Full Hab (4)

And here, at last, are the final six cards (previous 1-6, 7-12, 13-18).

19. THE STAR
A vacuum-suited herm kneels in the harsh red-tinged regolith of an unterraformed world, wearing the gauntlet of a nanolathe on hsis right arm, and holding a cornucopia in hsis left, from which water spills onto the ground. Amid the resulting pool, green and blue shoots can be seen. Above hsem, the constellation of the Spiral is seen in the sky, with its lowest star shining brightly through hsis helmet.

20. ENTROPY
Stars and worlds crumble amid the red-glowing accretion disk as they are pulled into an all-devouring black hole; at the right, in profile, raven-haired Entélith watches, stern-faced, but with a single tear falling from her eye.

21. THE MOONS
A floor of glossy black marble, gold-veined, reflects back the pale light of the full Seléne in the starry sky above, centered in a circle of pillars. At the center of the circle, a shallow silver bowl catches the moonlight in water, and a discarded white robe lies puddled behind it. Red Elárion shines dully above and to the right of Seléne; but his light is not reflected. At the edges of the frame, wolves howl their praises to the moons.

22. THE SUNS
The solar disk of Lumenna blazes, filling an indigo sky; above and to the left, Súnaris shines as a very bright star. In front of them, a figure stands, washed out almost to invisibility by the suns’ glare, with twin shadows at his feet.

23. THE AESTHANT
The aesthant, plainly garbed and with hair bound back, stands before a block of stone, inscribing and coloring a complex geometric pattern with ivory-white tools. Mirrors surround him on all sides. In one corner stands a harp, playing without any hand on the strings.

24. THE WORLDS
A pale lady with loose blue-black hair, reflecting moonlight, and an expression of utter serenity stands in front of a drift-habitat window, juggling; on closer examination, the balls which she is juggling are revealed as planets of a variety of classes, from small rocky worlds to gas giants. Outside the window, the disk of the galaxy is seen from far to acme.

Full Hab (3)

Here’s the next six cards (previous 1-6, 7-12). Only six more to go!

13. THE CITY
The marble spires of the city pierce the heavens, roofed in gleaming gold and copper and silver, and tunnels below delve deep into the earth. Balconies and plazas are crowded with people of all sorts. Airships sweep through the sky above and between the spires, and in the foreground, caravans bear all good things towards its gates. Travelers accompany the caravans gazing up at the city and the limitless opportunities therein.

14. THE HEARTHMISTRESS
In the foreground, a fire burns; in the background, a bandaged patient sleeps. To the left, a family dines around a richly set table; to the right, a rack of servers runs, status lights gleaming blue, blue, blue. Amid them all the hearthmistress, carved as a caryatid, upholds the weight of the world.

15. HARMONY
Brazen lamps ablaze with firelight hang from the branches of a tree by a riverbank; old stones support its roots where they dip into the flowing water. A gentle breeze stirs its blue-green leaves and the feathers of the white filwé that perch in its branches. To the left, a reshkef doe reached up to nibble the leaves; opposite, a young man lies with his back to the tree, an open book in his hand, and a black merle bandal curled up beside him.

16. THE STORM
A mass of storm clouds writhes, struck through with jagged bolts of lightning. Among them, tiny figures can be seen, but it’s impossible to tell whether they are being hurled uncontrollably by the storm, or riding it, tamed.

17. THE WILDS
On a mist-shrouded rise in front of a waterfall, a coppery-green woman kneels, clad in flowering vines which become her lower body, and gestures for silence. A mighty wolf, thews knotted with muscle and fangs bared, crouches ready to spring at her left side, restrained only by her hand resting between its ears. All around them, flowers of a thousand colors bloom.

18. THE PLUTARCH
Seated at his desk, the plutarch is surrounded by his work and the products of it. With the needs of the market on the screens at his right hand, and a basket of pleasures at his left, he seeks the balance between the work of production, and the enjoyment of its fruits.

Full Hab (2)

Here’s the next six cards (previous):

7. THE EXECUTOR
The executor sits behind his desk, a rack of scrolls at his left hand and a mechanical calculator to his right.  He holds a stylus and wears AR glasses.  Before him stand two messengers, one arriving, the other departing.  In the background, thousands of tiny cogs turn in perfect synchrony.

8. THE LOVERS
Tangled in silk sheets, dusted with blue petals, hair rumpled, the blissful lovers lie in each other’s arms.  Flowering vines climb the pillars which frame the scene, illuminated by the pale light of a rising moon.

9. LIBERTY
A pair of wanderers walk fearlessly arm-in-arm, eyes raised and proud, towards a distant hill from whose stony summit rises a blue-silver flame.  One bears a hammer and purse of gold with them, and the other a drinking-horn and bowl of ripe fruit.  Carelessly trampled beneath their feet are a pair of broken swords, and in the sky above them, a pure white lowari (a four-winged aviform of Eliéra, similar to the Earth albatross) soars, wings fully extended.

10. THE SENTINEL
His back turned, the sentinel wears a guard’s uniform and carries sword and gun.  He stands in a steel-bound stone gateway, a fierce wardog at his side, and permits none to pass him.  Beyond the gate, barbarians, wild beasts and tempests ravage the land.

11. THE CLANK
A hundred tons of steel and brass, belching steam, tears blocks of stone from the earth, shapes them, and assembles them into the road on which it stands.  Amidst the machine, its operator guides it with the lightest touch of her hands on its levers; the pressure of a fingertip controlling far greater forces.

12. THE LIBRARIAN
The androgynous librarian, standing before shelves of books and racks of scrolls, wears soft gray scholar’s robes and a porcelain mask concealing both face and expression.  With a feathered quill tucked behind one ear, the librarian offers tome, key, and recording tablet to all who approach.

Full Hab (1)

…a deck of playing cards, in the typical Imperial style used for ómith and for some sub-games of kírasseth, contains 96 cards.  72 of these make up the six suits of twelve cards each, each with its particular elemental association: the suit of clouds, representing air and steam; the suit of coins, representing metal; the suit of droplets, representing water and oil; the suit of flames, representing fire and lightning; the suit of pillars, representing stone and clay; and the suit of staves, representing wood and crystal.

The remaining 24 cards are the symbolic cards, which represent the darëssef, and other important archetypes and forces in the classical eldraeic conception of the universe, which they represent in the play of kírasseth upon the Board of Archetypes; in most other games, they are assigned various values as the game in question requires.  The symbols associated with them have also been used for the communication of messages subtle and unsubtle.

1. THE WANDERER
A newcomer walks down a shuttle’s landing ramp, and gazes in wonder at the world laid out before him, heedless of directional arrows or passing traffic.  Officials with documents to sign await him at the base of the ramp, but for now, there are only the possibilities to come.

2. THE GATEWAY
The spherical distortion of a wormhole is contained within the bounding framework of its stargate, seen against a background of stars.  In the foreground, a silver-skinned rocket hurtles towards it, making hard burn across the transition point.

3. THE TECHNARCH
The technarch stands in his workshop, terminal, nanoforge, and automata lying on the table before him.  Among the fanciful machinery that surrounds him, all the elements are harnessed, in boiler and clockwork, pipe and furnace.  Crowned with lightning, with his tools at his command, the power to shape the world is his.

4. THE ACQUIESCENT
The blue-robed acquiescent sits before a pool under the light of the moon, gazing at the shimmering script within its waters.  Around her, petitioners gather, ready with pen and scroll to copy down the wisdom she finds there.  In the background, others read from older scrolls to gathered audiences.

5. THE CONTRACT
An open scroll, covered in script and seals, fills the background, held in the hand of a grey-cloaked obligator.  Before it, two men sit on either side of a balance scale, facing each other, loosely bound to each other by chains of glass.  At each’s back, there are piles of gold, jewels, machines, baskets of fruit, and other goods.

6. THE RÚNER
A man with black curls and a blonde woman in robes of white and gold share a grand throne, the carved heads of six aman (dragons) surrounding them.  They wear the symbols of their authority – crown, chain, and signet – and robed ministers attend them.  In the foreground, a petitioner stands to address the throne, unbowed and unafraid.

(cont.)

Trope-a-Day: Calvinball

Calvinball: An awful lot of games played in the Empire are like this from our perspective, by virtue of having been designed to satisfy the game-playing urges of people with, well, transhuman intelligence.  For example:

One of the simplest is the card game ómith.  It’s like poker, except with six twelve-card suits on an elemental theme that the game itself shares (the suits are clouds, coins, droplets, flames, pillars, and staves) and a major arcana, plus a variety of metarules and dice-controlled variations, and a scoring system with an incredible number of special cases.

Larileth, or sigillary, which would most closely resemble mahjong, had mahjong been based on a set of combining rune-constructs devised to reflect the aspects of the universe as defined by (in Earthly analogy terms) a mash-up of Hermetic magic and qabala.

Ithréth, which is a sort of dynamic four-dimensional go, metaphorically speaking.  (The lack of four-dimensional playing boards and four-dimensional spaces to keep them in adds an extra level of complexity once people start making moves ana and kata, which is where much of the true subtlety of the game lies.  It’s much more pleasantly complicated than the “four-dimensional” games in which pieces just time-travel, for example.)

Iandaër, which is a battle simulation game that is on the one hand like chess, but on the other hand resembles taikyoku shogi rather more closely.  It is thorough.

There’s also mírlathdaër, the favored game of AIs and other digital sapients.  Which is essentially Nomic, only as played by entities which can successfully manipulate rule lists gigabytes or even terabytes in length in real-time.  (For extra fun, there’s the simulation version where you do this with physical laws, and the point of the game is to create the most interesting simulated universe.  The only acknowledged win condition for that one is to get intelligent life to evolve in the simulation without using any special cases; no-one’s actually won it yet.)

And then there’s kírasseth, the generally acknowledged monarch of eldraeic games; it requires several interrelated boards, sets of cards, dice, and some specially made mechanical computer-randomizers, it is self-referential inasmuch as the players, the rules, and the game itself are all also pieces within the game, to play with any degree of competence requires an astonishing mastery of everything from scientific principles to mythic symbology, and its most commonly used set of victory conditions include that any win which is insufficiently elegant and aesthetically pleasing is actually a loss.  It is, of course, incredibly popular – at least to watch.

Princess of Clouds to Archetypes, Gilek-Four – Your Move

The priest of the Unnamed, unidentifiable behind flowing night-purple robes and serene mask of polished silver, moved steadily through the market towards the statue of Valentia I. The crowd parted as he – or she – passed, leaving a respectful distance. The reputation of the Masked Order made even the bold wary of becoming involved with their intrigues.

Reaching the statue, the masked priest drew a night-purple xaról flower from the folds of his – or its – robe, laid it at the statue’s feet, then turned and stood by the pedestal, settling in to wait.

His – or hesh’s – instructions had been clear, if cryptic, ending, And provide no word of reason, as the Unnamed One commands.

Not that he – or ve – could have given a reason had he desired to; the commands of the Inner Circle were never explained to those below. Upon reaching the Middle Circle, he’d – or they’d – been taught that ”the purpose of the game is the game itself”; that the secrets and intrigues of the Unnamed One required no reason beyond themselves – which was undoubtedly true, but complete? That, only the Inner Circle would know.

There. He – or whoever – looked up from his musings, seeing the one his orders had described – a woman passing the statue at noon, with the rare silver-blonde hair and rose-copper coloring of the sunrise eldrae. Pressing the engraved silver token of the temple’s favor into her hand, he turned and walked away, leaving her looking after him in surprise.