Castles in the Air
Once upon a time, when the Cosmos enjoyed a much younger incarnation than He does today, this is how He designed the universe. Attend ye well, and become enlightened to the true nature of reality.
The Cosmos created five Domains, four Seen, and one Unseen; with each ruled by its own unique gods or goddesses, and peopled by its own particular godlings or folk. The essence of each Seen domain is one of the four primal elements, earth, air, water, and fire. But the essence of the Unseen domain is the intangible ineffable, which sets that singular domain apart from all the others.
The Domain of Land is ruled by, Terra, the Great Slow God of Quake and Stone. The god Terra is the most patient and methodical of deities, who makes the mountains to slowly rise, the valleys to gradually hollow, and the deserts to imperceptibly spread and recede. A conversation with the god Terra can take millennia.
In Terra’s Domain, all manner of plants and animals thrive. There, flowers bloom, grain fields ripen to gold, and forests grow thick, deep, and dark. There too, do bees buzz and birds chirp, dogs bark and cats yowl, and cattle bellow while lions roar. As do plants and animals flourish, so too do the people of Terra’s domain, the Land Folk, who sometimes call themselves men and women, or simply human.
The Domain of Sky is ruled by the most celebratory and passionate of gods, Emperor Sun and Empress Moon. These gods are devoted to never-ending revels featuring good food, good drink, gregarious guests, and most of all, their endless Dance.
In the Dance, these gods are forever twirling and spinning around each other across the ebony, star-strewn ballroom floor they call Heaven. These gods are incandescent spirits, though, and their Dance is equally flirtatious, enticing, and passionate. Sun is enflamed by Moon when she curtsies coquettishly. Moon is lustrous with ardor when Sun bows rakishly, chuckles lasciviously, and then pursues her with vows of love across the black ballroom floor of Heaven. They twirl, pirouette, revolve, and evade each other until they cast aside their pretense and fall into each other’s embrace.
Is it any wonder then, that when Sun and Moon can no longer restrain their passion, they come together suddenly and indiscreetly, one eclipsing the other and bringing on a false night, and produce in their fervid congress a celestial offspring, a star-child, who after he or she is weaned, joins its sibling stars who are scattered like jewels across Heaven.
Sky is divided into two regions, the Upper Reaches and Lower Reaches. The Upper Reaches overlook the Lower Reaches, and the Lower Reaches can be thought of as overlooking the Domain of Land.
The terrain of the Upper Reaches is merely the ebony surface of Heaven. And its inhabitants are the Sun and Moon, their star-children, and countless godlings such as planets, comets, nebulae and such.
The terrain of the Lower Reaches consists of limitless azure skies; gently rolling meadows of stratus and nimbus clouds, dotted with cloud-trees and storm-bushes that drape languorously like weeping willows; and enormous mountains of billowing cumulus clouds. This is also where the Sky Folk dwell.
The Domain of Sea is ruled by Marinus, the Great Green God, who dwells beneath the waves and rules everything on, or beneath, the surface of rivers and oceans. Marinus is the lord of all that breathes, swims, wriggles, undulates, or otherwise thrives in the sea; including the mysterious people of his Domain, the Merfolk, both merman and merwoman.
When Marinus is pleased, his favor could be felt in calm seas for sailors, and warm waves lapping the toes of beachcombers. But like all gods, Marinus could be offended, such as by cavalier seafarers who enter his realm without due caution and respect. Then the Great Green God’s wrath could be felt in sudden, raging storms that drag sacrilegious sailors beneath the surging waves and into the Great Green God’s jurisdiction. There, in the murky, aquamarine waters, the blasphemers must stand trial in the Coral Court, and defend their irreverence before Marinus himself.
The Domain of Sea is unique in that it touches the fringe of all other Domains, but is not fully a part of any of them.
The Domain of Fire is ruled by the two incendiary and eternally contentious sister-goddesses, Pele and Sengen, who are forever either fighting each other, or vying for the favor of the godling, Nix, who is the most handsome and alluring prospect for a mate, but also the most infuriatingly dispassionate and inscrutable.
The Domain of Fire can be thought of as being beneath the Domain of Land, although the Domain of Sea touches its borders, just as the sea touches the fringe of all domains. The inhabitants of Pele and Sengen’s domain are the Fire Folk.
If anyone from the other Domains were to view the terrain of the Domain of Fire without Pele or Sengen’s blessings, they would see only fields of smoking rock and glowing lava, lakes of molten magma, fumaroles of noxious vapors, pillars of fire, and no signs of life. But to the denizens of the Fire Domain, the scene would appear as placid as a warm autumn day in the Domain of Land. All the landscape would be vibrant shades of scarlet, yellow, and ochre; the lakes would be either tranquil or rippling slightly from sweet, warm breezes; the leaves fluttering on the trees would be mottled rust, gold and umber. The sky would be the color of a sunset that never ends. And the Fire Folk going blissfully about their business would be dressed in garments dyed in warm shades of scarlet, ochre, burnt umber, charcoal black, and cream white.
The Domain of the Unseen is unlike any other domain, and is passing strange.
The essence of each Seen domain is a primal element that manifests in its gods, geography, and plants, animals, and folks. But the primal element of the Unseen Domain is the intangible ineffable; that is, all the ideas, notions, and emotions that can be neither touched nor thoroughly expressed.
It is true that the Unseen Domain is ruled by a god and goddess, Lord Asymptote and Lady Mystery; but beyond that, little can be said of them, their temperament, or their nature.
The Unseen Domain has a terrain, but it is a limitless, featureless, rolling plain of nonexistence; sprawled beneath an indescribable, unremarkable, and endless firmament of nothingness.
The denizens of the Unseen Domain are the Unseen Folk. In appearance, they are as fine-featured as the men and women of the Domain of Land, but their skin, eyes, hair, and even their garments, seem as pale white and polished as a marble statue.
Beyond their appearance, the Unseen Folk are singular, and not exactly like any other individual, although members of families may be similar to each other. Read the Doomsday Book for the Unseen Domain; that is, the census of all the Unseen Folk, and you will find that instead of mortal personalities, each individual embodies an idea, notion, or emotion.
Read the census and find: The siblings, Truth and Lies; the quarrelsome family of Love, Hate, Anger, Joy, Obsession, and Disdain; the merry husband, Perfect Story and his wife, Perfect Song. Turn the pages of the Doomsday Book and find the sublimely content matron, Trust, and her eternally discontent sister, Doubt; the warrior maiden, Justice, and her brutish uncle, Tyranny.
All these folk, and countless more, dwell in the Domain of the Unseen.
Understand that for the most part, all the Domains are invisible, intangible, and apart from each other. The folk of one Domain cannot see or mingle with the folk of another Domain, except to a small degree when they think they see the outline of a person or beast in the clouds or constellations; or think they spy fire-lizards crawling through the embers of a campfire; or think they hear a distant ocean when they hold a seashell to their ear. Those folk are not imagining things. They are actually catching a darkling glimpse of another Domain.
However, Unseen Folk are so different from Seen Folk, the Cosmos feared that the denizens of the Unseen would be condemned to loneliness and eternal isolation from the rest of His Domains. For that reason, the Cosmos gifted only the Unseen Folk with the ability to briefly open a “window” to the Seen Domains through the five senses of the folks in the Seen Domains.
So it is, the Unseen Folk can occasionally taste the saltiness of the sea on a merman’s tongue; or the jubilation of a Sky child running across a field of clouds; or the joy of a maiden when a suitor gifts her with a single, sweet-scented, scarlet rose. In that way, the Cosmos hoped the Unseen Folk would be tempted to gingerly come out of their seclusion.
However, even as a modicum of a Seen Domain can pass through the window of a host’s senses to the Unseen Domain; so too can a modicum of the Unseen Folk’s thoughts and desires shine back through that same window and pervade the heart and mind of an unsuspecting host.
And therein, lies a tale.