Sunday, November 4, 2012

NaNoWriMo - update 2

10,000-words and going strong. Hope I don't burn out, as i tend do, but the motivation is strong and the desire to actually finish something is there, for once, so I can see this going far. The only problem? 50k might be a bit of a conservative look at word count. ill likely have to reach at least 75k, if not close to 100k to fit in the arcing story that i have in mind. can I shorten it or omit arcs to accommodate the 50-60k word limit that NaNoWriMo imposes, or should I carry on as intended and then omit in rewrites as necessary? I tend to ramble and dump huge blocks of exposition (especially when aiming for a certain word-count, perhaps in an attempt at that most hated of foes... filler!).

Here's another excerpt. The prologue, which is the fruit of today's labour, clockign in at over 3,000 words. assuming a standard word-count of 350ish words per page, that means 10 pages of exposition-heavy text right off the bat in a book that's (using the same calculation) aiming for 145ish pages. too much? I fear so...

(again, excuse any typos. this is as raw as it gets, and hot off the presses,as they say)

It is said that complex events are sometimes set in motion by the simplest of actions. It was in the spring of 4005 RM that a lowly clerk, checking regional annexes that were required for a report, stumbled upon an old steel box, marked in faded writing; 'Treatise in the discovery of the Sabbaoth-tomb, and technarcane and alcehmical research into the results unearthed.'

The clerk, intrigued by the scrawl, examined the box. Flaking papers, the handwritten words on their surface written in an old dialect and bordered by crude illuminations - indicative of their old age. A few ancient maps accompanied the texts, their outlines barely recognisable against the advance in cartography that had come since their plotting. A general idea of the areas they represented could be made out, though the borders and regions depicted were alien to the clerks eyes. Another indication of their age.

The papers had passed on to the clerk's factotum, where they lingered for some time, before making their way to a the seventh administrator of the hall of records. There they remained, ignored and if fate intervened, the entire tale would never have unravelled. But alas, it seemed as though such things needed to come to light and what might have lain there, gathering dust was disturbed months later.

It was an acolyte of an inquisitor this time, a man eager to rise amongst the ranks of his fraternity, willing to turn any fact or discovery to his advantage. Before passing on the information to his master, he made sure to examine the documents, taking great pains to translate the texts, verify the maps, correlate the information with the empire's history. After weeks of research, the acolyte was able to date the texts to c. 1190 RM and pinpoint the region depicted on the maps to what in extant charts was known as the Expanse of Gyarht; even then a crumbling land-locked place of little strategic or cultural importance - a wasteland without resources that was ignored after early explorations in c. 1100 RM.

There was no record of what the acolyte came to refer to as the 'Sabbaothic texts', and no amount of searching through the records and annals of that era could reveal anything of importance. No record of the expedition itself was found, nor mention of the technarcanists - a nascent vocation at the time, employing crude methodologies that were antiquated by contemporary standards - involved in the foray. This was puzzling, as the historians and amanuensis of Korachan had always been comprehensive chroniclers and record-keepers. To omit what was clearly a large and important expedition during an age of discovery and exploration was puzzling.

The scribe, a pale-skinned boy from upper Khadon whose patriarchal lineage had held the post for centuries, probed deeper. The turn of the second millennium of the Imperial Calendar brought had with it a new age of stability, for a thousand years the Korachani empire had been growing explosively, aggressive territorial expansions taking it into contract with other regions and nations. Wars were common, with resources that could have been channelled elsewhere used instead for military purposes. The last few centuries of that first millennium brought with them for the first time a sense of stability - its borders had expanded greatly and reached an apex they would not surpass for many centuries. industries that had been tied up feeding the imperial war-machine relaxed, looking instead to needs within the empire's borders. In this new age, inventions and discoveries made to supply its wars were turned to domestic use. The millions of square-miles of subjugated territory were comprehensively explored, many for the first time, and such explorations often took parties well beyond the empire's borders, exploring the eerie lands abandoned following the great wars of ending millennia past. Great marvels were discovered in that time; monuments attributed to the Demiurges and the first mortal races, terrain warped and twisted by the Firmament and the Penumbra, and other things, perhaps better left undisturbed...

And so, in that age of discovery, were founded the great imperial colonies of Novatul, Hothath and Memehara. The settlement of each was something widely publicised and praised throughout imperial lands. That the expedition into Gyarht went undocumented (save, of course, for the contents of that metal box) was strange and intriguing.

The acolyte became obsessed, sifting thought artefacts and records that had lain undisturbed for centuries in the hall of records beneath the Bastion of Steel in Khadon. miles of corridors a hundred feet-high lined from top to bottom with shelves stuffed with scrolls, stelae, tablets, cylinders, codices, treatises, records and Throne-alone knew what else. 

Nothing. Civil uprisings two-thousand years old involving three disgruntled peasants were recorded in detail. Administrative appointments with full hierarchies, dates, annotations and impressions were meticulously recorded. But nothing on that expedition to Gyarht.

The box itself contained mostly prosaic notes; expedition logistics, equipment lists, provision quantities and various statistics of little worth to a researcher so far removed from the events. Maps charted routes across the waters of the Ugoloth or the passes across the Cammorean mountains, though they ended in an unassuming mark in the southern foothills of the range, marked simply as Sabbaoth. And there, the trail ended.

It was only weeks later, when his interest began to wane and a logistician attached to his masters' entourage came across the box that more of the story was revealed. The art of the alchaemist was an ancient one and had led to many discoveries. The appearance of the first true technarcane processes in the mid first millennium RM saw the two vocations grow close to one another, leading to the creation of the first haemonculi - blood-servants artificially created through coagulated blood, umbra and host organs, cultivated together in the first ever birthing-vats. These first examples were truly grotesques, prone to disease and deformities, living short tortured lives.

But it proved that man could create life. The first true carnatects, hepatects and vivitects appeared following that fumbling victory and over the years they continued perfecting the techniques involved, a dedication that in 827 RM led to the first stable breed of haemonculus. It was that breakthrough that would, over the next centuries, lead to the growth of the colony of Memehara, which became invaluable to Korachan. In 1204 RM, the first Steel Legionnaires were created In a fleshmill there.

Memehara was one of the imperial colonies founded during the age of exploration, in c. 1050 RM, in what was then a coastal plain. Now, following millennia of decay and the slow death of the natural world and the wasting of her waters, it was a ruin over twenty-miles form the coast, engulfed by the sands of the Andiluthan shelf. The ruin was less than two-hundred-miles form Sabbaoth. 

A lone passage, written in a hand different to that of the main text on vellum of inferior quality, proffered further insights. It was written in a Parthish script that took a degree of translating, but it was legible:

"...the etheri salves have managed to move the earth from above the tomb, an accomplishment worthy of praise, given the heavy stratification (illegible) region. The tomb itself is fashioned from a soapy rock of unidentified nature. though soft and almost moist to the touch, it has survived the decay of ages remarkably well and is a credit to the ancient mortals who crafted it. (missing text) furlongs in length; a remarkable structure. Cuneiform text along the single massive lintel cannot be deciphered though is clearly ancient, the crude lines and simplistic strokes possibly belonging to the virgin tongue of the first mortals. Charcoal rubbings have been made and are attached.

Weeks of struggling with the immense stone slab acting as a door came to fruition yesterday, where it was lodged aside, revealing a noisome black sand that poured out. Almost immediately on contact with air it seemed to lose al moisture and turned white. Following further excavation and removal of that strange ash, an intricate carving was discovered on the inside of the door-slab. In have made crude diagrams of the carving and believe to be a chart or table of sorts, perhaps a star-map or calendar. At its simplest, it is a series of concentric circles, each divided into six slices. A large unique sigil appears to name each of the slices, with further cuneiform text (similar to that on the lintel) and pictograms in the concentric smaller slices. A larger circle envelops the others with a single unique sigil above it, incorporating elements of the others. Strangely, though the other gigils and scripts were unrecognised, that one was familiar to the etheri nomads, who claimed to have seen various ancient monuments and half-buried collossi around their ancestral lands bearing that sigil:

Sabbaoth"

That was it. None of the diagrams or drawings mentioned had survived. When the acolyte tried searching for records on Memehara, he found little that he didn't already know. Its founding and growth as a supplier of raw materials to the empire's northern territories. The spread of flesh industries there and their maturation into something viable. And the creation of the first Steel Legions there. The last reference to the place the acolyte could find was in the late 12th century RM, that suggested the place had lost its industries to other more central regions and that its influence had dwindled so much that it was considered a ghost town by the dawn of the 13th century. 

That was when the Lord-Inquisitor had discovered the box and his meticulous research and dismissed him, ending a proud family history. What happened after that, the acolyte would never know. Within weeks of his dismissal he was homeless, disowned by his family, destitute. 

*** 

They were gathered in one of countless presbyteries of the Steel Bastion. An ancient room, the plaque above the solitary door leading into it green from age, its words illegible, this was one of many meeting rooms built into the design of the original structure, millennia past.

Like most other municipal structures in Khadon, capital of the High-empire of Korachan, the place was musty and oppressive. Separated from the world without by dozens (if not hundreds) of rooms in all directions, the air their was dank and lifeless. The sound of coughing peppered the air as patricians and potentates shifted uneasily in their chairs. No windows could exist in such a place and the corroded pipes that had once served to aid in the circulation of air, were little more than remnants form a past age.

Above, harsh artificial light hummed, casting its loathsome yellow light onto the amphitheatre-shaped room below. An ancient mural circled the room, interrupted only by rivet-encrusted beams of wrought iron and the door, was faded beyond recognition; with portraits and scenes reduced to darkened figures and gloomy patches, all colour sapped from them years ago. the scene was rendered all the worse for the dim lights above.

About a dozen figures, mostly male, sat in the room, waiting impatiently. Clad in the decadence that only a high station could afford, they were clearly men of importance. For a while they had been seated there, arguing the matters of the day, awaiting the arrival of the Grand Consulite, second-in-command to the reclusive Archpotentate of Korachan. Most, however, sat nervously, the revelation of what was afoot weighing heavily on their minds.

If the Lord-inquisitors' fears proved to be in any way true... well, things in Korachan were bad enough at it was. All it needed was this discovery shaking the foundations of its church.

The door opened and two purple-robed guards entered the room, poleguns erect. An old man, his withered frame hidden beneath layers of musty brocaded robes, walked between them, wizened yet pert eyes observing the room. Silence engulfed the others there gathered.

The man, seemingly content with what he saw, nodded before proceeding to the head of the table, a stunted servitor trailing behind him. There was none of the careful movements and weakness normally seen in men of his age or, more accurately, men of his apparent age. For none knew the span years he had witnessed. Some said he was as old as the Archpotentate Malicher. Others whispered that Consulite was merely a hereditary title, bestowed on those inheriting the post. Records, however, never spoke of a change and had always described him as 'old in name, if nought else'.

The man sat regally, lifting his sleeves with great deliberation, exposing unadorned hands and fingers whose only sign of age was their wrinkled skin. Whatever the mans' age, he was truly a paragon of human endurance (assuming, of course, his lineage infact human), for no orthosis or prosthesis did mar his body. His eyes, perched atop an alert aquiline face, surveyed the room without the aid of mechanical implants. Few others in the room could say the same. Indeed, thought the Consulite as his eyes rested on the Magnate-general of the Sodalities of Technarcanists, whose flesh had long-ago been replaced by machinery and orthosis. A withered husk was probably all that remained at his core.

"Thank you, my brothers and sisters," he spoke suddenly, his voice carrying readily across the room, its dulcet tones inspiring confidence, yet not overbearing. Perhaps the secret to his success. "for gathering here at this hour. I thank you, as do your people."

The Consulite paused as the servitor beside him took down his words. The man regarded his charges in turn. In his presence were the greatest individuals of Korachan. The two Penumbrist-principals; Arch-postulant of the three Dioceses of the High-empire; the Ecclesiast Leonis. Key Promulgator of Azazem. The Heads of the order of Diambulists and Noctambulists. Manufactor-lords. Representatives of the seven Inquisitorial Fraternities. Arch patricians and potentates. Chief of the demiurne cades. The list went on. The most powerful men and women in the empire and each looked to him for solace, guidance. He was not sure he could give it.

"You have been given the facts and know now as much as I. We are not gathered here to determine the verity of such claims, but to act upon them, for there is little time." the faint scratches of his menials' transcription continued for moments after he paused. "It is not declared openly, and for many of you this will be the first you hear me admitting such a thing, but it is well known - the empire falters. And the blame is not solely that of our home and world, Elyden. No. We pay now for the mistakes of our forbears and for our reluctance to admit that which happens. Cities across the Sea are crippled, the coast that once sustained them withdrawing daily. Once-prosperous quarries lie disused, their bounties plundered centuries past, leaving the manufactories of today wanting. Our people are starving from Skaros to Venthir. And the false-empire of the south impunes upon our borders with greater brazenness every day. Our father and master Rachanael grows weak."

From across the room the Arch-postulant rebutted. "Faith in the true Church of the Machine wanes from day to day as these heretical entropic cults spread their filth across our lands. We are losing members, and it is showing, my Lord. Our monitors report decreased activity from the Sepulchral Throne - Our God Rachanael is weakening. We cannot let this affront to the natural order continue!"

His fellows nodded, the low rumbling of comments beginning to fill the hall. The Consulite gestured for the man to stand down "That, Arch-postulant, is the crux of the matter. We cannot risk the languor of that which binds us together. The simple truth is that our god and unifier, Rachanael the Machine, needs worshippers to survive. We rely on him to survive. Without his aegis, the Black Fountain on which our industries rely is wasted. Without our industries - already in steep decline - we cannot weather this new age.

"This discovery," he said, "threatens to throw the entire world into chaos. e cannot allow another Demiurge to rise beside Rachanael, let alone in his place. This empire was built upon the balance inherent in the world, a balance that was established over millennia of slow natural change. What were once Two-and-Twenty slowly dwindled in number until only one amongst them remained - Rachanael. Should this discovery not be rectified, we stand to lose everything that we have worked so hard to maintain.

"These creatures need to be destroyed."

Silence greeted the ultimatum as the words were chewed-over, the severity of their meaning digested.

The first to break the silence was the High-Quaestor of the Concordantist Fraternity. A tall man of gaunt face and heavy a brow, he spoke, eyes never resting on any one person for long. They rested finally on the Consulite. "This first birthing  of the Legion occurred close to three-thousand years ago. How can any of them still be alive?"

"We cannot know for sure, but the circumstances of behind their creation dictate that it is a possibility. We must identify the time and place of the demise of each and every one of these aberrations and find their remains."

"An impossible task, my Lord," said the High-Quaestor thoughtlessly.

The Consulite stood, regarding him. "Has that ever stopped us? You would claim defeat before even trying? Is that what your home is worth?" the words were beseeching rather than condemning.

"Not all of us measure our lives in terms of millennia, High-Consulite," interjected another. "there was no record of the first birthing until scant weeks ago. It can't be done."

"It can and it has," came a voice. "Already three bodies have been recovered from the pyre-fields of Belhan, records of their death examined."

Silence gripped the room as realisation dawned that this threat was real.

The consulite nodded. "Good. We must think in terms of the empire and not individuals. Nothing is an obstacle. Do what you must. You have been granted the authority of proxy in my absence. Do whatever it takes. Use every tool at your disposal to unearth this concealed past and keep Korachan safe."

***

The Consulite paused, regarding the room, the men and women there gathered. They had spoken at length, considered many options, but the truth was... they had to act, decisively. Beside him, his servitor finished writing the last of their discourse.

He stood again, a gesture of finality. "Then we are at an accord," he said. A statement, not a question.

Heads nodded. Hands tapped against the brushed steel table. Voices remained silent. None present wanted the records to speak their names. There was an accord, but a bitter one.

The Consulite nodded, the need for further words unnecessary.       

"For the Archpotentate, for the empire, for the Machine.

"The Triptych," spoke all as one.

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