Tractate of a Timefree, Spacelike Domain
Originally titled simply Utility Manual, The Book of Horizons, popu-larly known as the Glyph Astra, received its vulgar title from references to the “star carvings” (Greek: astron, glyphe) allegedly revealed to the Strong Mother in kakta trance. These “carvings” in actuality offer eidetic images of probability patterns in the Overworld, that timefree, spacelike domain inside lynks (hypertubes). The Book of Horizons was intended primarily to orient people to the complexities of the Overworld—but first, it was necessary that the people find themselves within the worlds. The anonymous tractate that opens Utility Manual is meant to place us among the horizons not only of the worlds but of the Overworld. It can be found in most early editions from the Age of Knives and is traditionally assumed to have been written by the Strong Mother herself.
This chapter is for those people who remember Earth. The first thing you have to know is that your memories are real. Your certainty that you have lived before in a very different place than where you are now is not a delusion. Earth actually did exist, long ago. The swirl of stars that fills the night sky is the galaxy where we lived. Remember the Sun? It was a star in that galaxy. Two billion years ago, it blew up, and incinerated the Earth. This happened long after human life had become extinct. The exploding Sun cast the hot debris of the Earth into the void’s cold darkness, where it drifted almost all that time, mixing with the gas clouds of space. A few thousand years ago, an intelligent being from a reality we had never suspected found our dust. For its own alien purposes and by its own strange science, that intelligent being read in our dust the cryptarch of our lives (the fossilized DNA sealed in pebbles of the shattered Earth by the heat of the exploding Sun). From our cryptarch, the alien created us again. And not just our bodies. You re-member Earth because your consciousness, which is in fact a wavepat-tern of light emitted by your brain, was retrieved from the vacuum, where it had been expanding at the speed of light since you died.
The alien that regenerated you is not God, nor even a god. The ex-perience of being reborn in adult form out of the ground, cauled in a birthsack that grew with us in the loam, seems miraculous—but only until you understand that this has been accomplished with sophisticated and impersonal machinery. All the forests and jungles, all the multitudes of animals from every era of life on Earth, all the dinosaur herds, whales, and even bacteria and viruses, are products of a machine. The alien that operates this giant machine is a mortal being, albeit one whose timespan is enormously longer than ours. It is known variously as Gai, the Rim-stalker, the World Maker, and the World Eater. By whatever name you call it, this being is an alien, inhuman and indifferent to human affairs. It is not interested in you, though you may think that it is because, as you will find, you do not age as quickly here as you did on Earth or as quickly as your fellow humans who were born of parents in these worlds. This is not because the alien favors you; it is a side effect of the regen-eration process. The alien is not a spiritual being. Many lives have been lost disputing this issue. The truth is, this being regenerated you to serve as bait for yet another alien intelligence, its enemy, a species of sapient, winged spiders called zotl. Zotl eat people. See “Tactics” under zotl in the index for effective ways of avoiding and defending yourself against these cunningly lethal entities.
Your life belongs to you. You owe no debt to the being that roused you to this second life. Neither must you expect this being to guide you or benefit you in any way. It will not. You must find your own way now. This manual is designed to help you understand and survive any of the fifteen worlds as well as the Overworld itself, wherever you may find yourself.
Unlike the Earth, which evolved out of cosmic gases by natural processes over billions of years, these worlds are artificial and were con-structed swiftly. The being that regenerated you made these planets, the swarms of planetesimals, asteroids, and comets, and our two suns: the black hole Saor and the radiant star Lod, which is really not a star but a machine. Eight of the worlds orbit Lod, six orbit Saor, and one orbits both. The group of Lod planets is called Doror; they are bright, temper-ate, and tropical worlds. The Saor planetary group is called Chalco; these are twilit and nocturnal worlds, most warmed by thermal vents. The lone planet that orbits both Doror and Chalco is called Know-Where-to-Go, and is mostly a night world except for its brief transit of Doror once every thousand years. Each complete circuit of Know-Where-to-Go defines an age. There have been four ages as of this edi-tion. We are in the Fifth Age, commonly called the Age of Dominion. Two more ages are anticipated before Chalco-Doror completes its alien mission, and the being that created these worlds then destroys them.
That these worlds will collapse is true and not at all the apocalyptic madness the Saor-priests decry. Those who would have you believe that these worlds are eternal are agents for the spiders, who, indeed, desire to preserve Chalco-Doror that they may feed on us indefinitely. Do not despair that this bounty of new Earths is doomed; rather, rejoice that humanity’s suffering, caught between two feuding alien powers, will end.
About time measurement: All the major planets have spin-rates of twenty-three to twenty-five hours, but only the orbit of Nabu in Chalco approximates the 365-day orbit of Earth during the human epoch. Nabu-years, which this manual uses to measure time, are constant enough for calendrical purposes. The other planets have varying orbit times. Refer to the ephemerides in the appendix for the local time stan-dards of the planet where you are located. The ephemerides also provide data and stellar sighting techniques to help you determine which planet you are on.
The animals and plants that you do not recognize are from areas and times of Earth other than those you knew— or they are distortions. For unknown reasons, the alien mind that reads the cryptarch of Earth-life often takes liberties when expressing physical forms. Mutations and variations are common, new species more rare. A partial catalogue of the most common distorts is listed in the appendix.
All fifteen planets and forty of the largest planetesimals are con-nected to each other and to the Overworld by lynks. We never had lynks on Earth; more about them can be found in the appendix marked Over-world. Briefly, what you need to know is that a lynk is a portal that joins two distant regions in a way that allows a traveler to go from one to the other instantly, even across large interplanetary distances.
There are three different kinds of lynks. Those created by the being who made these worlds are called natural lynks and are indistinguishable from apparently natural formations like rock fissures, caves, and sink-holes; few of these lynks have been mapped. Those that belong to the zotl are rectangular structures about ten meters high and twenty wide, seemingly made of scarlet stone and sometimes referred to as redrock dolmens; these connect with the kingdom of the spiders and should never be entered, since the zotl will consume you. The third variety of lynks is the most prevalent: The tall silver arches (five to twenty-five meters high) that exist on all the planets are the functional remains of the Tryl, creatures of superior intellect now extinct but originally regen-erated by Gai. The Tryl lynks are sometimes rigged by the spiders to convey travelers to the zotl’s nest worlds, so do not enter any lynk until its destination has been confirmed by trained lynk wanderers (notably the Ordo Vala, who have produced this manual and whose nearest en-claves are listed at the front and in the index).
The lynk danger of which you should be most aware is that lynks are continuously active and can be entered inadvertently. Many lynks are hidden by the landscape, overgrown by vegetation, embedded in the ground. At various times in history, the zotl have hidden lynks on all planets to trap people. Many such traps are still active. Never enter an unknown cave or crawlhole without first tossing an object ahead to see or hear whether the portal is a lynk. In each of the Tryl lynks there is a globe, a map of the Overworld. Often in the past the globe has been erroneously identified as a spirit being to be worshipped. The image of a brightly mottled sphere suspended in a field of total blackness seems holy to many of us, and all the more so since the object cannot be touched or even approached, only beheld. Movement toward the map sends one through the lynk. Movement to either side delivers one to the Overworld. Read “The Practical Guide to Travel in the Overworld” af-fixed to this manual before attempting to enter a lynk.
It is quite possible to live in Chalco-Doror without concerning our-selves with [lynks], especially if we live in one of the many communities that purposely place themselves in regions remote from lynks and their dangers. Most of us who live far from the Overworld prefer to shun this seemingly supernatural aspect of our new reality. We cherish our memo-ries of Earth. We grieve for those of the first life whom we will never see again. And, when we can, we seek out others like ourselves, from our own times and races. But that is a mistake.
During the history of Chalco-Doror, among the many millions who have lived on Earth and lived again here in the worlds, only one such tribal fantasy has been realized and with sad results. The Aesirai who currently dominate all of Doror and parts of Chalco are humans selec-tively bred to imitate the tribe of their founder, Egil Grimson, a man who had lived and died on Earth as a Viking, a sea rover in the third millennium before human extinction.