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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Traveler: Arrival

The Traveler came from a world of telepaths. Their society had become very rigid, because their telepathy reinforced their world view; all deviation from what they held to be true was punished with ostracism or death.
The Traveler’s people lived on floating islands that drifted through the skies far above a densely populated and very dangerous jungle where huge predators roamed.
The depths of the jungle were so dark that a variety of plants developed lighter than air gas bladders in order to reach the light above the canopy of the massive trees. The Traveler’s people inhabited the upper levels of the canopy, and saw these floating plants as an avenue of escape from the monsters that preyed upon them in the jungle. The gas-bladder plants were cultivated to construct large floating rafts upon which many of the Traveler’s people embarked to colonize the skies.
A long war was fought among the Traveler’s people, the sky dwellers, and the canopy dwellers below them because the canopy dwellers rejected the massive change in culture introduced by those who took to the skies. The sky dwellers relied on canopy bases to cultivate the bladder plants and build their island rafts. The canopy dwellers would hunt for the bladder plantations and destroy them at every opportunity. The sky dwellers took to undermining the jungle canopies around their plantations and raft yards to seclude them from the intrusions of the canopy dwellers. They would also hunt out the nearest villages and towns of the canopy dwellers and cut away the trees below them so that they fell to the floor of the jungle.
There was much blood shed in the battles between the two groups and the enmity between them only grew worse over time.
Many of the canopy dwellers children were drawn by the glamour of the sky dwellers freedom and security. The sky dwellers were happy to take these children in whenever the opportunity arose. The Traveler was one of these canopy children who immigrated to the sky.
The Traveler had a companion of sorts from another telepathic race. Both the Traveler and his companion had an eight-limbed physiology, but where the Traveler was more mammalian in nature, with limbs adapted to walking and climbing, his companion was more reptile-like, with limbs were more suited to climbing and flying. The Traveler loosely resembled a cross between a centaur and an ape, while his companion bore a close resemblance to a dragon with four wings and four arms or legs. The Traveler was built for speed on the ground and in the jungle canopy, for his people had slowly migrated from the jungle floor to the canopy in their ancient past. His companion’s race was built for speed in the air.
Tales told of the wars fought during the migration of the Traveler’s people from the jungle floor to the canopy always relate the glorious victories in which the floor dwellers were utterly destroyed. While popular legends claim some floor dwellers still exist, and other legends claim that the surviving floor dwellers migrated far below the ground to save themselves from the canopy dwellers, no one among the traveler’s people has seen any who dwell on the ground or below it for a very long time. The canopy dweller’s culture reigned supreme for nearly 1000 generations before the migration to the skies began.
The skies of the Traveler’s world are a bright yellow-gold with streaks of golden orange. They are constantly opaque, with the exception of times of terrible storms when, at night, it is rumored that a great dark beast appears in the sky with hundreds of tiny twinkling eyes. The memory of this thing lives on in the collective memory of the Traveler’s people but few have ever seen it for themselves and lived to share the experience. Its appearance is so rare an event that in spite of the vivid memories of those who have seen it or received the memories first-hand from a survivor of one of these terrible storms the culture of the sky dwellers regards it more as myth than truth and persecutes those who perpetuate the tales of the dark beast in the sky.
Many sky dwellers have pointed out that the beast only appears at night and therefore is more likely to be some terrible dream or nightmare, rather than a real creature haunting the skies above the realms where the sky dwellers drift upon their island rafts. Sky dweller culture is full of many very real encounters with terrible monsters in the jungle below, so many argue that it is not unusual for someone to imagine they have seen new monsters lurking in the skies above.
Despite the great risk, the Traveler was fascinated with the tales of the great night monster. Some rumored that it was the breath of this great beast that caused the terrible storms that sometimes assailed the sky dweller islands. It was difficult to seek those with the best recollections of the sky monster, because were it to become generally known that the Traveler harbored such a perverse interest he might be ostracized or put to death.
But, among his people, the Traveler was a master of telepathy and he cold sense and divert the interests of anyone who became concerned about his obsessive hobby. So he followed the stories of the great night monster in the sky back to their origins whenever he could, with the help of his dragon companion.
There appeared to be regions of the Traveler’s world above the seas where encounters with terrible storms were most frequent, from which the majority of tales of the great sky beast arose. The seas were an unpopular region of the sky dwellers world, for nothing about the seas was familiar to any of their people except for the great monsters that lurked in their depths.
The Traveler built a small island scavenged from decrepit, abandoned, rotting hulks and the dragon recruited several teams of his kin to propel the small island so that the Traveler could move on a reliable course, rather than at the whims of the winds as the majority of his people did.
The Traveler’s obsession was based on a telepathic perception that the skies above his people’s world were inhabited. He felt driven to discover the people who lived far above him. His investigations of the great night monster suggested it was not a living monster at all, but something more terrible and strange, a hole in the sky!
He wondered whether he could ever venture forth through that hole to discover the people he believed inhabited the upper realms of the sky. But for many years while he sought the beings who lived above he never encountered the great night beast in the sky. However, as time passed his telepathic rapport with the beings above grew stronger. His visions of their world grew clearer, until he could picture that world so perfectly that it was almost as if he were there within their world himself. And then one day he stepped forward into his vision and stepped out of his world. An irate dragon appeared by his side, for his companion had felt abandoned the moment the Traveler departed their world; however, their bond of friendship was so strong that the dragon had no difficulty following his friend across the void to the strange new world the Traveler had discovered.
They stood upon the open ground, trees surrounded the clearing where they found themselves, but they were very small trees compared to the giant trees of the Traveler’s jungle. A group of odd looking beings stood in a circle around them, clearly alarmed and frightened by the appearance of the Traveler and his companion. These odd creatures were four-limbed, not eight, with two limbs clearly adapted to the ground and two prehensile limbs that, perhaps, were suitable for climbing. These strange beings rushed the Traveler and his companion. The dragon shot off into the air and tried desperately to save his companion, but the Traveler fell beneath the many blades wielded by the strangers and was slain.
Satisfied that this demon, at least, could do them no more harm, the Traveler’s assailants prepared to burn his corpse. But as they were gathering wood for a bonfire they were assailed by another group.
The dragon watched with interest as the first group of strangers was driven away by the second group. The second group found the Traveler barely alive. They knew he was a celestial visitor, and not a demon from the underworld, for they had shared a rapport with the Traveler during the years he had spent seeking them. They inspected the Traveler’s wounds carefully, and at last determined he could not live long in his present condition. They had healers among them, but their healers were unaccustomed to such an alien physique.
The best they could do for the Traveler was to remake him entirely in a human form. His extra limbs were pared away, the most grievously damaged of his twin organs were removed, and his circulatory system was reduced to a single heart and network of veins and arteries. Nothing remained of his tail for there was no human analogy for it, his claws were reduced to nails, and his massive teeth shrank to merely very large. He turned out rather ugly for a human, almost ape-like in some respects, but he lived.
In many respects he was as human as those who saved him, for his people and theirs shared many basic things in common. The bond of family, a love of stories, the need to be strong in defense of their people were all traits in common, shared between the Traveler’s people and the humans he discovered.
So it was that the Traveler began his sojourn among humans and is still with us to this day, passing down through the years in many reincarnations. His dragon companion returns to him from time to time, and the two of them have had many adventures since their arrival on Earth.
Perhaps the Traveler will one day read this blog and smile with mirth, happy to know his story is remembered.
The Traveler’s one great sadness is that he can never return home. He has tried it several times but he faces execution among the conservative members of his people. The liberal members would stage a revolution on his behalf, but he has no thirst for war and he knows he no longer belongs among the people from which he sprang.
Over the centuries the Traveler has become aware of a strange presence. It is not one of the ancient masters or any of their hosts of demons; it is a far stranger presence than any of those beings. The Traveler has been very puzzled by an intrusion upon his thoughts. He can see some unseen actor playing with his mind, forming new ideas, manipulating old memes. There seems to be a pattern to these changes, a pattern he sees shared in the minds of many others. He senses the distance between his mind and the one which has manipulated him is one of great time rather than distance in space.
He has been wary of this other one who meddles with his thoughts; he has only lately learned its purpose, its nature and its frustration. He regrets the efforts he has made to thwart this strange presence in his mind for now he knows he must ally himself with this new friend for better or worse. The Traveler’s new friend lives at the end of the world, where all the humans have died.
The Traveler is not prepared to die, nor is he prepared to lose the companionship of humans. So he sees a common cause with his new friend, a joint effort to save the human world from the catastrophe which almost certainly must come to pass.
This terrible portending catastrophe is programmed into too many of humanity’s divergent future histories. The Traveler and his friend as yet see no clear course around humanity’s extinction.