On Nyteshades

Nyteshades are the most shadowy of all wizard orders. Taking after their Originator they are dark, solitary and mysterious creatures, more at home in the woods than in the cities of men. Representing the aspects of Night and Chaos above all else, they are unashamedly cynical in most matters of civilization – particularly those of Light and Order. Often isolated from people – or spending most of their lives in their heads – Nyteshades are quick to anger, ill-tempered and extremely impatient. Their expectations of people are unrealistically high, fueling feedback loops of expectation and disappointment. This in turn leads to the grim faithlessness, lack of cohesion and cynicism which is the great flaw of this order.

Yet despite the endless struggles of their lives, Nyteshades tend to be very intelligent, cunningly wise, songful bards and delightfully unpredictable company. Folk would think twice before risking the sardonic tongue of these umbrageous sorcerers, yet equally glad that they were not on the wrong side of their staves! They are powerful presences, their deep rage and sacred anger translating into warrior spirit – if not ill-disciplined berserk wrath – when strife calls. Trained to deal with the anxiety of their lives, they can face crisis with confidence. In times of need, most of these dark veterans can be relied upon to come out of their shells and cooperate with the resistance, until the battle is won or the problem solved. Often they will slink back to their hiding holes immediately after the dust settles, leaving no trace that they were ever around.

Shunned by most other orders, Nyteshades have nonetheless made a disproportionately large contribution to all fields of Lore. Their lack of dogma or hierarchy allows for free thinking and thus immense levels of discovery, even in spite of their low numbers. As expected of such a solitary, scattered order, they have no central shrine, no great gathering, no chapters and no permanent dwelling in any city. Nyteshades meet in the sacred groves, beneath the earth in crystal caverns or among the ancient stone circles of the Old Races. It is these places that this normally-irreverent order consider sacred and powerful, unimpressed by the pretense and symmetry of ‘high civilization’.

The Order of Nyteshades consider the Black Swords to be the most sacred of relics, longing to have one fall into their hands again. They take the Raven or the Cat as their totemic sigil, juxtaposed against the light of the moon or the glow of the crystal. Every incarnation of their Order sigil is similar but different, representing that every Nyteshade follows the pattern, but none so dogmatically. And always imperfectly.

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Dealing with duality

If you dare to love, you must dare to lose.

If you want to feel joy, you must also sense sorrow.

If you wish to live, you must also expect death.

 

I have just thought of the most succinct conception of ‘fantasy’ ever. Fantasy is when life is one thing and not the other. It is good without evil, love without loss, life without death, change without chaos, pleasure without pain, and so on.

Reality is double-edged. Everything that can sense pleasure can feel pain. Everything that can soar high will be pulled down by gravity, everything that grows will decay.

The rough ground of reality leaves no space for perfection. Imperfection and finitude is hard-wired into us. Sentience contains suffering, and acceptance of this is necessary for us to feel anything good at all.

The closest we can get to fantasy is a grim remedy. Either to deny our own emotions and effectively be already-dead, a being without total sentience, a truncated being of ignorance and inhumanity. Or we can forever seek to get high and stay high – a biological impossibility, the destruction of our brains and natural rhythms, a constant urge to stay awake, never dream until the body collapses.

Anxieties of perfect health, of immortal life, of endless pleasure, of freedom from chaos, of eternity and afterlife – all feed into the fantasy of a non-reality which is irresistible to use finite beings, yet must be acknowledged as harmful to the soul. We must accept the darkness as we accept the light; we must dispel our myths and fantasies as wishful thinking at best, and destructive ideals at worse.

How much we suffer depends on our expectations. The longer we expect to live perfectly happy lives, the longer we shall suffer. This does not mean giving up the struggle for better standards, denying happiness and accepting artificial suffering. Nor does it mean disengaging with the world around us.

It simply means being realistic about what is and isn’t possible. We should strive for better, but realistically so. We should enjoy moments of love and happiness but accept that they are ephemeral. We should add suffering aplenty into our equation. Fortunately this dark cloud need not depress us; we should know that suffering is the cause of solidarity, heroism and enlightenment.

Life without this struggle is beyond my conception.

 

The power of dreams

I have started to come into full connection with my dream-self. This means the habit of journaling dreams, but also on a deeper level, trying to understand them. I am far from an ‘expert’ in why we dream and what it all means, but I do not propose to provide solid answers. The subject matter seems too ethereal for that. I wish only to journal my thoughts and express what I believe; perhaps you will find commonality there or can help me realize what they are all about!

There is a logic in dreams, one that cannot be discerned from the light-world of reason and conscious decision. It is so easy to ask ‘how does this fit into my narrative? What is it trying to show me?’ I am now asking ‘what is the logic of the dream-world; is there one at all?’

I am believe two things of two things. Firstly that dreams are not meaningless. It is laughably arrogant to think so – as if the conscious mind alone can find its own significance; as if a being can ignore its very primal creative power and expect to know anything of itself! I believe our dreams to be visions from the unconscious mind, a ‘spiritual’ guide. If anything, it is the contextless, socially-shackled conscious mind that is more prone to meaninglessness – as this part of us alone can be subverted and truncated; there is no escaping the truth of our dreams, for without sleep we cannot live, and without dreams our sleep is poor.

Secondly, I am sure that dreams  are not just suppressed desires. This may be a part of a dream’s expression, but I do not believe for a second that a dream is just the ‘id’ trying to reach the surface. This is a very crude explanation for our dreams, and it feels intuitively wrong.

There is something far more powerful, far more primordial to the dream than that. I feel the symbolism of the dream is linking me to something universal – even if I am the only dreamer and my dreams are about me as an individuated incarnation, the themes and the symbols and the language of the dream have been absorbed by the world outside them.

My approach is to be patient with these dreams, to recognise the themes and try to understand their language. It is not enough to just write about it and analyse it from afar, and it can be dogmatic to turn to a dictionary of dream imagery for our answers (for instance, to think that lions always represent fear, or fire represents change or chaos! Its so trite!)

What I believe we must do is try to become the symbolism, try to embody it to connect to this deep part of ourselves. To journal carefully and recognise themes, places we keep going back to, people we keep on seeing. On the same patch of green space near to where I once lived I have dreamed of totem poles, of little English estate kids who resembled monkeys, of a camp of hippies and eco-warriors right on my front doorstep, of jungle-like long grass and a sense of emptiness. Is it a vision of past, present or a prediction of the future? I have to work that out myself.

Is this a pure expression of our spiritual aspect? Our direct connection to the world which created us and generates us? 

What I will end with is the incredible creative power of dreams. Spontaneously they can create the most complex systems an environments. Last night I dreamt I was listening to a song on the TV – the dreams devised the chords and lyrics, and they were great! Sadly I could not remember it at all. I also tend to dream of  reaching impossible train lines where the stations have ridiculous jibberish names. I cannot remember a single one of them! Sometimes the names are more plausible, but still random creations of the dream mind. Imagine consciously coming up with thirty station names, how much effort it would take. Now imagine trying to bring them all into conscious focus simultaneously – that it seems is what my dream-mind does (unless it is generating them at some earlier point in the dream or in waking life, but isn’t that just even more incredible, that it can create a dream to exist in and prepare the next parts!)

All of this is spontaneous – this is what makes it so unbelievably incredible. Our dream minds generate entire complex worlds and characters, impossibly vibrant colours and combinations, without the slightest effort.

I will never take this deep world for granted again, I promise. Every detail I can remember will be written down – you never know what is relevant, and what is just beautiful chaos.

Drained

Once there was a crofter who rode a cart to the nearby village. Every morning he would pass a sage – a lazy, unworldly man the like of which he thought little. Morning after morning the creaking cart and its load would go pass, and nary a word they would exchange.

Then one day the crofter started to struggle to sleep every night. The tiniest of irritations would keep him awake; the light of the moon, a creaking barn door, the bleak howls of fox, footsteps outside. No matter how long he lay in bed he slept little, and in a few months, his entire body started to feel the strain. Some days were so tiring he could hardly rise out of bed, but lay drenched in sweat and frustration.

The sage was surprised to see the crofter again, after a week in his absence. Feeling like he had nothing to lose, the crofter spoke asking: ‘Sage, I am troubled. Nights I cannot sleep, and days I am barely awake. I do not understand.’

The Sage rubbed his chin and gestured to a pouch at his belt. ‘There are herbs and powders for that. Have you tried them?’

‘Yes, all of them.’ replied the Crofter. ‘They help, a little, but I have seen what happens to the yeoman when they start living on the stuff. It is a recipe for disaster. And those who turn to wizardry are even more hopeless. Their life-span rapidly declines, and they trade a few years on top for bleak years without souls.’

‘Ah, then you do have some understanding.’

‘Perhaps. But that will not help me sleep at night.’

‘Then tell me’ said the Sage, getting into his element. ‘Why can you not sleep?’

‘I am anxious and miserable.’ replied the Crofter. ‘There, I admit it!’

‘And why are you anxious?’

‘My life has been a hard one, and my soul much tormented. It is how I have come out.’

‘And the misery?’

‘I cannot say. I just, am.’

‘Oh come now’ laughed the sage. ‘No one is miserable without good reason! Have a think.’

‘I suppose I am miserable because…it feels like we are losing.’

‘Who is losing what?’

‘The good people of the world are losing, to the bad people.’

‘Ah that! Yes, it does seem to be the way of things at this time. But why does that make you miserable?’

‘I believe that this does not have to be the case, and all around me are miserable people who say otherwise. So I ride this cart everyday, to silence the voice the miserable people have placed there.’

‘You believe it does not have to be the case. Then your misery springs from the very core of your heart, that what you believe in and desire is not being achieved.’

‘I guess it seems a lot clearer now.’

‘Would you rather you did not feel sadness? Would you rather your soul was silent and let the world slide by as it does, deeper and deeper into degeneracy?’

‘Come to think of it, no I would not.’

‘So your misery which leads to agitation and thus tiredness, is it something you can get rid of without fundamentally changing the core of your being?’

‘No?’

‘Well, yes. A little, try some of these herbs and powders.’

‘But-‘

‘The world will not change overnight, and you still have to live in it. But remember ye this – the more it is in your head that your misery, and all its concurrent malaises, are caused by your very own inner-dreams for betterment; the more you realize that your desires for better are being compared to the world and perpetually let down, the less that misery is your enemy, and the more it is a reason to strive to change things and avoid complacency. And rather than wallow in it, as I have never seen you do, you will just have to find a way to express what you truly desire to see in the world, and make it so, as much as it can be so.’

‘Truly sage, I thought you lazy as an old ox! But you speak much wisdom.’

‘I am lazy as many old oxen, stout yeoman. But I do not begrudge myself for it – I would sooner be so than serve stagnant, degenerate lords.’

‘And yet you have no misery to you?’

‘Not now, no. But often. Even when I do, I do not let it destroy my health. I am a sage after all!’

And the crofter went along his way, drained and tired still, but a little bit more hopeful that world could be turned from evil. But it was a long way uphill, and this was little solace in the midst of Winter.

Task of the brave

To mend what was broken
To heal what was wounded
To find what was lost
To restore what was ruined
To raise what was fallen
To love what was neglected
To fill what was empty
To seed what was barren
This is your task, hortzosh.

But to find why these tragedies
Came to pass in the first place;
To stop evil from triumphing again
*This* is the task of the wizards.

The wizards…

A madman or a visionary…

Now I am a note of chaos

In the symphony of order

A madman and an idealist.

In less than a decade

I will be a visionary

And a hero of mankind.

They know this

The corpses who hold on to power

Yet til the bitter end

They will waste the lives of their vassals

And tear the land apart.

Power knows not past, present, future

It is timeless, like the depths of the mind

Irrational, lost, desperate, screaming at the void

Like a child, for more, more, greater hoard

For fame, and followers, golden things, nations at its clawed feet.

Power knows no reverence for life

And has no love for the beauty of the galaxy.

But the tyrant always falls

For ‘mad-folk’ like me are always born,

And the people always triumph,

The only question is when.

 

They hate me, for I am change-bringer

I am truth-wielder, I am death-howl,

I am game-ender, I am a note of chaos

In the symphony of order.

Gylfanon and the Black Drake

On the eve of Lammas, Gylfanon crossed the Gnarred Plains and first reached Mawrend’s cavern, gazing down at the entrance. Smelling the sick scent of sulphur and burning bones, he turned his steed and sheathed Nightcleaver, bringing his cavalry bodyguards with him.

On the eve of Imbolc, Gylfanon again reach Mawrend’s cavern. This time he dismounted, handing the reins to his page, drew his broad black sword and ventured down the first corridor. Something inside his skull urged him to turn, to turn back with haste. He followed that impulse.

Half a year passed and again on the eve of Lammas, Gylfanon reached Mawrend’s cavern. With little fear he dismounted and made his way along the first, natural cavern corridor. Skulls and bones and scorched armours lay all about, at the portal to the deeps of the reptile’s lair. Gylfanon pondered sending in scouts, but decided not to risk it. Mounting his steed, sheathing Nightcleaver, he returned to Castle Gylfax.

On the eve of Imbolc, Gylfanon returned to Mawrend’s cavern. Fearless he strode into its maw and along the first corridor. Tentatively he made his way through the portal, and there slumbered the great drake Mawrend. The beast slept, but the Black Prince thought better than to try his luck, trusting in his twisting gut. Ordering his impetuous knights to stand down, they left grumbling.

On the eve of Beltain, Gylfanon returned to Mawrend’s cavern. Never had his men seen him so confident as he dared the cavernous entrance, bestrode the dark corridors, ducked through the portal entrance and drew Nightcleaver, brandishing the terrible blade and roaring in defiance. Mawrend, woken from a deep dream, instantly bowed his neck in service.

All of the bones lying about the Reptile’s lair, they belonged to the ones who did not listen to their fear. They were the ones who understood not how to battle the unknown. Gylfanon was wiser, the alpha and the omega. He won a powerful reptilian ally and a lifelong friend from his understanding.

Enchantment

Without enchantment, we are lost in the world. Without myth, guideless. Without spirit, we are dead inside. Without art, we are silent.

The world-as-it-is: not suitable for our primed imaginations. Stillness is just a reprieve, sleep a chance to dream. The vigour of endless Western minds; ceaseless, like the snout of an anteater. The world is layered with our mark.

Then let us do the best that we can do with our candor and sheer energy. Let us enchant nature and live there, among the wood sprites and the sacred trees. Let us catch that mana, let us fly these concrete prisons.

Profit is a road leading nowhere. But the deep wood and the bramble grove is an infinite, winding adventure…

Hospitality (A dialogue between Irekus and Gylfanon)

Gylfanon grimaced as the fire started to smoke. Rummaging through a crumbling sack, he found only a few onions and rock-hard bread.

‘My hospitality is poor. Forgive me old friend.’

Irekus smiled, learning his birchwood staff against the uneven wall. ‘Think little of it. This hardy stone keeps out the wind, and bread fills my stomach as well as meat.’

‘I think you humour me. Ah I am ashamed here, to share my room with the wretched. To serve poor fare to esteemed guests, to have not even a room for holding court.’

‘I thought you despised pomp and grandiosity?’

‘Aye I do – in other people!’

‘Ha, perhaps it threatens you. Modest Gylfanon, not so’ said the old wizard, with a knowing smile.

‘No mentor, modest Gylfanon is not. Not at heart. I ought to be, but cannot. My heart still yearns for place, and the power to come. Maybe that is why I feel so deeply troubled here, though there be not troll nor raider in sight.’

‘It is natural. That was the rhythm you used to live by. Your conscious mind is now, but your body is trailing behind.’

‘These mercenaries I surround myself with, they know not the glory I led House Gylfanis. They know nothing of the Battle of Darkfel, nor my rallying cry at the river sern. The respect I did command, the triumphs laid upon me. To them, I am a mere paymaster, without history.’

‘Oh friend.’

‘Nor do they know of my atrocities, the beast inside me.’

‘Time will forgive those.’

‘I cannot forget them.’

‘Gylfanon, this is a passing phase. A mere road upon a greater destiny. This path may lead you away from that you long for, but it cuts through the silent land. You will not be ronin for-ever.’

‘Yet it feels like an eternity. This prison, these desperate faces. I cannot take it much longer! I once kissed the necks of star-lit nymphs in the Sacred Glades. Now I lie beside snoring old men.’

‘By the looks of things, you have done well by these people. Even at your worst, I heard tell of your finding a lost  clan of Gylfans. Grateful townsfolk told me how your took and held SIlmootil and Corsk with a small band of men. You restored the chapter of the Serpent Brother knights, and took many bandit claws off the roads, bringing safety to many.’

‘Then why does it feel like I am weak, powerless and constantly insulted? That every day is the same, with no promise or future. How easily I can be separated from the love of my friends and allies.’

‘Mayhap you forget that you stand not alone. This Winter has been harsh on many. All share a common destiny.’

‘To Hades with such notions!’

‘Pray, my black prince, push not against Fate; for it has brought you to this. Your loyal knights have grown scarce, yet much have you achieved and learned about yourself. You cannot always rely on providence to give you great deeds. Often times, you must seek among the mud and the roots for sustenance.’

‘But why me! I was happy. After a hard life, I found something. We were growing, expanding.’

‘It seems old friend that you long for a still world, where one cannot be found. Does not the sea weather the greatest cliff? Does not the Great Moon circle the world, growing and shrinking? Does not the dragon awaken from its slumber-spell of centuries?  All things change, my friend. They grow, wither and die – but it is never certain in which order.’

‘Then we are a doomed race. For we will live in misery and think it eternal, or be excited into joy, only to lose it. For what? Why bother living for anything if Fate will come and take it all away from us.’

The old wizard stroked his wispy beard, pondered, then continued; ‘Why but for these things mean something in the moment they occur. And who is to say that your deeds will come to naught, or whether history will maintain you for a thousand years. And who is to say that when Gylfanon or Irekus perishes, another will not take up our souls.’

‘Rebirth…’

‘Aye. When you consider that nothing is ever wholly destroyed, it seems logical. Infinite, yet not eternal.’

Gylfanon nodded. ‘So that is why you accept my meagre hospitality now? This is all one big metaphor for you is it not old man!’

Irekus grinned, wickedly; ‘I know that you do all you can to keep me warm and fed. That is enough. When reborn, with your castles restored and your land at your feet and your maiden eager and your foes routed, your hospitality will be greater, and yet no greater, than it is now.’

Gylfanon smiled at this, his heavy, weary face unused to the gesture. It was the last and most splendid act of hospitality that night.

To the depths

To the depths I went

Always brand in fist

To find what made these paths

I thought I freely trod

 

What illusions waited there

To upturn the ship of tranquillity

What machine within worked

To hide the shadows

What lies came in dreams

To veil the truth

 

And the soul’s guardian, to protect me

Stayed loyal to false master

When it should to my ambition alone cleave

And my song venerate

 

An ocean lays at my heart

It is still or stormy

Of its own wild freedom

But now I can sail it

For I am bound

To the friends of true depth

Who understand what I truly am

 

The illusions in me, games of the mind

Shocked for years, shaken in fear

Of harsh words, of the street, of night

The evidence now piles against it

I have earned my honours

In the heart of the woods

And was always of bliss

And was always of bliss

Gentleness is I, peace is I

Merriness is I, truthseeker am I