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.

Shadows Are Shadows

The most important thing to remember about the Shadow Realm is that it does not exist. “Cyberspace” is a null concept.

The selfness of the Transcend is a distributed, heavily parallel, sophic process-set. It runs on the fractal chandeliers of Corícal Ailék, as close to a central node as the Transcend has. It runs on AI machines scattered across the Empire, buried under unity spires and in contemplationaries and as free-floating moon-brains. It runs on vast forests of cyborg-fungiplant organic computers. It runs on the pervasive nanites of every Imperial world’s nanoecology. It runs on spare computer time and data space purchased upon the cycle spot market. And, of course, it runs within the soul-shard-implanted mind-states of each and every one of its constitutionals.

But none of this is a world. Random access memory has no volume metric. Information has no inherent representation. Processes do not have intrinsic personality.

The faces in the storm are weather-control automation. The islands of the quicksilver sea are representations of process groupings. The data-spirits, from the least elemental to the greatest archai, are masks worn by ineffable Transcendent cognition, not independent entities.

While it is easy to forget when confronted by the timelessness of the kami, the vastness of the Pearl-Bright Ocean, or the majesty of the Twilight City, the Shadow Realm is merely a virtual user interface built for our convenience, shaped according to our mythopoeic semiotics, without “real” existence – a mask, computed only when we wish to observe it.

(Of course, if the information physicists are correct, you could say the same thing about the universe.)

– introduction to The Realm of Shadows and Fire: Inside the Hyperconsciousness