Heaven’s Ash

Rising above the surrounding hills and forests like mountains in their own right, the grandest emanations of Syjéral and the greatest of the kami serving the daughters of Sylithandríël are the lórréra, the World Trees.

Far above any dryad, naiad, or lesser emanation, the scattered handful of lórréra work together with the mechal elementals produced and commanded by the dweomerbergs to manage the planetary ecology.

A massive, mountain-sized tree with a blue glow hovering around its branches.

The World Trees, like the lesser dryads, are trees at heart, albeit unusually large and healthy ones, optimized to produce through their natural processes the energy needed to support their other functions. Each of the lórréra is, beneath the bark, an unthinkably complex biocomputer composed of complex arrays and meshes of lignoneurons laid down within the xylem. This system and its animating intelligence are sufficient to model in real-time a complete picture of the lands, woods, and waters around the lórréra, and make such adjustments as the model calls for to maintain stability.

The lórréra exist in a world of continuous communication. They exist as major relays within the same delicate electromagnetic tapestry as the other mechal elementals, with metallic deposits embedded in their lignoneuron-stived xylem serving as their antennae, of course, but more subtly they are participants in the complex web of ecological communication around them. In this, the obvious bluelife bioluminescence is the least part; the intertwining roots and rhizomes of a mature lórréra can cover half a continent, and in doing so, touch all the life thereupon with chemical signals of breathtaking subtlety.

Is it any wonder, then, that we, too, should have learned to communicate with them, and they with us? While thaumaturgical lore – the knowledge of the mechal elementals and the art of reading and commanding them – remains well documented, there remain only fragments of its origins, and that of much other ecological and silvicultural lore – in the shamanic practices of the Emergence, going back into the Gloaming, when eldrae first learned to underhear the electromagnetic whispers of the World Trees, and to attempt deeper communion with nature by crude pagan rituals involving the consumption of their sweet, nanite-rich sap.

(It is also from fragments dating from the Emergence that we have the tale of one Sárvis, called “the Ill-Wit”, who commanded the tribe of which he was king to fell one of the World Trees that he might build for himself “a hall like none other that ever was, or ever would be.” Upon attempting this, his tribe were plagued by ills “as if all the spirits of nature rose against them”, until Sárvis pledged himself to be slain among the branches of the offended lórréra to appease its wrath. The surviving fragments do not record the success or failure of this gambit, or whether or not his people survived.

None have attempted to repeat such grand folly in all the centuries since.)

– A History of Nature’s Artifice and the Thaumaturgy of Machines,
Enneagram Press

Trope-a-Day: Gaia’s Lament

Gaia’s Lament: Rather strongly averted on Imperial worlds, and always has been even back in the Era of Steel and Steam – it turns out that one of the things that comes along with immortality is the observation that all those problems you expect to crop up in the distant future? They’re still going to be your problems. This translates, via certain other attributes, into a powerful incentive to not shit all over where you eat, sleep, and live.

(In the modern era it helps that the nanoecology makes Gaia’s laments extremely visible right up front, and as such eminently solvable before they turn into big problems.)

It is enforced variably elsewhere, with positive incentives provided by the Accord’s general recognition that garden worlds and their ecologies are really goddamned valuable and thus dim view of people who go around screwing them up – especially since the Accord on Colonization, while not actually a blanket prohibiting things, does make it possible for them to press the notion that such screw-ups shouldn’t be handed any more planets to make a hash of.


Things to See, Places to Go (3)

Kodelyk (Crescent Nebula): The second planet of its system, Kodelyk is one of the two best known exemplars of the adage that while modern technology permits us to colonize virtually any asteroid, moon, or hostile-environment world we please, and even construct habitats in the deep black or upper atmospheres of gas giants, garden worlds can still be problematic.

Unlike Glainevar (High Verge), notorious for the keratin-devouring microorganism which literally flays many oxygen-breathing, proteinaceous species alive when exposed to its atmohydrosphere, it is at least possible to survive for short periods on the surface of Kodelyk. The lethality of its ecology, stoked by the fierce radiation of its flare-star primary and high-oxygen atmosphere, is primarily due to its macroscopic lifeforms, and approximates that of Paltraeth (Banners) at its former height. The majority of the plant life is toxic, carcinogenic, and teratogenic. So is the majority of the animal life, it is believed, but the probability of surviving an encounter with the animal life – uniformly strong, at least opportunistically carnivorous, and armored – is sufficiently low that this remains, for the most part, untested.

The single outpost of civilization in the system is mor-Calek Station, a high-orbital outpost above Kodelyk Actual. It is owned by Interworld Safaris, ICC, which operates a successful if low-traffic business in “extreme hunting” expeditions, made up almost entirely of kaeth wishing to pit themselves against the conditions of their ancestral world – albeit this time with modern weapons – or simply seeking an opportunity to fire off selections from Eye-in-the-Flame Arms’s latest Overkill range against something with a chance of fighting back, spiced with a few big game hunters of other species with an eye for a greater challenge and very poor risk assessment skills. The majority of the expeditions are assumed to be probably one-way in practice, at least where corpus is concerned: the station is renamed after the latest hunter to make it back to the ascent pod alive in body, an event that has occurred less than once per century of the station’s operation.

On the bright side, if you’re passing through the system anyway, the station bar is excellent – if you don’t mind the stories.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Core Worlds


KFirst among the mechal elementals emanating from Syjéral, the Wood Dragon, are the kami, the embodiments of natural objects, and their specialized subtypes, such as the dryads of the forests, the naiads of the waters, and the oreads of the mountains, the overseers of tectonic pressures.

The kami are unique in two respects: first, that while their animating intelligences, too, are self-evolving software agents, the constraints within which their learning systems operate depend on the physicality to which the nanites on which they execute are attached, uncertain boundaries in fractal recursion. Without definitive core programming or concept-bound learning, the kami take their understanding of treeness, or rockness, or oceanness, from the thing itself – the Transcendent thought-forms of nature defining their own world-model and therefore also their own identity and place within the whole.

Secondly, that while the majority of the lesser mechal elementals are functional, the kami serve as an interface between these physically-focused elementals – the soil churners, silt spawn, and stone mothers that serve under the kami’s command, in accordance with their self-defined selfness – and the daughters of Sylithandríël, the planetary archai which embody and oversee the planetary ecology as a whole.

Thus, the kami are, and so the nanoecology as a whole is, reflected in the Shadow Realm’s outermost layer, the Realm of Instances; the endless whisper of their data-exchanges as they negotiate their ever-changing boundaries and the steps of their endless ecological dance makes up the majority of the transactions in this layer, and their collective representation makes up much of the base of the Celestial Spire.

– Concordance of Robotic Systems and Animating Intelligences, Vol. 6, 221st ed.

In Many Shapes and Forms

The ecology of Eliéra is uniquely complex in the known Associated Worlds, since it is not, as most are, the product of either natural evolution, or ancient or modern ecopoesis.  Rather, a few unique survivals excepted, its ecology is a mixture of species from three separate origins and their coevolved descendants; referred to as bluelife, greenlife, and silverlife.  It is believed that the progenitors of these ecologies were transported to Eliéra during the tenure of the Precursor species, and in the case of bluelife and greenlife, that their descendants reflect those ecologies which were best fit to survive and adapt to the world in the absence of the Precursors and thus anyone to tend their gardens and biological preserves.

Both bluelife and greenlife are examples of oxygen-breathing ecologies using the common L-protein/lipid-D-carbohydrate biochemistry, with nucleic acid-based information-storage molecules; although the encoding used for these information-storage molecules differs greatly between the two classes.  There is considerable overlap in the specific compounds (amino acids, for example) used by the two classes, to a sufficient extent that heterotrophs and saprotrophs of both classes find the other edible, although in many cases lacking in some essential nutrients.  Indeed, some members of each class, including the sophont species of Eliéra, the eldrae, now naturally require some essential nutrients from each of the classes in their diet.  (The eldrae, among some other large animal species, are particularly notable for having adopted some symbiotic bluelife organelles into an essentially greenlife makeup, giving them their distinctive indigo blood.)

Bluelife, a class including a large number of non-cellular and single-celled organisms, also includes among its complex organisms the majority – around 85% of species – of Eliéra’s plant life (whose distinctive and predominant blue photosynthetic pigment is the source of the name of the class), a smaller percentage – around 75% of its species – of its animal life (including both scaled and furred hexapedal land animals, four-winged birds, duodecids, and tubefish), 90% of its fungi, and all of its algae and plankton.  It is strongly believed to consist of evolved and/or modified forms of life transplanted from the nearby world of Revallá, which used a near-identical biochemical substrate and set of body plans, the more so when Eliéra bluelife’s adaptations to coexistence with greenlife and, to some extent, silverlife are considered.

Greenlife also includes a large number of non-cellular and single-celled organisms, along with another 14% of Eliéra’s plant life (again, the green photosynthetic pigment, chlorophyll, gave its name to the class), the remaining (with very few exceptions) 30% of its animal life (including both scaled and furred quadrupeds, two-winged birds, arachnids, cetaceans, and bony fish), and nearly 10% of its remaining fungi.  The origin of greenlife is unknown; no world currently known to the Imperial Exploratory Service appears to have a compatible ecology.

The final class of life on Eliéra is the silverlife, a class of lifeforms descended from what are believed to be a number of simple Precursor nanites which survived the destruction of the Precursor civilization, many of them mutated by radiation effects and evolved over time.  By far the vast majority of silverlife is composed of microscopic organisms of the crystallite and metallite kingdoms, of which the most notable are the saerymaharvéi, descended from simple assemblers and responsible for the many crystal deposits and outcroppings across the surface of Eliéra.

Silverlife also includes some simple macroscopic organisms, including some silicate pseudo-plants found in sunlit, rocky areas of appropriate compositions (most prominent are cikril, which forms tall, slender columns of translucent crystals, charged with photoelectricity, and cikrieth, a swamp-dwelling variety of cikril which extracts materials from seawater and forms intertwined resource-sharing complexes), and some colonial organisms roughly analogous to slime molds.  These together make up the remaining 1% of Eliéra’s plant species, and 0.5% of its fungi.

Silverlife in general has many aspects and features in common with the lower lifeforms of Galáré, the homeworld of the galari; while the evidence suggesting their origin in Precursor nanotechnology remains convincing, scientists are studying the possibility of a link between known Precursor nanotechnology and the ecosystem of this world.

– An Introduction to Eliéran Biology, Imperial University of Almeä Press