In Asia, when Cheng’bai, the Red Weed, the White Immortal met face to face Harsha the Red Immortal, something extraordinary happened in the epicentre of their confrontation before they both disappeared. The Purusartha and Black Spot movements were finally flailing, they were at their end- their hope was that the Red Weed’s victory would invigorate the violence and win them territory to continue their onslaught right there- where the Sino-Malaya met the Row of Lights, where refugees and soldiers and governments and engineers met to solve problem innumerable and impossible. Cheng and Harsha vanished from the face of the Earth, but in their wake, in attempt to save the world from a ‘Black Spot’ which would consume us all, the world poured investment and effort into that place, science and construction and people seeking to make a new life, a fire was started and from it rose a city, a real phoenix, to many the second Polis Earth, or even a city more worthy of the title, the young city of Incandessa was born. Shanty towns and skyscrapers, magnetic trains and festivals of wood and hearths. They say Polis Earth saved that place, because Earth proved it could be done, so it was. But at the same time, Incandessa (also known as Nyx, like the Athenian deity of night) would become a very different place.
Polis Earth was a kaleidoscope of a billion billion cultures lighting and burning bright like the northern lights, a million million languages and flags and scarves and colours, awake at once. This did not happen in Nyx, in Incandesa, traditions merged and blended and religions morphed and combined, languages met and melted, races blurred and all humanity cooked together in a great fire made to keep them alive. A melting pot literal, of humanity that became so dense that the night was longer there than anywhere else on the equator. To this day, no explanation exists, no certain explanation as to why nights are so long in Incandessa. The people of the Deepa Wali, of whom both Deepak and Asem were a part – who believed in breath and that it filled the sky and made it rich, turning it into the night sky – believed that was the answer, that the city’s sky was dense with prayer and thought and action and feeling, that it created a dense sky of night, not evil, just full, creating stars and monsoons and a blanket of mighty dark over the burning, burning city which shone bright and scorching with candles and neon and songs and screams. Incadessa- the place burning white hot – Sirius Nyx- the scorching night god.
They say that’s why more than any other city in the world, the Raindancer itself, the Enemy, the Eclipse King, felt he had to destroy Incandessa, because in its burning dense night, more than any other city on the Earth, it defied him in its humanity.
They say it was three engineers, three machinists, or maybe they were librarians who laid the foundations. Some say they were refugees, others say they were businessmen, for one reason or another, they didn’t want to be remembered. The Lost City of Angels of the New World. Elizabetha of Brittania, the Isles of Lights. And Edo of the Isles of Fires where the Ainu and Wajin people made their home. Three cities which conquered the night- no, which learnt that there was nothing to fear in the dark, they passed the torch to Incandessa, or so legend has it. Those three parents together created a child with a deeper heart beat than any before it. A heart that sung and rose and stirred and cried and roared and rolled – a behemoth with fire on its back and scales iridescent- scales or feathers? Perhaps it was some great bird. Beating and breathing and living with colours of all-colour. This was what the city was, a living thing, unafraid of the great, long nights – in fact it’s at night that it would stir, that it would breathe and belch and sing and cry, beating wings which whipped up flames, flames of which its nest was made.
Polis Earth, was not an animal, but a sheet of raging music, rising far into the sky, living and believing. The only other things people could compare Polis to was a stirring, rising, rising angel – or deva as said by the people of South Asia. Then, if Polis was an angel, then perhaps Nyx was something else, not a demon, but more furious and restless, without a million prayers to keep it company in the night – an asura maybe. Maybe. If Polis was the heart of the world, Nyx was its stomach, churning and burning and digesting. It is in Nyx, Incandessa where opinion burned and the world microcosmed and in Polis where it soared and dreamed. Like nutrients and blood.
And all those years ago during the Cataclysm, when the Enemy, the Eclipse King attacked, he had determined to destroy Incandessa himself. Where he had condemned the rest of the world to an asteroid barrage, he struck at Incandessa with violet fires, which Julian may have been the first person to work out, were made of the same stuff as the violet storm giant. The city survived, but was charred with the strange violet stuff and had never been the same; it became stranger, a place where things never seen before walked and crawled and flooded amidst the neon and candle fire. Why? What? People of Incadessa, of Nyx didn’t ask, they merely accepted what the world was and lived with it. Deepnight understood the phenomena to be constellations, beings of concept melting, leaking into the material world, warping it, affecting it. The stuff of darkness, of the human heart made real.
It was of this city, that Solace was born. Before she had joined Julian, it is here that she attained her incredible strength. She was the pride of the city – the perfect white ghost, the children called her the Great Ghost. No evil stood before her crimson eyes and perfect white which banished the long dark, none could stand before her in all that city, never. Shadows scattered before her fearless fury. The woman with no fear, who conquered the shadows of the world, she gave the people of Nyx courage. It was a great loss when Julian took her away. Some people say, or rather know that the only things that had kept the gangs at bay until then, that had kept them from discovering the pieces of the Enemy’s dark ‘flames’ was her. When she left to join the Raindance, the gangs numerous and terrible rose to meet the night and before long, discovered the potential that existed in collecting the violet flames, the dark-stuff that had rained on them. And used them to terrible effect – to summon, or perhaps create constellations which the Anchors of Night explained to Deepnight were the worst of their kind.
Deepnight was determined to intervene- however, the Anchors assured him that Festival protected the city without directly intervening. Deepnight was furious at first, but before long realised and made it a part of his code, that humanity of which he was not wholly a part, needed to grow for itself. Festival didn’t intervene directly, her appearance would mirror the mysterious ghost train which some people believed Sirius had left behind before disappearing. Some people believed that it was the terror of the ghost train from which Solace had derived her terrible power. No one was sure, but they knew that the ghost train, which sometimes came once a year, sometimes three times a year, once a month for a short time, left behind the being everyone called ‘Nightmare’. Nightmare would appear as fleetingly as the ghost train itself and cause havoc on the hearts and minds of this place. Nightmare was a strange being of pyjamas and fire and darkness and pendulum and jack o’lantern and grin. The children called him the lonely ghost. Because the city so filled with loneliness believed it was only a lack of love which could drive any creature mad in the night, as Nyx’s people believed it had done to Sirius.
Only one thing would drive Nightmare away – even Solace could not – some people believed it was prayers- but I think Nightmare himself was made of a certain kind of prayer. It was Festival, who as a constellation was also made of songfire and prayer-force. Festival of platform shoes, sandals and roller blades who skidded and soared across the city’s heights and across its earth, soared like no human would until Sem. Human. Sem would think it was strange that Deepnight and Festival weren’t considered human- they were made of our very thoughts and feelings, surely, surely that made them as human as the rest of us. Surely, we were made of thoughts and feelings as well. Surely.
Festival, who was of fire and light berserk, grinning with eyes incandescent with disco lights. She and Nightmare would dance and fight to stalemate and then both disappear, until the next time the ghost train emerged. As Julian took Solace with him, he left something behind in her place for the people of Incandessa. Using his ‘understanding’, he had worked out a timetable for the arrival of the ghost train for the next ten years. People suddenly knew exactly when the ghost train and thus, Festival and Nightmare would make their appearance. It became a part of the city’s consciousness. It became something that everyone knew, it simply was. Julian had somehow etched it into public consciousness, just for a moment. Then, it began appearing on posters across the city, children spoke of it in schools.
This short story, belongs to six people who would leave a mark in their own way, across the fury and darkness, following in the legacy of Solace. They would make a difference their own way. Founded by the musical skeleton Rrrrumba- Reign, Rebel, Rage, Restitute, Revolt and Reprise would together save their city. There are better places for their story, but their story and ours coincide and understanding at least a part of their story, we can better understand the Four Shards, and in doing so, understand Sem’s story better as well. This story begins on the city’s streets filled with tears and knee prints and palm prints and candle fire and hopes. For from their story would rise one of the Orion Alliance’s most loved members. From their story would come Soloman.
Great glowing green eyes, bombastic and massive, those are witness descriptions of Rrrrumba, the saxophone wielding skeleton oozing with a strange green energy, kidnapping people he finds in groups. Some people escape saying that they had been taken to an underground passage of some kind- others say that after they told him a story, Rrrumba let them go. Some of the gangs took it upon themselves to capture or destroy Rrrumba- bullets didn’t seem to work whilst summoning constellations often only drives him away if he cannot win outright. Of all the constellations in Nyx, Rrrrumba was the weakest. Some believe he had been summoned by a gang who had gathered enough dark flames, but couldn’t seal him away again. He’s also been caught reading to children in hospital, then asking them to tell him a story and playing saxophone at christenings, funerals and weddings that may happen at night. It’s unclear if he gave himself the name or if it was given to him for how he extended his Rrrrrs so magnificently.
The world would never come to know them by any other names than those they would choose for themselves, but the three girls and three boys who stayed together for reasons none other than to feel safer, from the gangs, from Soloman, hoping that being with others, somehow they could be more free in that night, in that city that they loved. What brought them together is that they had all lost someone to the reign of Soloman’s mob. Some of them were approached to be recruited, but when they declined were marked for retribution. Some actually joined but horrified by the extent of Soloman’s brutality ran away. A couple of them had friends or family killed by crossfire between Soloman’s thugs and the ADSF, the Anti-Dark Strike Force. The girl who would become Reprise dreamed of joining the ADSF just so she could fight Soloman and the other gangs who she blamed for the perpetual fear she lived in. She wanted to make them scared too. If Festival was too busy fighting Nightmare and if Solace Lovecraft had gone to join the Raindance, she felt she had to step up and fight in their place. She and the other five met under ADSF witness protection and escaped from it to form their vigilante group. Their first aim was to find and destroy Rrrrumba.
Rrrrumba caught them and washed away their consciousness with the blow of his saxophone. When they awoke, they were all six laying together underground, surrounded by people still asleep or out cold. Rrrrumba’s green shimmer permeated the darkness. He wanted to them to tell him a story. The young woman who would become Reprise, she refused, determined that she would never give anything to any of the creatures that robbed the city of its freedom. Rrrrumba tried to explain, he loved humanity, perhaps as much as Deepnight himself, watching humans he had learnt to dance and play the saxaphone. He wanted to hear people’s stories so that they could live on, before he had to feed them to the storm giant, the dark spawn of Naenamh at the core of the city. Feeding Vos humans was all that kept it from attacking the city. A storm would come and then destruction. Reprise was disgusted and by sheer will, defied the terror which had paralysed her and her friends. She stood. And they stood with her even as the strange, violet, broken form of Vos lumbered into the tunnel, roaring with screams inhuman. Rrrrumba, inspired by their courage, attempted to fight Vos off, but to no avail. Vos stumbled over the five and swallowed them through some appendage or opening in its form. The creature swelled red and erupted, releasing them- their sheer will to live had shattered the monster and so they stood, their veins and eyes pulsing with violet and black and crimson, grinning proud and impossible. Reign, Rebel, Rage, Restitute, Revolt and Reprise fell upon Vos crushing him with impossible strength and might, lashing out with dark lightning, they sent the beast crashing through the ceiling and obliterating it in the stars above. The five floated down back over the Earth and saw the full blazing starscape glory of their city. They had attained power even Anti-Dark didn’t have, the power to protect their city. And they smiled because they were free. And Rrrumba stood in awe, at the ferocity of humanity.
Rrrrumba swore fealty to the six and together they formed a gang – Lovecraft, to uphold Solace’s legacy, Solace Lovecraft’s legacy, at whose feet skulls blossomed and before whose impossible gaze of blood moon, evil quaked, whom devils worshipped and whose shadow was filled with bats and wolves and other living, furious things. Their bodies had the abilities to draw strength from dark flames and grant them immense power. The six of them used their might to confront and fight back against the great gangs and the ‘creatures’ they summoned. ‘Biohazard’ and their Obsidious – mad, headless, heartless biker who rode on a nightmare machine. ‘EVIL’, a gang of violent robots led by ‘Egor’ and their Homunculus. ‘Allen Poe’ and their Raven. Azrael, who wielded an army of strange undead-like beings which marauded the streets led by lieutenant wise corpses. And the most terrible ‘Pandemonium’ whose leader Soloman was determined to strengthen their ‘Owl’, bloody, powerful and wholly unknowable, wide and black eyed with gaping mouth, releasing a wave-length of madness in its wake. Insanely, Soloman wanted to use the Owl to aid Festival in vanquishing Nightmare. It is only after his defeat at the hands of Lovecraft that Soloman realised he didn’t merely hear the darkness which he thought to be the thoughts and wishes of mankind, but he could call them out – the shadows were alive, waking dancing, fighting beings who stretched with longing and will. He learnt he had been wrong to use terror and inspired by Heibaraki and Orion, wanted to collect stories of goodness, that in doing so, mankind could know it could defeat the Enemy. Somehow he believed this could save the lives of Lovecraft too, who had been poisoned by access to the ‘dark’ and who would one day seek out their answer through the Anchors of Night.
Soloman Lovecraft learned that collecting good stories was hard, especially in the dense night, so instead he collected tales of terror as a journalist, so that he could correct them with the shadows at his side, and make them tales of hope. Because after Lovecraft defeated him, Soloman remembered, his daughter loved stories more than anything else in the world. So he gave up on seeking vengeance on Nightmare for what it had done to Solace, and instead believed Solace would come home if the world were filled with lights. So, he would join Deepak, join Awesome in Orion, to make starlit the world, travelling to Polis Earth to learn of Orion which had made its home there. Egor would also leave Incandessa with Homunculus after the defeat of the Owl by Lovecraft. Azrael, ever lonely, had made an army of undead to keep him company, found solace and friendship in a boy from Turkestan, an Okinawan girl and a sleeping, Viennan boy. All the while, in silence a boy from the Middle Kingdom with ‘absolute menace’, a survivor of Cheng’bai’s onslaught acquired loyalty from a vampire giant wrapped in sorrow. No one knew, but Festival would tell Deepnight, that Lostday, Big Bad, spent a-lot of time in Nyx, not doing anything just watching, longing to be truly human and that watching Lovecraft planted something in him which made it possible for him to one day become Daybreak and join Deepak and Deepnight in Orion.
It was the shadows which would tell Soloman, that the cosmos called the Eclipse King Naenamh, because that was the sound of silence.