by Greenjack Jorkin
The Known World - Snow to Sand and Storm to Storm
My name is Greenjack Jorkin. And I am going to tell you a little something about the nature of this baffling world we call a home.
I will not endeavour to do this in my capacity as a Brother of the Temple. For in the hierarchy of the Brotherhood, my fellow Brothers and Sisters and even the Krillian himself would say that this world is “A gift from our most Noble Dragon”, and to question the nature of His miraculous gift is often regarded, with dubious yet passive judgement, as heresy.
But then to mind about such things is also seen as a form of heresy. An initiate might be disciplined for asking too many questions, but the disciplinarian would also be in breach of his beliefs for showing his ire for such mundane behaviour.
Never underestimate the power of theological one-upmanship. For in the Dragon’s Temple tolerance is the currency of the faithful. The more tolerant you are, the stronger your faith. So it is of great importance to not mind about things. Thievery? Murder? Betrayal? You shall find peace if you simply stop minding. Famine? Frost? Earthquakes? You shall find peace if you simply stop minding.
Tolerance, it seems, is a fine banner to fight beneath. As it requires nothing from it’s bearer. The tolerant mask slips slowly with every shrug of the faithful’s shoulders, until their true face of is shown. And it is often one of apathy.
And apathy will never deign to explain the world.
Nor will I try and explain from the perspective of a Natural Philosopher, for many sins drive the hearts and hands of that order. A self-serving atheism has settled within their ranks, and they hold to their belief (or lack thereof) as fanatically as any witch or weaver might hold to theirs.
Their view is one of bleak happenstance. With humanity, in their eyes, no more than a parasite upon this floating rock of a world. It is a common trait amongst the ranks of the “enlightened” to do away with religion, who see belief as a tool of kings and priests to better control an unruly populace. But stories predate monarchies and theocracies, and all any religion really is at it’s most rudimentary level is a set of cautionary or celebratory fables to better help guide lost souls toward the good.
But to view this miraculous world as no more than a rock infested with humanity is to also view your body as no more than a skeleton infested with flesh and blood.
I have the rather unique position of being both theologian and philosopher. And can see with unparalleled clarity that neither Temple nor Studium have the right of it, for they share a common thread… and that is that reality and spirituality are somehow diametrically opposed to one another. When in reality, true reality, one is formed by the other.
It is with our eyes that we are gifted sight, through refractions and distortions of light and shadow. It is with our ears that vibrations in the air are deciphered and decoded into sounds. Our skin translates tiny changes of air pressure into temperature… so how is it such wise and clever men can attest that our perceptions do not shape nor impact the world? When without such perception, sight, smell, hearing, the world would be indistinguishable from a dreamscape. Just drifting energy flowing through an eternal nothingness.
In the Temples of the Dragon’s Prayer, we heed the counsel of many long dead philosophers (or at least we are meant to), many of them of faerish descent. Elder Methwyn-o-Clydd was one such elf, who, after centuries of thought and contemplation gave a rare, albeit brief, written account.
It is only two lines. The only two he wrote in his two-centuries of teaching.
Elves did not write often, you understand. The nature of the faerfolk’s undying memory rendered the practice quite obsolete. Paper and parchment were not yet in common use, so if words needed to be marked they were always marked in stone, which is where we found his first, and only, lesson. Marked at the alter of our most Noble Dragon here in the Temple of Rhothodân.
Those that know the prayer, do not speak it.
Those that speak the prayer, do not know it.
This leaves me in the quite precarious position of walking with a foot either side of knowledge and ignorance. My spoken words will never carry the truth I know in my heart, but perhaps they will carry some meaning, and thus provide a foundation of understanding to better build your own internal truth. With much risk, I am aware, of being misunderstood, misconstrued and misremembered. Man delight so, I’m sure you’ve noticed, in hearing only what they want to hear. And disregarding anything hat might give them pause for thought. It makes things easier, I’ve no doubt.
But it is a lie, all the same. So be wise, and rid yourself of any preconceived notions that truth boasts any adaptability to circumstance. It does not. And never has. Truth is as gold; inert, mouldable for purpose, true enough. But the shape never changes its original worth. And time never tarnishes it’s sheen.
For the first lesson one must always learn (if one is foolish enough to go asking questions of this bemusing world) is that those who claim to know the answers already; know only of their own petty certitude. And nothing more.
My fellow Brothers within the Temple are fine examples of such men. As well as my peers within the Order of Natural Philosophy… for certitude is bolstered by certitude. And truth, in their minds, is found in the studious nodding of a hundred or so weary, befuddled, old men. One need look no further than that, not within the orders of the self-appointedly wise.
I remember, back as a rather bookish boy of nine or ten years; I was gifted a large leather bound tome by my Lord Merchant father. It was named thus; “Certainties of the Natural World – An Explanation” it was a collection of accounts and natural studies written by the much esteemed Krillian Stuttmynd in the year of 799 by Sathillian Reckoning. It detailed much about the nature of beasts and the woodlands, mountains and fens of our much beloved isles.
It was a fair glossary, make no mistake. It listed in its pages every known variety of mushroom, for example. It listed every seed native to the Eastern Isles as well as every tree, bush and flower these seeds grew into. My favourite part was the section on beasts, in particular the bestial order of “Dalkys’Sanguinys” —dragons; and their many monstrous cousins. Wyverns, falds and manticores. Griffons, cockatrices and knuckers. I was particularly excited, as the title of the great tome boasted of ‘an explanation’… where these beasts came from. Why they differ so extremely to other, more conventional animals. How dragons breathed fire. How manticores can fly. And how, all of them, could or can, seemingly, comprehend human speech and behaviour.
But it explained none of that.
Krillian Stuttmynd detailed, richly, how an acorn grows into an oak. From seed, to sapling to tree. But he never explained why. I remember thinking then, as a boy of ten, as I think now… That this book was not ‘an explanation’. It was simply a list of names. A tome of observations. With new names created and inserted to fill any blanks.
But names aren’t explanations.
And so, for the sake of my younger self’s curiosity, I aim to give some explanation of this, our natural world. Free of certainty, the toxic weed that runs wild in any scholarly garden. Free of assertion, as well. The world is complicated enough without me adding any of my own meandering, petty guesses. And free, for the most part, of pomposity. There will certainly be some, for I, surely, could not be named a natural philosopher without it.
The Known world spans an estimated eight-thousand miles east to west, and approximately five-thousand miles north to south. When one travels far enough in any direction one is met with an elemental barrier.
East and West are guarded by impenetrable storms and angry seas that crash and thunder over a labyrinth of razor sharp, mountainous rocks.
While north is shielded by undying blizzards, and walls of ice nearing a hundred feet high, careening and crashing constantly into a frozen sea.
And south is an endless waste of sand and salt, cooked so hot by the sun that great lakes of glass run static in the valleys between each dune, like still un-rushing rivers.
But as we adventure from snow to sand and storm to storm, in the world the elves names Tyr-na-Dalka, let us start where the elven stories start, with the cold and dismal North.