Friday, November 21, 2014

The Machines of Shiloh 19

"Souls are saved by story, song and art."


I took Sam to a Gorish restaurant.  Part of me knew she would love it.  The Gor decorated everything
with ferns, flowers and greenery.  Fruits.  The sticky sweet scent of melons and apples.

The other part of me wanted to see her reaction to the Gor themselves.  The restaurant was entirely
vegan, only serving food grown in the vertical gardens above.  If it surprised Sam, I wanted to see it.

It was something new, and one gets to experience new once.  But showing someone something new got so close to that same feeling.

"This is my favorite Gorish restaurant in all of Roosevelt."  I spun showing off the little jungle of
the Fruit Stand.  Above us Gor climbed and lounged, eating and conversing in their own private spots.

A server drone met us as we stepped in.  Sam didn't say a thing.  She just stared, her eyes full of
amazement at everything around us.  I could feel her elation at the spectacular scene around us.  She'd never seen Gor before.

That made me feel light on my feet.

"Whoa."  Sam's eyes just studied everything.

The server drone took us to a nearby booth, intended for human customers.  One of the Gor above us waved at me.  I recognized him, waving back.  He dropped down from his seat, sliding down next to me.

Sam jumped, not seeing him coming.  "Gah!"

"Apologies," the Xert said, peering down, nodding his head.  Gor are descended from Gorillas, but its unfair and wrong to consider them uplifted Gorillas.  In the century after their creation, Gor have long proven themselves more apt at mathematics and engineering theory than humans ever could.  Xert's hair had dark-blue tones.  His dark purple eyes had their usual glimmer of humor.  The Gor wore a suit of stunning violet and white, his hands all in purple gloves.  I could see his tattoos as well, under his fur, all moving holos projecting all sorts of algebraic equations as they moved by.

"Hey Xert, this is Sam."  I waved at Sam.  "I'm showing her a few places here in town."

Xert bowed his head.  "First time visiting our fair city of Roosevelt?"

He offered Sam her hand.  Sam gingerly took it.  She surprised me, and smiled, seemingly charmed by Xert.  They embraced hands.

"This is my second, um visit.  But I've moved here."

"Ah.  So Kensha here is providing a bit of a tour guide."  Xert put up a hand, as though imparting a
secret to Sam.  "Don't let her hog you to herself.  The girl likes to take up as much time as possible."

"Xert!"  I gave him a playful punch. "Geez, amig.  Can I get a break?"

Xert waved a finger.  "Not until you do a repeat of that dream you posted the other night. Twas halaal."

I winced.  That felt embarassing.  First Li, now Xert.  Did everybody see it?  "Xert- that was a mistake.  I never meant for that static dream to get out."

"Not often are Statics worth their salt, amig.  You need to give up more of your secret dreams!  You got talent."  Xert turned to Sam.  "Sam, you tell this girl, won't you?"

Sam blushed red.  "Uh... I can try..."

"Halaal."  Xert started to clumber back up to his seat.  "I'll leave you be for now, Kensha-Twice-Life.  You post more dreams, Halaal?"

"I'll think about it, Xert."  I felt chagrined, so I sat down.  I made a show of going through the menu's holo projection.

"He seemed nice."  Sam started, her tone sounding a bit nervous.  "A... friend?"


I was sheepish, I admit.  The first time I had been out and about as... what I felt like inside.  Like
walking around naked.  Weird.  It felt weird.

"Yeah..."  Kensha had dived into a holo.  It looked like a menu.  She tried to hide behind it.

"Kensha..."  I flipped through the menu.  Everything looked like some kind of salad.  I had no idea what looked good.  My stomach had butterflies in it too.  "...What those?"

She looked up at me, flummoxed.  "What?"

"This place is amazing, but I... don't know what Xert was.  Or what Gorish means."  I felt dumb.  I
tried to smile.  "My education kinda was... biased, I guess.  I never knew even people existed that
looked like... uh, Gorish?"

"Gor."  Kensha said softly.  "They call themselves Gor.  Oh.  Fek me.  I didn't- Fek, I'm sorry, I just
thought I'd surprise you with how neat the gardens here were and-"

"Gor?"  I looked up.  "Halaal."

Kensha smiled at that.  "I'm really feeling og about that.  I... I guess I need to think before I just
drag you anywhere."

I laughed.  "Its alright, I expect to not know."

What an idiot I'd been!  Of course she wouldn't know a thing about Gor.  Good job Kensha, too busy
showing off!

"Seriously... Are there any... you know..."  Sam struggled for the right way to describe it.  "I'm
trying to be open about having so many... machines around.  But don't you get worried, having them doing everything around here?"

She gestured at the server drones.  I gave her a quizzical look.  I didn't understand what she was
talking about.

A quick look on a augmentation told me about the Gor.  Although I wanted to read more on that, I
questions.  So I peppered Kensha with them.  I wanted to know all about life in Roosevelt, comparing it to what my life in Shiloh was like.

"Ok."  I digested more and more of it.  "I know nothing about any of this.  Shiloh... Well, I was taught something different.  And I thought it was the right way, but... My mother's old holos told me

"Your mother?"  Kensha tilted her head.  "I've heard some people in Roosevelt talk about her, Hannah Maenad.  All of Nightland knew about her."

My stomach went warm.  Any thoughts about my mother made me feel immediately better.  "Yeah... stuff like that, I never really learned."

"Didn't your father tell you at least?"

"Um..."  I tried to think of the best thing to say about my father.  I still was trying to think of him
as something other than some force that had made my life hell.  "He spent most of my life making me live the only way Shiloh would accept me.  I mean, I loved him.  He did what he had to do, but... I look back at him and what Shiloh did to him to make me... I always wonder, why didn't we leave?  Why did he stay?"

Kensha kept quiet.  She then looked up.  "Well, is that part of why you came to talk to me then?"

"My Psych recommended that I try this out, if I was really wanting to reinvent myself."  I waved at the dress, makeup and wig I had on.  "It was easier to find ways to get this stuff on.  And I, uh, only
really know you and Li here.  Find new friends, try being who I feel I am on the inside..."

She nodded.  I took that a silent encouragement to continue on.  "And I need to learn about the world I guess.  I know a lot of the basics, but it keeps coming out biased in some way.  I don't want to hate
machines or dislike them.  But I grew up with people who thought they were humanity's last bastion."

"What made you leave then?"  Kensha put her menu away, her holo flickering off.  I think that sent the order.  I didn't know then that I could see progress of orders or that sort of thing on the metanet.  I still felt sore, like my outer layer skin had been fried off

"I..."  A part of me really wanted to lie to this question.  It would be easier.  But I remembered my mother.  If some part of that noble woman was in me, I needed to stand up.  Face the worry.  Face the doubt.  Face the fear of admitting I'd made mistakes, that I did nothing when beaten.  "They burned down my family's house.  Chased my father out of town, where he got crushed by a dead tree.  When I got home, the one man I thought of a mentor took me and beat me."

"Beat you."  Kensha shuddered.  She looked at me with saddened eyes.  "That's horrible, Sam.  Why did he beat you?"

"He said he was being merciful.  That because I wasn't human, he should've just killed me.  But it was a mercy to let me live."  I felt hot tears, I wanted them to not come, and here I was in a public place, sobbing my face out.  "Sorry.  I... I guess I still haven't gotten over all of it yet."

"Makes me feel a bit like an fekhole, too."  Kensha frowned, glancing down.  "Xert teasing me about that dream the other night.  I'm not sure my embarrassment is the same as getting beaten by someone you thought you knew."

"Oh."  I looked up her.  "That dream shared was something amazing, something I didn't know you could do.

 I'd thought you would be proud of the dreams you weaved-"

"They're no where near as great as people think they are."  Kensha sighed.  "You ordering anything?"

I shook my head.  Besides not knowing how to order, I didn't feel hungry at all.  "Not really hungry."

Kensha frowned.  But she didn't push anything.

"Aren't you being hard on yourself?"  I told her.  "I love making art, but you have to share it at some
point or else it just doesn't seem worth it.  At least, I hope that's how it is."

She looked at me.  I felt sort of fuzzy myself.  "Shiloh doesn't encourage, um, artist as a career.

Art is nice, but it isn't... uh, useful for the community."

Kensha tilted her head and laughed.  "You do know the dream Xert was complementing me on was because I accidentally shared the dream the two of us had?"

"Oh.  OH."  I closed my eyes, red-faced.  "How many people have seen it?"

"Lots, apparently." Kensha replied.  "Although its nice to know you feel the same way I do about it."

Aurora took us deep into the Heartwood.  She didn't leave a trail.  The elven druid and her white tiger were careful to lead us.  "I don't like doing this, but it seems necessary."

"It's the best place to find this Spring Prince, isn't it?"  Garok asked, looking from Aurora to Hanael.

 "Hanael is right, if the fae is real, we need to at least try to talk with him about it."

I levitated a bit off the ground.  It was faster for me to use a bit of arcane magic to float along than
to walk.  I was the slowest in the team.

"I was selected to protect the temple.  It is my family's birthright."  Aurora frowned.  "And you would never find it, if I didn't take you to it."

"But the fae could find their way to it?"  Hanael asked.  She held up high her shield.  It was blazon
with her storm symbol of her house.  The pink light of the leaves above glinted off of it.  "I mean, if
you are the only one who knows the way, does that bar...?"

Aurora shook her head.  "The Dryads of the Heartwood placed my family in charge of protecting it from outsiders, but Fae could find it without problems.  The enchantments on it would never trick any of them."

"They know about the Temple."  Garok shook his head, like he didn't believe it.  "First we're dreaming up faeries, now they supposedly know about the Temple."

"Its in the oldest stories, Garok." I affirmed, gliding to keep up.  My robes rustled the leaves around
me.  "They explain how these woods were the home of the Dyrads and the Fae of the Wild Courts.  They bequeathed them to the Elves of the Heartwood, lest they fall to outside depridation or the wicked Fae of the South."

"Wicked Fae?"  Garok sighed.  "More stories, not evidence.  That could be anything."

"You can't prove a negative, Garok."  Hanael shrugged.  "If anything, the Deathwalkers might've gone this way or something else, but if Aurora knows fae can reach the Temple of the Heart, we should go there."

"There is no going."  Aurora pulled back the leaves of one tree, as though they were a curtain.  "Here
we are.

Behind the leaves were blue leaves from a massive tree.  It grew higher than any other part of the
forest.  We had not seen any of it coming.  It just was there, at the bottom of its own little valley.

Granite steps, covered in vines and lichen descended down.  The blocks of the steps were covered in
Elven pictograms, each etched with meticulous detail.  I could spend hours studying their insights into illusion and enchantment.

"Whoa."  Hanael said, her eyes fixed on the temple below.

While I'd become intrigued by the mere steps were on, the rest of the Heartshields stood in amazement of the site below.  A temple had been assembled around the massive blue-leaf tree, its scarlet bark contrasted with the temple's granite blocks.  The strange architecture of the Temple moved, pulsating and alternating as to wrap around the Tree.  It looked like it was something the tree had chosen to wear, like a favored shirt or pair of pants.

"It's throbbing."  Garok observed.  He looked at it transfixed.  "Can stone throb like that?"

Aurora rolled her eyes.  "The Temple of the Heart takes all the Heartwood is, its dreams, its desires, its wants.  It makes all of them manifest.  It binds them all together.  Plus, magic."

"Intriguing."  I commented.  I nodded at Hanael.  "You mind leading us in there?"

"Sure."  Hanael turned to Aurora.  "Is that okay with you?  This is your people's sacred place."

Aurora shrugged.  "I'll stop anyone from doing something that might desecrate it, but I've never been
inside the temple proper."

Hanael's eyebrows shot up.  "What?!"

"I protect it, no reason for me to explore it."  Aurora explained.  Her white tiger growled.  Aurora
scratched behind one ear.  "You protect it too."

"Ah.  So no special insights from you then?"  I asked her.  I already knew the answer there was no
reason for Aurora to have that knowledge or insight into that.  The Temple of the Heart was something Kensha would be creating on the fly, using some of unconscious thoughts to add to it.

"More or less the same kind of lore as you."  Aurora took position behind Hanael.

The stairs were steep.  I had no issue, floating down as I had been.  Aurora and Garok had no trouble
with it either, but Hanael almost stumbled over a step.  As we descended down the stairs, the temple
continued to move and alter itself.  Statues rose in front of us, floating as we neared the entrance.

Each statue had the body of a elf, slender and graceful.  The heads were each different.  Elk, Lion, and Wolf.  They floated above us.  "Dare not step lest you wish to face that which is at the Heart of these things."

Aurora paused, looking up at the statues.  "Guardians, we wish to visit the Temple of the Heart.  We
seek wisdom, we want to find the truth of recent troubles."

The Elk-Elf statue turned to her.  "Druid, you protect these woods, but that does not grant you free
entrance here."

"There is always a price to pay for such things."  The Wolf-Elf statue added.   "Will you pay it?"

"And Death's Keepers have come seeking the same as you.  Would you bring conflict to such a sacred place?"  The Lion-Elf statue asked.

"Death's Keepers?  Have the Deathwalkers come through here already?"  Hanael asked.  "I thought people couldn't just wander in here."

"I don't understand."  Aurora paused.  "But I'm willing to pay the costs, Guardians.  That's my job,
isn't it?  The Heartwood is mine to protect."

Garok eyed the statues, his hands on his daggers.  He looked ready for any trouble.

But trouble didn't come.  The statues parted, letting us go.  The Lion-Elf statue gave us one fair

"Beware the price of wisdom.  The path is not always what you think."

I tried to remember that as we walked on.

Nightland Central Archives: Nightland.Wiki.Archives/Gor#History

The Wahlerian Regime's activities in the southern hemisphere during the Unification War included series of transhuman experiments.  The goal of these experiments were in line with the Regime's efforts of forcing the Singularity event (see Information Age Myths).  Although regarded as irresponsible, the creation of the Gor from the uplifting of Gorillas in Africa were the end result.

The Gor felt stifled by the Wahlerian Regime.  Although brilliant at mathematics and engineering, the Gor were restricted in their movements.  The Gor choose to rebel, coming to disagree with the principles of the Ascendists.  Their assistance would prove instrumental in helping the Old Nations defeat the Wahlerian Regime.

The Treaty of Unification proved awkward for the Old Nations on the case of the Gor.  Unlike their
treatment of Bots, Shells and humans who had 'drifted' from the primary stereotypes of humanity, Gor were perceived to be a new species.  Despite allowances made for the Gor, they were still made part of another nation-state, not given their own independence.

Iono, a Gor, would invent the basis for Artificial Gravity tech, not long after the signing of the Treaty of Unification in 0 UE.  This technology revolutionized colonies throughout the System.  But it also heralded a time in which Gor would start their own diaspora into the edges of the System.

The fragmentation and departure of the Old Nations had no negative effects on the Gor.  Most of them had left Earth already by that point.  The Gor found space too interesting, too curious a challenge to leave be.  The inclusive nature of Autogov would be more to the Gor's tastes overall as a culture: they never quite understood any of the importance of human bureaucracies to begin with.