In contrast to the gods (or the artsy gods of Chook at least) who do things in big strides, painting the universe in sweeping strokes; the mortals (or at least the more interesting mortals) of Chook work in ever more intricate and conspiratorial ways. Chung Hort is the prime example of this, a character whose ultimate starkness is like a bold Magnum Marker tag over the Monet-like watercolor canvas of these vague deities. He is the archetypal mortal. The standard by which all beings can be judged mortal or divine in this place, depending on how closely they resemble him (even if they only resemble him in principal).
Assuredly it is known that mortals lived in this place before Chung Hort’s arrival. Chook has always been there, but his entrance into this twilight land gives a sort of definition it could never have had before, even as a floodlight in the forest at night takes away the gray areas making all washed out light and darkest shadow. The shadows cast by Chung are nothing so important as good and evil, for in part Chung may encompass both of these spheres, but his is the grander role of dividing the finite from the sublime.
Into this sunset landscape enter one sunset warrior: Umika Dyson.
Or, more importantly, enter one Jerico Kalfler. Jerico could perhaps be described as the yang (or Wook) to Chung Hort’s yin (or Chook). Chung Hort’s presence destroys the twilight areas, while Jerico is the twilight areas. Chung Hort is semi-aware that he is the pinnacle of a grander plan while Jerico Kalfler knows that even his grandest schemes are but triflings in the dustbin of the cosmos. In summation: Chung Hort drives a 1976 Impala (and this is important) while Jerico Kalfler was born in 1976 IS an impala (and this is incidental). The fact that Jerico has incredible psi-potential for an ungulate while Chung Hort has never manifested similar abilities only makes Jerico fade further into Wook (in this case defined as the twilight, ill-defined regions of Chook) of Chook.
But Jerico is not unaware of his position with regard to Chung Hort. Oh, no. On the contrary he is all too keenly aware of his relationship to Chung, though Chung Hort himself only has a dim impression that Jerico exists, if Chung even knows this much. But Jerico knows about as much regarding Chung as there is to know. He has even gone so far as to task out 1/6 of his psionic capacity to knowing where Chung Hort is and where he is likely to be going at all times. And Jerico has good reason to need this much knowledge: because he is aware, in a way that Chung Hort can never be, of his own transient nature in the universe, and Jerico knows that should he come in contact with Chung Hort he would fade before Chung’s prominence like a ghost fades before the first light of day.
Why then, you may ask, is there any discussion of Jerico at all if he is neither as grand as the gods nor as prominent as Chung Hort? What sets him apart from the squirming mass of other entities who inhabit the faery periphery of Chung Hort’s influence? What makes Jerico important enough to write about?
Now, enter one sunset warrior: Umika Dyson.
This is where the children of the oriental deities (Yah. This post-modernist plot couldn’t let this little detail of orientophiliac American subculture go unexplored.) re-enter the story. These were of two factions, the oni and the younger lords. Their elders had left the universe giving them one command: Go east young thing! Go east!
The elders then vanished from the universe leaving the Oni and Young (which is what the younger lords will be referred to as from now on) to ponder this amazing, revelatory, yet damnably confounding statement. It must be remembered that this was the primordial universe still and that Joe had yet to clump Chook and Lunar Chook together. As yet there was no east to head toward.
Nigi Rigi “The Impaler” departed in a random direction claiming that he had by sheer power of will forced it to be east. But no one believed him. With their ancestors gone the younger deities were well aware that they had not the blatant power over the order of things that their parents (perhaps â€œparentsâ€ is a not quite a dramatic enough word for their begetters but it will have to do for the moment) had. And while they respected Nigi’s self determination, they were also afraid of him and the idea that if he doubted his own self determination he might come back to torment them, so they decreed that the direction which he traveled should hence forth be referred to as “Nigi Rigi’s East”. To this day it is required in the Floating Lands that one male and one female from the population be selected every 10 years into the astronomeric cult of Nigi Rigi so that the position of Nigi Rigi’s East should always be tracked against the proper motion of the heavenly bodies.
This cult is not important in the least. What is important is the Floating Land.
With the clumping of the land the means to accomplish their goal appeared clear. Travel from directly beneath Lunar Chook would progress eastward. But let this one trifling question be asked:
â€œHow far can one go East before one is West?â€
This and other koans threatened to drive the younger deities insane (In a similar vein it is said, â€œThe insanity of the gods is as far beyond the comprehension of mortals as a jar of saki sits in the midst of eight drunk gods.â€) as they neared a point in opposition to Lunar Chook (which Joe had thoughtfully placed in geostationary orbit). Most of the Oni had latched on with tooth and nail to the theory that you could only go half way into the woods before you began to come out of them. By contrast the majority of Young, being of a “more enlightened” ilk, had instead put forth the statement that if you kept planting trees ahead of you you could keep traveling into the woods for ever. So, when they actually reached the location farthest from Lunar Chook they divided themselves.
The great majority of the Oni sunk their tough appendages into the turf and, by refusal to proceed, established The Far East at the point of opposition to Lunar Chook. The Young, on the other tightly clenched fist of divine wrath, tore up the turf in great clods and boulder like clumps and, a la Hicks and Weis circa the Deathgate novels, created The Floating Land, which continued east at a standard elevation of 1,500 ft above sea level.
Now the properties of The Far East are pretty standard: A grand feudal empire run by an emperor appointed by the Mandate of Heaven and empowered by sorcery, talismans, and superstition of the most primitive sort. The Floating Land is much more interesting when taken as a whole: Sure, it was a feudal empire in it’s own right, but one which periodically alternated to form warring feudal states. And it was going somewhere! In fact it was going somewhere so fast that each day and night was actually 10 minutes shorter than an average Chookian diurnal cycle. This feeling of accomplishment was made incredibly manifest among The Floating Land’s denizens (recently created mortals that is) and inspired them to feats of lateral thinking, scientific progress, and the reading of Herman Hess.
And so, while The Far East just sat there and contemplated it’s accomplishment, The Floating Land continued on around Chook with a precession carefully calculated to avoid collision with the Vort 21. Both regions had long and interesting histories which writhe about like worms coming out of aestivation, but neither of which we will cover now, except to say that when Chung Hort arrived their cultures were pinned down for scrutiny in almost exactly the same method that insects are pinned down in a glass case. In this particular light The Floating Land was revealed to be a rare and delicate mantid while The Far East was shown to be the more common hymenoptera.
This is the world in which Umika Dyson lives. Umika is from The Far East, of the ogre clan, and the ichor of the Oni flows thick and turbid in her capillaries. Unlike the willowy slenderness and straight black hair/powder faced beauty of The Floating Land geishas, Umika and her people are generally short, strapping, and of patchy brown complexion. Umika is no exception to this trend. Umika has short, straight auburn red hair and always an angry look on her round face.
A certain Korean gentleman, skilled in the ways of astrophysics, once spoke that the language of The Floating Land was like the French of the East, such were it’s lyrical qualities. If this is so, then the rare times that Umika looses her angry little tongue what is heard would more accurately be described as the pidgin Afrikaans of the east, with few words ending in polite vowels like -i and -a and many ending in loud gong-like sounds such as -ow! and -ang!
Umika Dyson is the daughter of a farmer in this minor bushido clan. But her grandfather was the clanlord and knew what was up. In case you couldn’t tell Dyson is a weird name for The Far East. Umika’s parents had named her for the wacko: Dyson Freeman, whom they both admired in the same way we might admire a forgotten baroque composer whose music never really caught on in our neighborhood. But grandfather Umika, he knew what was up.
When Umika Dyson was young she used to play “high steel worker” with her Zarbi ™ dolls because she though she should be creative and different and make her mark upon the world. As she progressed into her teen age years the need to belong stoked her desire to practice the bushido arts with the other girls. Then, like a ninja out of the mist, crept the day she would come of age.
Now the clanlord: Umika Nang, he knew what was up. And one day he called the ungainly pubescent Umika Dyson before him. Not that this was that unusual, since she was his granddaughter, but usually in such a case he would just call her like “Hey! Sourpuss! Bring back my saki!” where as on this day he sent for her special with an engraved invitation and all.
“Dyson, it is time you put away your childish ways and did something useful with your life.”
“Grand-papa, I study the arts of war as is our custom. I like it too, the Oni would be pleased.”
“Don’t speak of Oni in my presence again! Their place in our great history is really awesome, but the thought of them makes my mind a little drunk. And when we’re discussing ‘ritual coming of age in your culture’ stuff, DON’T CALL ME GRAND-PAPA!!!! Now let’s do this right.”
“I brought you here to give you a choice: you will either learn to read and write every letter, character, glyph, pictogram, and script in every dialect of Chook and speak them all like a native, or you can go on to master the art of bushido. After you make this choice your life will be dedicated to the clan and you will have no more choices for a long, long, long time.”
The young Umika sniggled on her knees a little on the ornate carpet placed before the elder Umika whose wispy white haired and floor trailing eyebrowed head regarded her with intense scrutiny through tiny slits of eyes in an ancient craggy countenance. His cleanly shaved, misshapen round chin bobbed up and down like Howdy Doody’s (but without the weird lines from the corners of his lips) when he spoke.
“Well, what’s it gonna be Dyson. This isn’t a trick question. Wat’cha gonna do?”
Of course it probably was a trick question. It was rumored that Umika Nang had studied under The Toe. But perhaps it was not a trick question, would he play the trickster about such a serious thing as the rest of her life? Probably, but she’d never know unless she fell for it like he expected her to.
“Grand-clan lord, you know that I want to learn how to fight with the naginata like the other girls. I don’t want to have to learn how to write all that stupid stuff.”
“Then you choose the bushido way rather than the way of the statesMAN?” a tight smirk curled his weathered lips, grandpa Nang was always one to stress the politically incorrect way of saying things.
“Yah,” said Umika, trying to guess what he was getting at,”I guess so.”
“Good, then you won’t be needing this,” Umika Nang reached up for the weapon studded wall behind him, grabbed the naginata off it and broke it in half, “since the naginata is a weapon reserved only for ‘hyper-literate’ female population of our society.” The jaw of the young Umika dropped. Such an elegantly crafted weapon wasted, a great shame was upon them.
“Oh, shut your chow-mein hole young Dyson!” quoth Umika Nang, “It’s a break-away naginata. I did that for dramatic effect. Anyway we won’t be teaching you how to use any spear weapons anyway, I had something a little more interesting in mind for you to learn.”
Hmmm. So, the trick was that she didn’t get to learn the naginata. What would he teach her instead? Not the katana? Only the elite samurai were favored enough to learn the katana. Umika Nang looked behind himself, pulled the Katana off the wall and reverently set it on the floor between them.
“Next runner up, you probably want to learn this, huh?”
He reached behind himself with both hands and in a motion to quick for mortals to comprehend (only beings with at least 2/9 god in their ancestry could have made such a move) brought forth a huge shaft of metal in one swift motion. Then there was a sound which metal can produce only when it is being simultaneously shattered and melted and the katana lay in pieces on the floor with a, now dented, No-daichi (a great two-hand long sword) intersecting the mat where the katana had been.
“That was not a break-away katana. It was a real one, +3 magical bonus and folded 1,000 times for extra durability. I always wanted to see if that would work, guess you better not learn the katana after all. . .well maybe in a couple of years you’ll learn it in place of the wakizashi. Here, learn this.” He began to pull the giant no-daichi from the mat but thought better of it. “No, you look kind of puny for a warrior, I think this one would be better for you.”
Umika Nang reached out with one hand and pulled a third blade off the wall. It looked a little like the no-daichi, but the metal was a little duller and seemed to actually be covered with a tiny bit of RUST! What the heck was this thing he was giving her?
“What is it clan-lord?” Said the younger Umika holding out her hands to accept the weapon.
Umika Nang released his grip on the weapon and at the same time said, “Tetsu-to.”
Umika Dyson pulled her hands away in time to avoid having them crushed by the massive ‘iron sword’.
“You bastard!” screamed Umika.
“Better learn it.” replied Nang, “The honor of your family depends on it.”
“You bastard!” yelled the younger Umika as Nang got up off his red silk cushion, “you knew all along it would come to this. That I’d have to take this useless lump of iron.”
“Not really, but I really hoped you’d learn it. What this world needs is more women with big swords,” He turned to leave, “Now get that thing out of here and come back and patch the floor.”
“Did anyone ever tell you what a smeg you are?”
“Don’t you give me any of that Floating Land jargon girl! By the way, this particular tetsu-to is platinum filled and weighs about four times more than a normal one would, so have fun.”
“DID ANYONE EVER TELL YOU WHAT A RIGHT GIT YOU ARE!?”
“That’s better. By the way you still have to learn how to read and write but I wouldn’t worry if I were you. We’re only going to teach you the 10,000 glyphs of the angry gods (which drive their reader insane if glanced at out of context), you can forget all those other piddling dialects.”
The anger she felt in that instant almost pumped enough adrenaline into her bloodstream to allow her to lift the ‘iron-sword’ from the floor. Almost is the key here. It was really heavy and she had to drag the massive Tetsu-to in a disgraceful manner all the way home.
Naginata – Japanese halberd with a slightly curved blade.
Wakizashi – Samurai type short sword.
Katana – Samurai type long sword. Similar in some ways to a European bastard sword but looking nothing like one.
No-Daichi – A type of huge two handed sword with a very long grip compared to European versions.
Tetsu-to – Iron sword (used for strength training).
Tetsu-bo – Iron staff.
Tetsuo – The Iron Man.
Tetsu-bishi – Caltrops (go figure).
Daisho – Meaning “short and long”, a set of ceremonial swords (Wakizashi and Katana) carried by samurai warriors.
The underlying theme of this little segment is that Umika Dyson will eventually earn the right to wear Umika Nang’s cruel mockery of a daisho consisting of the ungodly combination of Katana and No-Daichi. I am well aware that those of you from the cultures referenced in this section may take exception to this ridiculous portrayal of your cultures, but then again you may also find it really funny so I’m going to put it out here anyway.