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Greetings, Bearers!

As promised, I have two entries from the Vein omnibus to share with you that I hope you enjoy while I  1.) edit The Summoning of Kran, 2.) await editing on Alternate Endings, and 3.) work on the fourth novel, which I have started.

No pressure, right 😀

See you in the Vein!

J. Dean

***

The EdgeA barrier of solid fog that surrounds the perimeter of the Meridian and extends upward in a seemingly infinite direction, coming into existence not long after the war between the Sect and the Blindmen.  The exact origin of the Edge is unknown, but speculation from the Sect suggests that the Sovereign (the deity of the Blindmen) established the Edge, while another minority report found among Sect members believes that Balys-Crahly put the Edge in place in an attempt to prevent the Blindmen of the Meridian to escape back to their home worlds in order to get reinforcements.

Regardless of its origin, the function of the Edge is to prevent transit to or from the Meridian, with the exception of the use of Artifacts.  The Edge prevents the gates on the Seven Worlds from opening to the Meridian, and as a result of this combined with the passing of millennia most of the inhabitants of the Seven Worlds have either forgotten about or neglected the gates.  On the other side, the thick fog is a deterrent to anybody in the Meridian attempting to locate the gates.  Those who have ventured into the fog in order to find the gates have never returned, and the reasons for this vary.  Some say that those who enter the fog are somehow smothered to death by the dense ground-level cloud.  Others believe that some hidden beast lives in the fog and attacks anybody attempting to enter it.  Still others have said that those who enter the fog simply become so disoriented that they remain lost forever in the swirling tendrils of mist.  Whatever the reason, the Edge serves its purpose, rendering it impossible for any being to travel to or from the Meridian.  

The Edge’s infinite expansion seems to be either a strange optical illusion or based upon some sort of magic.  A person standing next to the Edge would see the cloudy barrier extending outward and upward, piercing the heavens at an impossible altitude.  But as a person moves away from the Edge, the upward expanse of the wall seems to recede until it reaches the height of an average city wall, giving the false impression to somebody viewing the phenomenon from some distance away that he/she could somehow scale over the top without trouble: an aspiration that is proven fruitless once any attempt to approach the Edge in order to attempt escape.

***

Orders-Orders are organized groups of beings in the Meridian who are intent on laying hold of the Bearers and seizing their Artifacts, in hopes that they may use the power of the Control for their own selfish gains.  

 Unlike the Sect, which is more monolithic, Orders vary in the specifics of their organization and procedure, depending upon the Order encountered.  For example, Hopath’s Order in the desert city of Valsis (believed to be the oldest Order and the one from which other Orders pattern their general hierarchy), is run with a strict, almost militaristic rigidity in their combat training, although in most other regards Hopath himself is not especially strict with most other matters, so long as general order is kept.  Other Orders, like the one in Lo-Phamm, are full of internal rivalries and murderous attempts to take control of the organization, creating an unstable and unreliable organization.  

 The commonality found with Orders is that of their hierarchal structure.  Orders are generally composed of one supreme ruler (the Head), a second-in-command (the Chief Subordinate), and the main body comprised of the remaining members (the Subordinates) who amongst themselves have an internal hierarchy dependent more upon familiarity with one another than upon official titles.  The placing of a being within the hierarchy is dependent mainly upon two factors. First, an Order member’s time in the Meridian usually (but not always) carries with it an assumed seniority over any other Order members who arrive later.  Second, an Order member’s skills, particular those regarding combat, play a part in his/her status in the general subordinate community.  While weapon handling is important, other skills such as masonry and higher education can also be effective in achieving prominence among Subordinates, depending upon the value placed on such skills by each individual Order.

 In general, Orders usually attempt to involve themselves in the political affairs of the city in which they are established, although most prefer to operate in a “behind-the-scenes” manner; rarely if ever do they attempt to assert any sort of rule over the general population, as this can be too diverting to their purpose, as well as risking drawing unwanted attention.

The preferred weapon of choice among Order members is the sling, a mechanized weapon capable of hurling metal spikes into an enemy, and some of the Orders have their own slingsmiths who supply them with a regular stockpile of the weapons and ammunition.  Beyond slings, however, Order members generally carry makeshift handoff weapons, such as body-length construction rods with jagged pieces of metal or glass on an end as use for a spear, or even something as simple as a piece of wood, shaped and crafted into a one-handed melee weapon.  If older weapons or weapon-related materials are found in a city, Order members are usually the first to pounce upon them and scavenge them, so it is not unusual to find Order members possessing original armored plating (such as Hopath in Valsis) or authentic weapons like Dekkan whipchains or Juvan slipdiscs.  Order members have even been seen with weapons as elaborate and effective as a Fyryn warblade, although such a find in the Meridian is extremely rare. 

 A tense rivalry exists between the Orders and the Sect, which in the days of the  Meridian following the war between the Sect and the Blindmen had blown up into all out battles, although such battles are almost never seen, as the Sect, though often outnumbered, proved to be far superior in weaponry and tactics, forcing the Orders to operate on a more stealth-based level.  Still, the Orders in several places have the advantage of numbers, and the more disciplined Orders have proven to be more threatening at times, particularly when a Bearer arrives in a city.  

 While Orders do not possess the ancient Scrolls detailing the functions of the Bearers and their Artifacts, Orders do in fact have some knowledge about why the Bearers have come to the Meridian, and as such do what is needed in order to capture the Bearer and claim the Artifact as their own.  This is due in part to the deception exercised by the Pact-Makers encountered in the previous lives of the Bearers (and all who have come to the Meridian through Pacts), who have duped them into believing that any person, Bearer or not, can use an Artifact and gain the Control for themselves.  While a great many of those who enter through Pacts eventually give up on this aspiration and attempt to live lives similar to the ones they lived in life on their home worlds, those who join Orders persist in the goal of taking the Artifacts for themselves, not understanding that they cannot use the Artifacts.  As a result, a great many times the Orders have successfully thwarted a Bearer and the accompanying Sect party, and succeed in securing an Artifact, only to lose it through executing the Bearer.  Despite this, the Orders still believe they can secure the Control for themselves, and that it is simply a matter of doing something differently on their part in order to do so (Some Orders have placed a connection between preserving the life of the Bearer and holding on to the Artifact, but beyond this they refuse to believe that access to the Vein is beyond their abilities).

 

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