The Book

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Sidney Sime ~ It (1911)

When the sun and the moon still gave no warmth, and maneating giants still roamed the earth.

 

There is a book in Onei that contains all knowledge, including the knowledge of first things. If you are given access to the Book it can be a blessing or a curse.

 

I opened up the Book to find the place

That spoke of ancient things. My hands were cold,

My lips were purple. And the lamp was old –

 

It guttered angrily and cast off smoke

That stained my fingers black. I found the page

And what it said was this – “There was an age

 

In which the sun and moon, though dimly white,

Gave off no heat. Like lifeless rocks they hung

Above a world where primal darkness clung

 

And in that darkness, there were moving things

Like giant, hungry shadows. In the deep

That ancient chaos still remains asleep.”

 

– from the Book of Onei, Part II: The Lore of Onei

 

Image by Sidney Sime

 

Advertisements

Information Speed

Form is the Illusion is a book about Relationship Theory, an unusual system of metaphysics developed by the late David Douglas Thompson. Relationship Theory addresses questions of ontology and epistemology in a way that is likely to be of interest to pagans and occultists.

William_Blake_008

Δ Ƶ = Δ X / Δ Y

 

A relationship change equals a change in something per a change in something else, or an acceleration in information speed.

 

Some information sets are too large and complex for quick results. In this situation, success is relative – you aren’t necessarily hoping to transform the entire set instantly, but to introduce enough new information energy to set a process of change in motion.

 

A relationship change is always a change in one zed object per a change in another zed object. If you’re hoping to introduce change energy into a complex system, you need to have a clear understanding of which zed object you hope to change relative to which other zed object.

 

In ancient times, victims of theft would try to avenge themselves on whoever had stolen from them by inscribing a curse on a lead tablet and burying it in such a way as to gain the attention of the chthonic deities. If we describe this working with the formula Δ Ƶ = Δ X / Δ Y, delta zed is “vengeance,” delta X is divine punishment on the thief and delta Y is the anger of the gods. “Vengeance is obtained through divine punishment due to the wrath of the chthonic gods.”

 

The poem “Curse Tablet,” originally published by Gods and Radicals, was not actually inscribed on lead or buried with a dead man, but the poem refers to this symbolism to create connections in information space:

 

I write these words on sheets of lead

And leave them in a dead man’s hands

To bring them to the silent lands

 

Of root and water, and of rot.

I whisper them into the ear

Of one who can no longer hear.

 

I show them to the gaping eyes

Of one who lies beneath the leaves.

Oh gods of dread who punish thieves,

 

Leave off all lesser punishments and hear!

The thieves who rule the world have gorged

On others’ bread and meat. They’ve forged

 

New manacles to bind the wrists

Of any who resist. They kill

Whoever will not do their will.

 

Oh gods who dwell beneath the earth,

Arise tonight and hunt for prey

More worthy of your power. Slay

 

The kings of thieves, the lords of men,

And not the poor who steal their bread.

I write this curse on sheets of lead

 

And leave them in a dead man’s hands.

I whisper them into the ear

Of those who sleep, but always hear.

 

I show them to the empty eyes

Of those who lie beneath the leaves,

Oh gods of dread who punish thieves!

 

The poem aims to create two different types of change simultaneously, both of which can be described using the formula Δ Ƶ = Δ X / Δ Y:

 

1- Justice is obtained by drawing the attention of the gods who punish thieves away from the powerless and toward the powerful.

 

2- The capitalist system is weakened by strengthening the resolve of those who oppose it and perhaps raising questions in the minds of other readers as well.

 

The poem calls on the gods using mythopoetic symbolism (the sixth bell). It presents an argument about the relative blameworthiness of different types of theft, an argument intended for the reader as much as the deities (the fifth bell). It uses formal meter and rhyme for aesthetic effect (the fourth bell). It appeals to an explicitly radical and pagan belief system to trigger a response in those of a similar ideological bent (the third bell). As people read the poem and share it, it affects their participation in anti-capitalist politics (the second bell). The physical act of typing the poem up and publishing it makes all this possible (the first bell) – and this, rather than “art for art’s sake,” is why the poem was published in the first place.

 

The more people read the poem and share it, the more information energy it generates. You can expect only so much from a single poem, but what if that poem is only one tiny piece of a much larger cultural and artistic movement? Now we’re talking about metapolitics:

 

“A way of expressing and enacting political goals through cultural, spiritual, and societal change, rather than overt politics… metapolitics is founded upon the idea that political change cannot occur until a culture is first created which lays the groundwork for political power.” (Gods and Radicals)

 

As my father pointed out in “Notes on Relationships,” a “change in something per a change in something else” would be graphed as a slope. A slope describes an acceleration. This type of magic enhances change, by increasing the information speed of certain ideas, making a small but meaningful contribution to a much larger project of transformation.

 

Image by William Blake

Sorrow of the Gorge

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

1280px-Eugen_Bracht_-_Das_Gestade_der_Vergessenheit_(1889)

A shock of light above the gorge,

One moment of the sun.

The cliffs are like a closing mouth

Of frozen rock, and north and south

The frigid waters run.

 

I pause and glance ahead. The path

Is vertical and thin.

An ancient, rusted chain is here,

I wrap it round my hand in fear.

It bites into my skin.

 

The roots and boulders, tangled thick

As fingers intertwined,

Jut out as sharp as broken bones.

I cross a heap of ancient stones

And pour out half my wine.

 

“Come out and taste the wine,” I call,

“Come out and drink your fill.”

The wind comes roaring through the trees

And something in me dimly sees

The spirits of the hill.

 

I light an incense-stick and bow.

“I know it’s cold up here.

The world has changed, and we have come

To hate the things we started from,

The magic and the fear.

 

“The face of death is hid behind

This horror we have made.

But fools prefer what’s clear and bright.

They turn their backs on every sight

Of mingled light and shade.

 

“Still, there are things we owe the ghosts.

And some do not forget.”

A mournful bird came floating by.

The mountain ghosts did not reply.

They haven’t answered yet.

 

– from the Book of Onei, Part II: The Lore of Onei

 

Image by Eugen Bracht

The Three Relationships

Form is the Illusion is a book about Relationship Theory, an unusual system of metaphysics developed by the late David Douglas Thompson. Relationship Theory addresses questions of ontology and epistemology in a way that is likely to be of interest to pagans and occultists.

Evelyn de Morgan (1855-1919), The Kingdom of Heaven Suffereth Violence

Α (Ø, 1,2, …) Ƶ Β (Ø, 1,2, …)

 

Α Ƶ Β (Ø, 1,2, …)

 

A Ƶ Β

 

Any set of objects will have all possible individual relationships with another set of objects as well as set to individual relationships and a hierarchical relationship to relationship set.

 

I was at a New Year’s Eve celebration in 1992, featuring a symbolic battle between two huge dragon puppets on a stage in a public square. One dragon represented the old year and the other dragon the new year. My ears were burning with the cold, but the crowd was big and getting bigger. The air seemed to buzz with a dark energy, as the drummers played an aggressive beat and the dragon puppets danced around each other menacingly.

 

The performers didn’t know it, but some of the people in the crowd belonged to a street gang active in the hardcore punk scene. Not everyone liked them, naturally – and some of the other people in the crowd could be considered their enemies.

 

As the drumbeat continued, an announcer wearing a carnival mask came up front on stilts, and started trying to incite the crowd. “Ladies and gentlemen, who will win the battle? The old year or the new year?”

 

The crowd roared in anticipation, feeding on the energy of the drums and the dancing dragons, the appeal to primal instincts. A ripple of energy seemed to pass through us from the stage, affecting the young men most of all. There was a shove here, a bump there.

 

The dragons fought, a choreographed display of ritual violence between the light and the darkness. The dragon of the new year won the battle and drove the old year from the stage, and the man in the mask called on us to cheer our victorious champion. Hundreds of voices yelled out together, and clusters of young men began to gather and face off with each other along the edges of the square.

 

As the crowd dispersed, fighting between the two groups of young punks and skinheads spread rapidly along a front stretching from the square to a nearby movie theater. A gang fight doesn’t look much like a Hollywood battle. There are no clearly-defined lines of fighters, only a constant turning and wheeling like a flock of birds.

 

Someone I knew got pulled down by several attackers, but he came up roaring and swinging punches from underneath them. Someone else pulled a screwdriver, and stabbed his opponent with it several times. (This was the only part of the whole incident that ever made it into the local newspaper, which presented it as a fight between two people when in reality there were about thirty.)

 

The police arrived from every direction, and most of the fighters scattered immediately. One of them decided to confront the cops instead, and walked toward them rapidly striking his chest and gesticulating. He got pepper-sprayed in the face, and the cops started hitting him as soon as he hit the ground.

 

I went to the same New Year’s Eve ritual for a number of years, and it always featured the same battle between dancing dragons, the same aggressive drumbeat. However, nothing remotely like that ever happened again. So why did it happen that time?

 

The performers had obviously studied the folklore of seasonal festivals, and were trying to create a similar magic. Although officially secular, it was in some sense a pagan event and intentionally so. On this one occasion, the magic created by the performance seems to have triggered an outbreak of violence, but on every other occasion it was just an innocent civic gathering.

 

According to the Three Relationships formula given at the start of this article, “Any set of objects will have all possible individual relationships with another set of objects as well as set to individual relationships and a hierarchical relationship to relationship set.”

 

This formula describes the different ways in which entities and sets of entities can relate to each other in information space. In this situation, there were two sets of people – the dragon dance performers and the crowd attending the event. Every year except one, the crowd consisted of a random mix of people – but this one time it included a number of rival gang members. If we examine what happened using the three relationships and the six bells, what we get is this:

 

1- Α (Ø, 1,2, …) Ƶ Β (Ø, 1,2, …) 

 

All the individual zed objects in set A interact with all the individual zed objects in set B. A performance is intended to affect the audience using a mix of techniques. In this case, the performers were using a physical performance of ritualized combat (the first bell) with carefully designed aesthetic elements (the fourth bell) to convey mythopoetic symbolism (the sixth bell). Every performer in the dragon dance was trying to create a certain atmosphere and emotional experience for every member of the audience.

 

2- Α Ƶ Β (Ø, 1,2, …)

 

Every individual zed object in set A interacts with set B as a whole. As an individual member of the crowd, I was emotionally affected by the ritual. I had a personal and subjective reaction to the ominous yet compelling energy created by the performance.

 

3- A Ƶ Β

 

Set A as a whole interacts with Set B as a whole. The third relationship is “hierarchical” in the sense that one object set gives some form of energy to the other object set. In this case, the performers gave an intentionally dark and aggressive energy to the crowd, without knowing that a number of people in the crowd were rival gang members. Every member of the crowd was affected by this energy, but in the case of the gang members it was like tossing a lit match into kindling soaked with lighter fluid. The result was a small riot.

 

The performers were basically playing with magic, and didn’t mean for things to turn out the way they did. When you’re designing a magic working, you always want to ask yourself what information set your magic will affect, and what type of energy you’re adding to that set.

 

Image by Evelyn de Morgan

A Journey to Onei (3)

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Andreas Achenbach, Norwegian Coast by Moonlight, 1848

“The Book of Onei is not The Book,” my father once said. I remember him still, walking beside me on that sunless beach – but was it before he had died, or after? “The Book of Onei is only a guide, a book of riddles that don’t always lead to any answers, a book of truths within lies. I have been to Onei many times, but I have never been to any of the cities or nations mentioned in the Book of Onei, nor have I seen their ruins, nor met their citizens. As far as I can tell they do not exist, and most likely they never existed – not even in Onei.”

 

“Then what is the Book of Onei?” I asked him. “Is it just a fraud?”
“The Book of Onei is both a key and a lock,” he said. His face was haunted, as if he always listened and always waited – perhaps for a footfall. “Those stories mean something, but I do not know what. The Book of Onei hints at something, but I am afraid to ask.”

 

“Perhaps all this darkness is just a means,” I said, and yet he would not hear me and would not answer.

 

“So what is The Book, then?” I asked him.

 

“It contains all knowledge, all knowledge on any topic. It contains the secrets of the Primal Darkness! It is the gift of the Veiled One, the most ancient of all the Powers in Onei.”

 

“Did she give it to you?”

 

“And why would she have done that? I snuck in to the library, the Great Library of Onei, and I stole what I wanted. I walked out with the Book of Onei in my coat pocket! What power would give me any aid or comfort?”

 

“Maybe that isn’t something she would even care about. We know nothing about her. Perhaps the Book of Onei means nothing to her. Perhaps she wanted you to have it. Perhaps if you had ever made use of it, she would have shown you The Book.”

 

Still he did not answer, would never answer. He only looked at the ocean, at the light that flickered across the dark waters, and recited a poem:

 

“I’m Prometheus,” he told me,

“I’m the traitor and the thief.

But his eyes were still defiant

Through his horror and his grief.

 

Then the eagle stuck its beak in

For the hundred millionth time,

And I watched in guilty wonder.

Was I worthy of his crime?

 

Have I used the gift he gave me?

Have I kept the embers warm?

Have I fed the god inside me

Striving daily to be born?”

 

And now here I stood, deep beyond the Borders of Onei, among the gorges and mountains. How far would I travel, how many mountains would I have to cross, until I discovered the secret? Was there even a secret to be uncovered, or only lies within lies?

 

I dug into my bag and found the Book of Onei, opened it up to a random page and read a poem about these mountains.

– notes found in the handwritten original of the Book of Onei

 

Image by Andreas Achenbach

The Bells of Delta Epsilon

Form is the Illusion is a book about Relationship Theory, an unusual system of metaphysics developed by the late David Douglas Thompson. Relationship Theory addresses questions of ontology and epistemology in a way that is likely to be of interest to pagans and occultists.

Henry Justice Ford

Ƶ + Δ Ɛ = Ƶ¹

 

If there is any change of energy in a system, the relationships will change.

 

Zed Magic is the art of changing relationships between objects in information space. If you want to change the relationship between two billiard balls, you hit one of them with a pool cue. If you want to change any relationship in existence, you must introduce new information energy.

 

Traditional forms of occultism already work with this concept. The idea of information space is built in, a starting assumption that is never fully articulated. Consider this description of sympathy and contagion from Frazer’s Golden Bough:

 

“If we analyze the principles of thought on which magic is based, they will probably be found to resolve themselves into two: first, that like produces like, or that an effect resembles its cause; and, second, that things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed. The former principle may be called the Law of Similarity, the latter the Law of Contact or Contagion. From the first of these principles, namely the Law of Similarity, the magician infers that he can produce any effect he desires merely by imitating it: from the second he infers that whatever he does to a material object will affect equally the person with whom the object was once in contact, whether it formed part of his body or not.”

 

Frazer’s work has a lot of issues, but this account of sympathy and contagion does accurately describe how a lot of magical practices work. Both of them assume the idea of information space. Two objects that are symbolically linked are close to each other in information space. Two objects that have once been in contact remain close in information space.

 

Magical workings are mythopoetic, relying on the occult or unseen power of mythic symbols and correspondences to affect changes in information space.

 

This is the implied logic of using symbolism and ritual in magical workings – for example, when a witch in seventeenth-century Scotland made a “picture” or clay doll of some laird in order to slowly roast it over the fire, she believed it would harm her oppressor because of the symbolic correspondence. Although she would not have used this terminology, the “picture” and the laird were close together in information space.

 

In all likelihood the target shared basically the same worldview as the witch, thus bringing them closer in information space whether he was aware that he was being targeted by witchcraft or not. If the laird held a skeptical materialist worldview, it would have pulled him away from the clay doll in information space. Not many people held a skeptical materialist worldview in seventeenth-century Scotland. Not many people believe whole-heartedly in the power of witchcraft in our society. Thus, any working based exclusively on a single mythopoetic worldview will have less leverage in information space and cannot be expected to work as well as it would in a society with only a single dominant worldview. Magic itself is no less powerful, but we need a different strategy to effectively access it.

 

The average person had access to fewer worldviews in the past, and magic gained power through total commitment to a single worldview – thus the traditional emphasis on unquestioning faith in the power of the charm. Zed Magic assumes the postmodern reality of multiple and often conflicting worldviews, and “rings the changes” on them by never operating through just one of them at a time.

 

If you want to introduce delta epsilon or “change energy” into any zed or relationship, you should ring the changes on the situation by combining as many different worldviews as possible in your approach.   If some forms of delta epsilon are more effective in a given situation than others, does that contradict “interactions are the reality; form is the illusion”? It may seem to be a contradiction, but it’s actually a confirmation of the principle. If I try to lift a heavy object and succeed, that is a successfully completed interaction – a reality. If I try and fail, it is the opposite. In our magical workings, the change we are looking for either happens or fails to happen. If it doesn’t happen, we didn’t succeed in completing the interaction so there is no reality to speak of. If it happens as planned, the specifics of how and why no longer matter. The interaction is the reality and the form is an illusion.

 

So if we need to ring the changes and apply as many different types of change energy as possible, it might be helpful to consider what types or modes of information energy are available to us. I can think of at least six. In reference to the concept of “ringing the changes,” I’m going to refer to them as “bells.” When you construct any magical working according to the principles of Zed Magic, you should try to ring as many of these bells as you can:

 

1- Physical

 

2- Political

 

3- Ideological

 

4- Aesthetic

 

5- Rational

 

6- Mythopoetic

 

Applying the six bells to the use of magic, remember this formula:

 

 

Ƶ + Δ Ɛ = Ƶ¹

 

If there is any change of energy in a system, the relationships will change.

 

The basic idea of any working is to add delta epsilon or “change energy” to an existing relationship, changing it into something new. If the relationship in question is a “zed cycle” or information loop, a repeating pattern incapable of changing on its own, then your working should break the loop and free those trapped by it.

 

Unfortunately, the Archons and ruling powers are already applying Zed Magic to create and maintain the information loops they benefit from. If you consider the current structure of our society, it becomes immediately obvious that mass media and popular culture are constantly and effectively ringing all six bells on behalf of the status quo.

 

The first bell is physical, the use of force. This can mean any sort of force at all – you need the first bell to build a house or a temple, to pick up a child or to push an object out of the way. However, physical forces can also be used to inflict violence – and it is never possible to rule other people without the threat of violence. In a military dictatorship, outright violence would be used to crush dissent. Representative democracies like the United States will try to avoid being seen to do so. However, the system uses military force almost constantly outside its borders, and relies on the violence of law enforcement to control its lower classes and maintain order within its borders.

 

The organs of the state, while theoretically democratic, are actually under the indirect control of corporate interests. This is political power – the second bell. Because this control is indirect and unacknowledged, people are encouraged to believe they can influence the system through constitutional means when in fact their political power is very limited.

 

A system based on nothing but political and physical power would be highly unstable. People must be made to believe in and support the system, even though it does not operate for their benefit but for the benefit of the ruling classes. Vast numbers of people are deeply convinced that “free market” capitalism equals Liberty itself and that even the most compromised forms of socialism are fundamentally immoral. This is the power of ideology, the third bell, constantly sounded by the news media and repeated from mouth to mouth by millions of people.

 

Ideology is very powerful, but it becomes much more powerful when it is attached to emotion. In movies and TV shows, video games and pop songs, the emotions that benefit the system are constantly evoked and encouraged – hedonistic consumption fueled by manufactured self-hatred, fear of the Other in various forms, sentimental idealization of the military. This is the power of aesthetics, the fourth bell.

 

The system is supported by the seemingly rational arguments of mainstream economists, presenting their opinions as neutral and incontrovertible facts and dismissing all opponents of capitalism as people who “don’t understand economics.” This is the power of reason, the fifth bell. (This doesn’t actually mean that the opinions in question are reasonable or even rational – only that they use reason to make their case. One could argue that a “science” based on limitless growth is irrational at its core.)

 

Finally, the system encourages adherence to certain forms of religion and spirituality – forms that encourage people to do whatever would benefit the ruling classes. The Protestant work ethic is an obvious example, but even non-mainstream forms of spirituality often serve the interests of the system. Some teach people the “Secret” of wealth while explaining why the poor are at fault for their own poverty. Others teach people how to reduce stress and be a better employee through “mindfulness.” Others teach people the “witchcraft” of entrepreneurial success. This is the mythopoetic power, the sixth bell.

 

The forces supporting the system are already using Zed Magic, and they are very good at it. In fact, the Left has been somewhat inept at this sort of thing in comparison to our antagonists. The Nazis, for instance, created a total package of social control based on an effective mix of aesthetics and ideology combined with the reckless use of physical force to seize and maintain political power. Everyone knows there was some interest in occultism within Nazi circles, but the formal practice of occultism was only one small part of their use of magic. The Nazi aesthetic captivated and hypnotized far more people than any ritual Himmler and his SS cronies ever performed.

 

Far too often, leftists become infatuated with the power of reason, a power with relatively little leverage in information space in many circumstances. Our antagonists are operating on multiple levels at the same time to make people really love and support a system that literally doesn’t care if they live or die. And what alternative do we offer them? Dense and abstract critical analysis phrased in a language you have to study for years to even understand. Leftist disdain for the irrational cedes power to the opposition.

 

All the more reason for us to get better at our magic, and to do it quickly. Magicians who rely on the mythopoetic alone have little leverage in information space. Activists who rely on the political alone cannot build up enough momentum in information space to overcome the tremendous inertia of the existing system. Intellectuals who rely on logical arguments to sway the masses might as well be trying to hold back the tide with their hands. Musicians who compose protest songs may succeed in creating aesthetic power, but never enough of it to overcome all of the aesthetic forces the other side can muster – a mindlessly patriotic war song has aesthetic power too.

 

If we try to win by ringing just one or two bells, we will never succeed. The enemy is already ringing all six of them, and has been doing so all along. We must become adept at ringing all six bells.

 

Luckily for us, we don’t have to win in one fell swoop. Remember, every change in any zed changes all the zeds:

 

An object, to all our intents and purposes, is totally defined by the “vector” sum of all its relationships. Thus, in any given system if even one Ƶ changes then all the objects are changed, i.e. become new. (Notes on Relationships; David Douglas Thompson)

 

With every small successful change, we create a change effect that ripples through the entire system, mutating every object it comes in contact with. The more effective we become at ringing the six bells of delta epsilon, the more we change the entire structure of our reality.

 

Image by Henry Justice Ford

When the Sons of the Crow Came Down on Onei

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Dark star a postcard by Vasily Alexandrovich Kotarbinski {c.1900}

When the Sons of the Crow came down on Onei, the terror of their first appearance was like the rising of a blood-red star. Their eyes were feral and vengeful and they were clothed in rags, black tatters like the wings of crows. Their fury lit first upon the City of Wisdom, which they destroyed completely in seven days. Men said that the Sons of the Crow were the fools of the wasteland, driven out from the City of Wisdom and returned now to take their vengeance, but none could say for certain. The Sons were like howling furies when they went into battle, and the wise could do nothing but die before them.

 

The Sons of the Crow were led by a prophet, a man who wore a long black crow’s mask to hide his face. The name of the prophet was Eyes Like Flowers, and the heads of huge sunflowers spilled out from the eye-holes in his black mask, so that none could tell how he could see.

 

There was a story about Eyes Like Flowers, but none could say if it was true or not. According to the story, the prophet was originally a common criminal, arrested for inciting a riot in the streets of the city. When the wise men of the city declared his death sentence, he only laughed strangely at them but would say nothing. They tied him to a stake and prepared the bonfire, and the man who would soon lead the Sons of the Crow began to sing. His voice was like the harsh screech of a cawing crow.

 

When my eyeballs bloom like flowers

And my hands go forth to war,

When the bell that tolls the hours

Cracks and falls and rings no more…

 

According to the legend, Eyes like Flowers became a prophet as he sang the song. Gigantic sunflower heads burst out through his eye sockets, and his eyeballs fell out just like little glass marbles. His hands burst into flame even though the city Headsman had not yet lit the match, and the bonds with which they had tied his wrists burned black and snapped off.

 

The clock on the great brass tower in the center of the city, a beautifully complicated mechanism of gears and dials, had just been ringing the hour of noon. As Eyes Like Flowers sang the words of his song, the bell in the clock-tower suddenly cracked, falling to the ground in an explosion of bricks and splintered wood.

 

Across the length of Onei, on the Blue-Green Ocean, a hot wind began to blow. The sun blazed like a malignant eye, and the drought began that destroyed the Pearl States. By the end of that decade, large sections of the Blue Green Ocean had been boiled away to desert, gleaming whitely like a plain of salt.

 

As Eyes Like Flowers sang his song, the Wise – who had been watching his intended execution from a nearby balcony – had their crimes laid bare before the people of Sophia, appearing as flickering images on the passing clouds. Qaran the Luminous, the great philosopher, was exposed as an embezzler of the city funds. Tendress the High Priestess was shown taking bribes from the wealthy to preach whatever they wanted her to preach. Setnel the Astronomer had stolen another man’s greatest discovery, then had his rival denounced as a fool and driven out into the wasteland.

 

It went on and on, and the people of the city were enraged by what they saw. The rioting that followed lasted for three days and four nights. Eyes Like Flowers disappeared, only to return at the head of his black-clad horde some ten years later. But all of this was only a legend, because no one outside the Sons of the Crow could say for certain, and the Sons of the Crow did not answer questions.

 

What is known is this. The prophet who was known as Eyes Like Flowers wore a crow mask with a long black beak, and long tattered robes that looked like crow’s wings. In the eye-openings of his mask, there were giant sunflowers. When the Sons of the Crow came out from the wasteland, he got up in front of them and sang this song:

 

And are we not of the sons of the crow,

Who worship a hidden creed?

Or those who seek but do not know,

And hear, but do not heed?

 

When they heard these words, his followers howled, and the frenzy of their bloodlust blotted out all other sounds. Man and woman, young and old, the Sons of the Crow held their spears on high, while their commanding officers held curved white scimitars. The Wise of Sophia sent out their army, but the army was massacred before the gates of the city. Those gates were barred, but the Sons of the Crow laid siege to the walls. The people of the back streets rose in rebellion, slaughtered the guards that held the gates, and threw them open to the Sons. They say the light from the flames could be seen in Qotar, but Qotar is more than two hundred miles away from what are now the ruins of the City of Wisdom.

 

That too is mere legend, but this is not: when the Sons of the Crow came down on Onei, the terror of their first appearance was like the rising of a blood-red star. From city to city and from land to land, the Sons of the Crow brought blood and fire. No one knew what they wanted and none could say what they believed, for their Prophet spoke only in riddles and poetry. To the High Priest of the Adoration in the Plain of Day, Eyes Like Flowers sang these words:

 

I climbed a staircase to the land of birds

And told them what I’d learned.

They didn’t care.

To birds, the world is made of clouds and air.

 

And then he inexplicably spared the Temple of Adoration from destruction by his horde, though the Temple of Wisdom was torn brick from brick and its priests impaled before the ruined walls.

 

Believing that the worship of Adoration must be favored somehow by the Sons of the Crow, thousands and thousands of people converted to that creed, and the whole land between what was once Sophia and what would someday be the Qalina became a stronghold of that faith. The Sons of the Crow did not always march, but disappeared into the deserts and the mountains for years at a time, reappearing to burn and kill. Yet when they did so, they showed no favor to any, burning the cities of the Adoring just as readily and as ruthlessly as any other.

 

When the fear of the Sons of the Crow had become too great to endure, and the fact that they favored no faith had become too obvious to ignore, a prophet arose from among the ranks of the Adoring. He was known as the Flagbearer, and he carried a flag before him into battle instead of any kind of weapon. All his followers did the same. The followers of the Flagbearer refused to fight, but only carried their flags ahead of them and stood before the Sons of the Crow. They died in their thousands, surrendering their own lives willingly as a shame and a rebuke. When the Flagbearer stood before Eyes Like Flowers, the mad prophet broke down and wept, singing these words as he fell to his knees:

 

We come to you with broken beaks

And wings like crippled birds.

It’s better not to even speak

Than lose the weight of words.

 

Then all of the Sons of the Crow dropped down to their knees, and their spears and their scimitars fell out of their hands. Their eyes were wet with sorrow and remorse, and the terror of their own damnation. But the Flagbearer replied with kindness:

 

On bended knee I sought the source

Of all that moves above,

And only when I knew remorse

Decided it was love.

 

The awful kindness of the Flagbearer shamed the Sons of the Crow so that they took their own lives, unable to live with the horror that they had made. And so the Flagbearer saved the lands that would become the Qalina, the Empire of the Adoration. Yet he was not to be honored, for the priests of the Adoration could never trust him. He had no blood on his hands, but the shame he inspired, the example of a thrilling and terrible love, had destroyed an entire army. And so they had him burned alive, and his followers scattered to the corners of the earth.

 

There were those who disapproved, but one old man who witnessed the execution nodded solemnly as the flames rose high. As he turned away from the pile of ashes, he was heard to say this:

 

He told me he could teach the art

The world was built upon.

And yet, within my secret heart,

I smiled when he was gone.

 

Image by Vasily Alexandrovich Kotarbinski