The Pulse: Fallar Discordia
The Condensation of Demon Saints
The Sacred River
The Condensation of Demon Saints meets in the crushing density between two sparring black holes. They meet on a craggy hilltop overlooking the source of the Malaclypse River, which bursts up into the capital city of Fallar Discordia, on the planet of Fallar Prime.
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
(from “Kubla Khan,” 1797, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
Never a peaceful sleeper, the Malaclypse often rages over its banks and into the overflow canals, flushing out murderers, assassins, panderers, factions of the Malebranche Gang, whirlpool demons, spout-jumpers, political outcasts, Prophesiers of Doom, etc. This dark demimonde takes refuge in the winding alleys of the overflow canals, or trenches, hiding like angry rats from the truncheon squads in the boisterous city above. When the waters thrash their hovels and makeshift caravans, the citizens above lock their doors and load their handguns just in case.
At times the River explodes with such force that it drenches the fringes of the cloaks of the Demon Saints. The eyes of the Saints flash a dark purple, and fall back into black.
Farenn of Caldemar
The Condensation met to decide on their next move, now that Vicino Concordia made its intentions clear. First, they needed to hear a report from their most learned and deep-scanning thinker, Farenn of Caldemar.
This was the sixth time Farenn had been summoned to the high chamber of Fallar Discordia. It was a grim place indeed, one which made him think of the fanciful descriptions of Hell given by the human poet, John Milton: on all sides round, / As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames / No light; but rather darkness visible.
What Milton couldn’t see of course were the details of the topography. This was a pity, for even the humans on Earth had a saying, the devil was in the details. Milton was a great luminary — from inside his mind, projecting mighty rolling verses of iambic pentameter — yet luminosity in the outside world wasn’t something he judged accurately. A nearly blind Puritan, he needed vast quantities of celestial light to detect any detail whatsoever. This ocular deficiency had a great influence on his theology.
Farenn sided with the poet William Blake, who, after exploring the Hell provided by Dante and Milton, concluded that neither poet was adept at distinguishing a devil from an angel.
Farenn recalled that in his Marriage of Heaven and Hell Blake argued the “reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it.” This sentence gave Farenn a great deal of hope, especially as he saw the Black and Purple Pulses gearing up for battle.
Farenn had written an accordion study on the great capitals of the universe, each fold of which opened into hundreds of images, videos, schematics, explanations and artistic projects. All of these were cross-referenced with the same type of media from the other 758 folds. In his fold on Fallar Discordia he noted that there were crucial differences between Milton’s Hell and Fallar Discordia. Milton’s Hell was mythologized and static, and above all it was an evil place of darkness. Fallar Discordia on the other hand was real and dynamic. It wasn’t so much a place of evil as an anarchic place with varied degrees of light and dark.
In one way Fallar Discordia was like Milton’s Hell. Initially, it seemed a place where “hope never comes / That comes to all, but torture without end.” Yet upon closer inspection it had its charms — in fact, very much like Milton’s Pandaemonium:
Anon out of the earth a fabric huge
Rose like an exhalation, with the sound
Of dulcet symphonies and voices sweet,
Built like a temple, where pilasters round
Were set, and Doric pillars overlaid
With golden architrave; nor did there want
Cornice or freeze, with bossy sculptures grav'n,
The roof was fretted gold. Not Babylon,
Nor great Alcairo such magnificence
Equaled in all their glories, to enshrine
Belus or Serapis their gods, or seat
Their kings, when Egypt with Assyria strove
In wealth and luxury. Th'ascending pile
Stood fixed her stately height, and strait the doors
Op'ning their brazen folds discover wide
Within, her ample spaces, o'er the smooth
And level pavement: from the arched roof
Pendant by subtle magic many a row
Of starry lamps and blazing cressets fed
With naphtha and saphaltus yielded light
As from a sky.
Farenn had lived on Fallar Prime most of the 790 years of his life. His parents were born in a small town several hundred kilometres from Fallar Discordia, and they moved into the capital when he was 120. They owned a stunning turret overlooking the lava flows of Mount Iquitar and they had a cottage next to the cobalt sea of Barazz.
It’s true that the trenches of the capital were rough, but The University Quarter had concert halls, bars, and cafés. Seminars were offered in salons and in university theatres on every subject imaginable. Unlike on other worlds, there were no subjects one couldn’t discuss. If the truncheon squad mobilized to close down a café reading for one reason or another — psycholyptic drugs, experimentations in inter-species S&M, etc. — they lived to regret it. And in the streets hallucinogenic colours and houri mists shifted frequencies hourly. Dark, majestic music — with high piano notes piercing the dark skies — provided the perfect ambience for a scholar such as himself.
Fallarian citizens were more volatile than the fabled mobs of Paris. The Discordians were even worse. They swung from selfish hedonism to legitimate rebellion in a split second, and no Ruler or Council could ever be sure that their will would be done. Only the truncheon squads kept the streets safe at such times. The truncheon squads were looked down upon because of their intimidating size and force, and because of their fascist hierarchy, yet only the most hardened criminal refused to admit that they were necessary.
The Demon Saints of the Black Horde were much like the Anunnaki of Vicino Prime: they sent out directives, yet they knew that the real battle happened somewhere else. And it was becoming clear that somewhere else wasn’t the outskirts of Lower Discordia, where everyone knew that they were already as close to anarchy as it was possible to get without needing to keep a loaded weapon in your pocket. They knew instinctively when to step back from that sort of insanity. For if they carried their guns out into the streets, then the truncheon squads would be the prey of every thug, and every thug could threaten every citizen at will. The one thing anarchists and libertarians agreed on was that illegal guns made to operate outside the home meant the law of the jungle, not personal freedom.
No, it looked like the real battle was further afield than the flushed-out canal districts of Lower Discordia. The Demon Saints nodded their hoods in agreement: they must focus their attention on the Violet Hoop.
Next: Dear Matthew