Tribune Harper noted the cat from the street emitted a most noisome odor while the cat Rollin birthed was sweet like a perfume. This strangeness was noted by Harper, who then boiled the carcasses in separate pots and found they both emerged again in all respects similar with no difference in the manner of having boiled.
During this time Jack Rollin, being in prison, was put to question about his allegiance with Chaos and the Silent Emperor, but expressed only the most confusion and repentance, insisting he knew not why the strange visitations had come to him night and again of the evening nor why he birthed a cat. However, it is recorded in many learned ancient authors such as Marstain and Koja that the generation between men and beasts is possible, and indeed, the very Canticles themselves record such a scourge visited upon the Tribe of Agambus during the greater reign of Chaos (Gar. 3:12-21), and it is said the Envoi itself was a union of man and beast of a most terrible character. Chaos being formless takes all forms, and the Silent Emperor uses this to sow discord among us. It is obvious that in the visitations upon Jack Rollin the Silent Emperor took a variety of forms to find what best suited the organs of generation and chanced to made good on its evil errand in the form of the cat on the third night.
Tribune Edward Harper, finding nothing more to consider about the marvelous cat, advised that Jack Rollin should be released from his bonds upon proper penance, which being done with a cropping of his ears of either side to show his past indiscretion, he was released from gaol and returned to his wife. The House for which he worked was loathe to accept him back due to scandal but we have it on good authority he has found occupation elsewhere.
And let it be evidenced to the reader that Chaos works in all ways upon us, and the passageways it takes into our hearts might well be hidden even from ourselves. For why should such a visitation be placed on a man who otherwise seemed so undeserving? First, let it not be thought there is no one undeserving! For we were born from Chaos with the Silent Emperor who dwells there still. In recording reports of this news we have found several times the mention of Jack Rollin’s relation as a cousin to the notorious brigand and rake Namuth Rollin who stood with the rebel and witch Rattling Anne in her Cropshire rising. And so it is evidenced that Chaos works upon not only ourselves but in our children, and our children’s children, should these latter be so unfortunate as to be born with a human shape. It is only through the mercy of the Maker and the knowledge of Him that we are to be saved, and only through adherence to His laws and orders may we find respite from Chaos and the Silent Emperor. Amen.
The Book of the Tower, from the Canticles, Translated by EMH from the Vhenish Original, for the Edification of the People, in the year XXXXX
1. In the beginning, in the time of the First World, Man had within him as he does now the desire for order which is the mark of the Maker.
2. In the land of Sinab there lived a king called Cansa, who lorded over many tribes with incredible might. And this king thought himself a holy man and so commenced the construction of a Great Tower in the city of Yingho. Many of the vassals to Cansa gladly joined in the construction of the Tower, and others were put to work.
3. “The Maker is in the Heavens,” decreed King Cansa, “and this Tower will be our monument to Him, our bridge to His light.”
4. Thus for many years the Tower of Yingho was built, higher and higher into the sky to reach the light of the Maker. For three hundred years the Tower was built, and in the three hundred and first year it was finished.
5. For three centuries the greatest kings and lowliest chieftains, the wisest of the priests, and the most learned of the scholars had debated what would happen when the Tower finally reached the Heavens and Man was allowed to meet the Maker. But the Maker, seeing his people approaching, grew angry at their hubris: for the order He had decreed meant that He and Man must always be separate, for otherwise if they stood side by side what was to discern the Maker from the Made?
6. Now it came to pass that a king, a chieftain, a priest, and a scholar each was chosen by lottery to be the first to scale to the top of the Tower of Yingho and be the first to answer the questions that had plagued all Men for so long.
7. And what they found at the top of the Tower was nothing.
8. There was nothing at the top of the Tower, no sign of the Maker, for in His rage and shame He fled beyond the reaches of the Tower to the far side of Old Night. And this was where the king, the chieftain, the priest, and the scholar all found themselves, enveloped on all sides by the Dark, without the sound of their Maker’s voice, and all order crumbled. This was how Chaos first came into the world.
9. The scholar pondered the Dark of Night and Chaos and he decided that the Maker must be sought through further study of creation.
10. The priest pondered the Dark of Night and Chaos and he decided that the Maker must be sought through prayer and meditation.
11. The chieftain pondered the Dark of Night and Chaos and he decided that the Maker must be sought through hard work.
12. The king pondered the Dark of Night and Chaos, and he decided nothing. He heard nothing. And in that silence, Chaos spoke to him, and ate away his heart, until there was nothing inside him as well.
13. The king descended from the Tower, but no longer did he speak. He brought with him the eternal quiet from the Old Night, and this was how the Silent Empire was made: The king returned often to the top of the tower to listen to the quiet of the Dark, and each time he built the Tower taller and taller, until its shadow spread across the land from one side to the other.
14. The Silent Emperor, as now he was, moved his throne to the top of the Tower, and he lorded all the dominions of Man and fields of the beasts. Thus began a time of Chaos, when Man was cast so far outside the order of the Maker that he lived in black and white, and land and sea, and male and female were not known among them.
15. The Maker saw this Chaos and fled even further from his Creation, even as the Tower grew ceaselessly out in search of Him. The people held in bondage by the Silent Emperor knew not what they did, however, for they had been told this was the way of truth and life.
16. The people lived like this for three hundred years.
17. In the three hundred and first year, the Maker took pity, and deigned only to punish the Silent Emperor and his closest adherents, and He reached forth to forge the silver Rim of Heaven to hold back the further rush of Old Night.
18. In forging the Rim of Heaven, the Maker also crushed the many towers the Silent Emperor had built. And now he is frozen in the center of Old Night and Chaos, where he will remain for all time.
19. The chieftains of the earth, who were strong of heart and loved the Maker, gave thanks for their salvation. But because they had spent so long in Chaos, where black was white and land and sea were one and none knew male or female, they were burdened with the knowledge of their sin.
20. And so the Maker spoke to them, breaking through the silence in which He trapped the Emperor, and he said: “Sin and Chaos are not eternal, only I am Eternal; you may come unto Me when the world has again achieved order as I first gave it.” And they were glad at hearing this.
21. And from this day forth the scholar studied order.
22. And from this day forth the priest contemplated order.
23. And from this day forth the chieftain worked to build order.
24. And from the ranks of the chieftains rose new kings, who knew the Order of the Maker and shunned the Chaos and Old Night of the Silent Emperor. And Man lived in white, not black; Man lived on land, not in sea; and Man knew male, who was born first, and female, who was born second. And so it is.
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