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Hollow Moon Exploration: An Outer Moon timeline (continued)by Sharon Dornhoff
Part 3. "Fantasy Physics" takes its shot, or 'The Great Brothers-Gemeye Invention Contest'
251 BC : Legendary gnomish craftsman Glimreen Gemeye discovers a jet engine artifact of the destroyed Blackmoor civilisation. Bringing it to their home in the highland city of Serraine, he and his twin brother, Voldreen Gemeye, proceed to spend the next seventy years arguing with each other as to what its original function might have been.
181 BC : Sick to death of the brothers' incessant arguments, the Serrainian Council For Public Civility demands the Gemeyes resolve their dispute. The Council proposes that the each of two craftsmen invent something new and unique, utilising whatever engineering principles he believes the device relies upon, that does whatever he thinks the Blackmoor artifact was intended to do. Whichever twin comes up with an invention that actually works, and is most impressive when in operation, must obviously be the Gemeye whose theory is correct.
Intrigued by the prospect of a contest, the Brothers Gemeye -- each convinced he's the one whose invention will win -- shake hands to formally accept the challenge, and retire to their respective workshops.
156 BC : After numerous experiments in rocketry, Voldreen Gemeye succeeds in launching a sheep up and over the nearest mountain range. Getting it down safely is another story; nevertheless, the spectacular demonstration begins attracting young gnomes to Voldreen's workshop, and Serraine experiences a brief fad for fireworks and blue jumpsuits with patches on them among its youth.
Furious that his brother's invention was ready for demonstration before his own, Glimreen turns a shade of purple normally associated with skies during sunsets in mid-autumn.
127 BC : Working on the concept of vectored-thrust propulsion, Glimreen levitates a river barge full of (very nervous) city officials to the roof of the Serrainian City Hall. This successful flight wins Glimreen considerable prestige in the city, all the more so when the barge is upended and turned into a rooftop dome for the Hall; and elaborate kites and large objects left atop public buildings edge out roman candles and hotfoots as the entertainment, and prank, of choice amongst young Serrainians.
Flustered, Voldreen moves from his workshop in the city to a gnomish hamlet in the nearby countryside, where his increasingly-explosive experiments will pose less risk and his brother's praises aren't being sung in the streets all the livelong day. Many of his youthful, invention-buff "fans" go with him, setting up a makeshift campground near the converted barn in which Voldreen tinkers with his creation.
85 BC : Having conducted several high-altitude tests with sheep -- and actually bringing them in safely, this time! -- Voldreen Gemeye successfully launches a gnome into low orbit. The volunteer is one of over two hundred jumpsuit-clad "space campers", who have organised themselves into the rocket-buffs' club GASA*: the Gnomish Adherents of Space Association.
Unwilling to admit defeat, Glimreen forms his own pro-levitation political lobby, the FAA: Foundation for Aerial Advancement. He succeeds in having the contest prolonged, so he can have the chance to match his brother's accomplishment.
The frequency of minor accidents and embarrassing mishaps related to machinery increases by a factor of four, both in Serraine and in Voldreen's rural research facility, over the next few years.
[* - The "G" is pronounced "N", of course. ;-)]
34 BC : In the spirit of public service -- and to score points in the contest -- Glimreen Gemeye lifts the top of a nearby mountain with his invention and lowers it into a nearby pass, cutting off the advance of an incursion of
orc raiders. Boasting of how his invention has served a practical use, while Voldreen's space-hops do nothing to keep Serrainians out of the clutches of invaders, Glimreen insists he's won the contest and that his brother should admit he was correct about the Blackmoor device.
Backed into a corner by circumstances -- and still darned if he was going to admit he'd been mistaken! -- a spluttering Voldreen bursts out with a "surprise announcement"* that in another few decades, he and his space-campers would be travelling to the Moon. There, he replied with a smirk, they'll never have to worry about orcs or other monsters, again!
This new boast ups the stakes so far, no gnome is willing to cut the challenge short until they've seen if he's serious. Their contest still undecided, the brothers return to their respective workshops ... Glimreen, wondering how he can possibly trump a Moon-voyage; Voldreen, half-panicked over what he's gotten himself into.
The first sightings of gremlins in Serraine date from this period of rapid mechanical innovation, although their presence is not given credence by the city's officialdom for many years to come.
[* - Surprising for Voldreen, too: it was the first thing he could come up with off the top of his head.]
32 AC : Voldreen Gemeye's immense space vessel, the "Tsoodlok"*, is almost complete. The slow-moving ship offers berths for up to two hundred would-be Moon colonists, and GASA members all over gnomedom pester their families to let them join the lottery which determines who gets a seat. Voldreen and his hand-picked bridge crew ready themselves for the journey, and food supplies for the two-and-a-half-year journey are laid in using storage methods developed specifically for the spacegnomes.
Glimreen, after private consultations with FAA members and city officials, remains uncharacteristically silent regarding his brother's upcoming venture.
[* - Literally, "I win!" in Gnomish.]
39 AC : A great banquet and festival is held in the countryside near Serraine, as Voldreen and his bridge officers are honoured by gnomish inventors everywhere, on the morning of the "Tsoodlok's" departure. Glimreen does not attend. Although miffed by his brother's intransigence -- and that he's missed his chance to show him up, face to face -- Voldreen Gemeye orders the launch on schedule. With a thunderous ignition that shakes the mountains, the gnomish moon-rocket lifts off its launch pad and heads for the Void beyond the Skyshield.
As the vessel takes off, one of Voldreen's bridge crew chances to glance out the observation window at the right moment. The young astrognome catches a parting glimpse of the rooftops of Serraine ... only to see the entire city rise up from the bedrock it rests upon, hover in midair, then bank like a bird and veer off into the distance, showing its exposed, rocky underbelly to the departing "Tsoodlok". Trailing beneath the flying city is a huge, white banner, marked with letters taller than a storm giant. The banner's message, in its entirety, reads: "No, I win!"
With atypical prudence for her species, the ensign refrains from reporting what she has seen to Captain Gemeye. She is soon promoted to Lt. Commander.
42 AC : Serrainian gnomes report the last telescopic sightings of the "Tsoodlok", approaching the lunar disk and vanishing beyond the Cordillera Mountains. This is the final information Mystarans have, as to the fate of the gnomish space vessel, her crew, or Voldreen Gemeye.
Part 4. Saga Of The Seven Magnificent Princes*
* - Timeline is as given in the classic Noh play of that name; translated from the Myoshiman by Lady Abovombe.
[Myoshiman history and Immortals are as derived from the, Patera Timeline.]
400 BC : The city of Mara is founded on Patera by oriental-style rakasta, in retreat from their long occupation of Ochalea following Alphatia's intervention. Hereditary governance by the samurai caste becomes the norm in the Myoshiman islands, creating feuding domains which remain independent of one another for many centuries.
435 AC : Daimyo Hirameki completes his effort to bring all the islands under his rulership. Ending a generation of civil warfare and instituting wise and just laws, he is hailed as the first Emperor of Myoshima. Popular belief that Hirameki's royal mother, a priestess of Ikutsuin (Ixion) who vanished from public sight long ago, has since become an Immortal, helps solidify his entitlement to imperial rule by divine right.
460 AC : In what is rumoured to be family tradition, Emperor Hirameki abdicates the throne in favour of a cousin, Kitahara Ieyasu, in order to pursue Immortality in the Sphere of Energy. Because any faithful samurai would choose to die before drawing steel -- even in bloodless challenge -- against His Imperial Majesty, Hirameki pursues his Task by confronting seasoned rakasta warriors in every other nation on Patera. Nevertheless, no other rakasta in Myoshima will place his or her Task in opposition to Hirameki's until the former Emperor has attained his goal; for the next 140 years, no samurai but he will pursue the Path of the Paragon.
522 AC : Prince Kitahara Jiro, one among several younger sons of Emperor Kitahara Naoki who are not destined for the throne, begins training in bushido under the tutelage of his maternal uncle, acclaimed war hero Nekotakai Myojo. The famous samurai teaches Jiro the arts of bladework, discipline, and courtly conduct, even as Jiro's brother-princes pursue other honourable vocations.
528 AC : The young rakasta prince accompanies his uncle on campaign against the Shotohai Uprising, where he serves in the Imperial forces with distinction. In the years to follow, Kitahara Jiro acquits himself with honour and becomes a great adventurer in his own right. Growing beyond Nekotakai's supervision, he single-handedly overcomes many bandits, malign spirits, and renegade Oriental dragons.
536 AC : Wishing to emulate the First Emperor, Prince Jiro sets his sights upon the lofty goal of Immortality. After some consideration, he chooses the Path of the Polymath. Respecting his uncle's wisdom, he requests the now-retired Nekotakai to accompany him to the Temple of Kattan (Kata Ng) in Kompor-Thap, where he hopes to petition the ancient rakastan Immortal for sponsorship. Every-gracious, the veteran samurai complies with his often overhasty protégé's wishes.
Hoping to share in Jiro's glory, five of his brother-princes also accompany him on his journey to Pakan, in the pachydermion nation of Kompor-Thap. They place their diverse skills -- shukenja, kensai, fighting-monk, sorcerer, and imperial spy -- at his disposal, and are accepted as his required companions ... although as the eldest of the six, Prince Jiro is perhaps more domineering than is usual for a Polymath.
Arriving in Pakan, Jiro presents his petition to Kattan, along with gifts from the treasuries of the Imperial Court. The rakastan Immortal accepts the prince's bequest, but is uncertain of his sincerity. Nevertheless, the young samurai proves himself in the seven tests of merit -- tests in which Jiro is on his best behaviour, and in which his faithful brothers help him greatly.
Uncle Nekotakai does not accompany the sons of the Emperor on these tests, remaining in Pakan, where he meets privately with the clergy of Ganitsura (Ganetra).
537 AC : Confident that he has impressed Kattan, Prince Jiro returns to Pakan convinced his petition has been accepted. Indeed, the Immortal has but one task remaining for his sponsorship to be earned. Because his gifts were won by birthright rather than personal achievement, Kitahara Jiro must bestow upon Kattan the finest and rarest of all gold, namely that which gilds the shining dome of Matera's Farside. Not until that brightest gold is brought to Pakan, warns Kattan/Kata Ng, will a prince of the Imperial blood take his place among the Immortals.
Accepting this daunting challenge, Jiro and the other Kitahara Princes make their plans to journey beyond the Skyshield in a direction never before undertaken. Knowing the flight will be far, far longer than their ancestors' flights to and from Mystara, his shukenja and sorcerer brothers devise new spells that will allow their flying tigers to cover great distances through the Void, without hunger, thirst, or exhaustion. Their uncle Nekotakai, completing his prayers to Ganitsura, offers to accompany them on their seemingly-impossible venture, keeping a wary eye that the princes do not underestimate the dangers beyond the Skyshield.
540 AC : After more than two years in the saddle, with few pauses for rest and no food but what their spells can conjure, the six brothers' endurance -- both of body and of spirit -- is exhausted. By the time they reach Matera, the Princes Kitahara are squabbling like ill-mannered children. Jiro, the would-be Polymath, is furious that his quest should ask so much patience and offer so little acclaim, while Jiro's brothers are bitter that they have thrown away so long a portion of their lives, for an ungrateful sibling. Only Nekotakai, unspeaking and alone in his thoughts for much of the journey, remains above the bickering which his royal nephews have fallen into, now that they no longer feel Kattan's judging eyes upon them.
Landing on the Farside just shy of the lunar dawn, the Kitaharas are horrified to discover no gold; the ground beneath their feet -- far from the treasure they have been charged to retrieve -- is of a hard, dense crystal, not precious metal! Frantic, the rakasta youths split up and begin a desperate search. They squander the spells they need to endure the coming light and heat of Materan dawn, darting in and out of the oncoming terminator once the shadowed regions have been scoured, but none reports even a trace of gold for Kattan's gift. In a frenzy of frustration, the embittered Jiro accuses his youngest brother, the imperial spy, of having found the gold, only to keep its location to himself.
Shocked, Jiro's sibling denies the outrageous accusation, but the irate Prince will hear none of it, and lashes out. He throws a punch at his smaller brother. Trying to avert the conflict, the shukenja-prince leaps to interpose himself between them and suffers Jiro's blow for the youngest; falling, the young rakastan priest's head strikes the crystalline ground, rendering him unconscious. The shukenja lives, but all his chagrined siblings' attempts to revive him are in vain.
Too late, Jiro realises what his dishonourable actions and reckless accusations have done. He has struck a priest, and a loyal henchman, and a younger sibling for whose safety he had accepted responsibility. Worse, he has condemned one of their number to die, for too late he remembers how wastefully they have used up the spells that could have protected them from the burning Materan sunlight. With their priest lying senseless, only the sorcerer's magic remains, to shield their company from the heat and brightness soon to come; and he knows all too well that his brother's wizardly skill can shelter only six, not seven.
Accepting the doom he has brought upon the company for himself, alone, an abashed and wiser Prince Jiro falls to his knees. He orders his remaining brothers to share the protective magics among themselves, bind the priest securely upon his mount, and then return to Patera, leaving Jiro to await which his own folly has brought upon him. Having dishonoured himself so, he is unworthy to escape the fate of his own making. The younger princes refuse to desert him, but Jiro draws his wakizashi and swears he will end his own life, here and now, if they do not heed his words. Given no choice, the sorcerer-prince lays his protective spells upon himself and his fellows, the unconscious priest and the meditative, unspeaking Nekotakai, leaving Jiro with nothing.
Unable to offer comfort, the five brothers who have followed Prince Jiro honour his last request, and depart for Patera, without lingering to witness his sure and painful demise. Only his uncle, still silent, remains at his side, standing so his shadow will, at least, spare the young samurai his eyes. Time passes. Then, dawn.
As the sun's first rays breach the curving, crystalline horizon, Nekotakai Myojo draws his katana. He holds the elegant, thousandfold blade -- crafted by his own hand in the Temple of Ganitsura -- reverently up to the light. The streaming, unfiltered sunlight flashes golden upon the metal, as Patera's wayward illumination claims its own for the first time in mortal history. Nekotakai lowers the sword, and turns to Jiro; yet, the fall of the elder samurai's shadow across the weapon does not dim the gilded radiance which has melded deep into its steel.
With solemn words, the veteran rakasta tells his nephew that he is the great-grandson of Emperor Hirameki -- a prince in his own right -- and that he has trained and counselled Prince Jiro in fulfilment of his Testimony on the Path of the Epic Hero. Though it grieves him that the Kitahara prince's life should end in this manner, Jiro's own acceptance that he perish in expiation of his error has proven him a worthy successor, though he die before his mentor passes on. Now, Nekotakai's sword has taken the golden light of the sun unto itself, and the process of enchantment which was begun in the Temple at Pakan is all but finished. He has done the impossible and will soon take his place within the Sphere of Thought.
Then, Nekotakai tells Prince Jiro that which his own sponsor, Ganitsura, has bidden him say on Kattan's behalf. He tells his nephew that Matter, however strong, is only truly mastered by the spirit that knows it for a means, not an end. Flesh and mortal life are blessings and should not be squandered, yet to cherish their delights -- even victory -- too fiercely, is to seek empty gratification, without harmony. The rakasta are a fierce people, yet they must learn to accept the consequences of their strength and warrior ways -- to accept responsibility for their failings of character, even unto death -- if they are to remain stronger in spirit than their powerful, feline bodies are, in flesh, and not fall into the barbarousness of orcs and other creatures whose aggression outweighs their wisdom. If Myoshima is to be a land of honour and poetry, and not solely of steel and fire, its people must learn to judge themselves most harshly of all, and to embrace whatever justice or penance stern self-judgement, and the search for worthiness, should lead them to.
Jiro listens to his uncle's words, grasps their implication, knows that he can still redeem his honour by coming willingly to the punishment fate would bestow upon him. He grasps the hilt of his bared wakizashi. Even as he sheaths the blade within his abdomen -- the core of his being -- his uncle's sun-blessed katana cuts the Materan airlessness, to cleave Jiro's neck in one merciful blow, forestalling his pain. Such is the first act of sokotsu-shi -- expiatory seppuku; willingly enacting a final justice upon one's self, thus reclaiming ultimate harmony with justice -- in Myoshiman history; and thus does Nekotakai Myojo become the first kaishaku-nin, by serving as second for his kinsman and protégé.
No longer grieving, Nekotakai senses Ganitsura's approval; with his nephew's self-purifying death -- the last selfless deed by which his katana must be enchanted; and one the veteran samurai could never ask of any soul, only allow to come to pass in its own way -- his successor's place in Myoshima's long, martyr-filled history is assured. Nor is Jiro's death the end the Kitahara prince imagined it to be, for Kattan is now satisfied with the young rakasta's ability to learn, as well as to sacrifice. Somewhere, none can guess where, the first of Kitahara Jiro's three incarnations on the Quest of the Polymath cries its first, newborn infant's wail.
541 AC : Prince Nekotakai Myojo ascends to Immortality in the Sphere of Thought, becoming the Myoshiman patron of all that is chivalrous and spiritually-uplifting in bushido. His great katana, the legendary Blade Of Moon-Dawned Sunlight, is enshrined in the Temple of Ganetra in Pakan.
558 AC : Princess Kitahara Myomasa memorialises her brothers' journey to Matera, and particularly her brother Jiro's death, in a series of poems that become some of the great classics of Myoshiman historical literature. Over the next century, they are the inspiration for dozens of plays, odes, and commemorative festivals; by 700 AC, fully 60% of male rakasta born in Myoshima will be named after one of the Seven Magnificent Princes, a custom which persists even to this day. The practice of sokotsu-shi, by which the condemned may cleanse the tarnish from their family name and reclaim their self-respect despite the unendurable shame of their wrongdoings, also dates from this period. The fact that every samurai must be steeled to accept this fate, thereafter, does much to mitigate the rakastan warrior-caste's savagery and encourage them to adopt a deeper, philosophical outlook ... just as Kata Ng intended, all along.
624 AC : Prince Kitahara Jiro, after three full and worthy lifetimes, attains Immortality in the Sphere of Matter. He becomes the patron and protector of those who redeem their failings with seppuku, fiercely defending his claim upon their spirits so that Hel, who rules the dishonoured and the damned, cannot touch them.
Part 5. Better late than never.... ;-)
968 AC : Heldannic Warbird "Adler" lands on Matera, staying for seven days of geological exploration. Finding absolutely nothing of value or interest, although proud to have been the first, the Heldannic Knights make no further forays to the outermost moon.