Nothing that is necessary is evil.
— The Lentruliat Inversion
Beside the well-explored rivalry between the ConcordanceThe Concordance most closely resembles mortal hopes for an afterworld: a vast network of metropolises and landscapes in which mortals and petitioners alike seek to prove that suffering is not needed to give context to joy.Turn to chapter and the BrinkExultant yet mindful hedonists who form a kaleidoscopic community of explorations in creation and destruction, joy and suffering, exertion and renewal. Visitors are welcomed into the fold, and it is impossible not to be overwhelmed.Turn to chapter over the ultimate approach to collective fulfillment stands the Crenellation, immortally convinced of the superiority of its own approach. Their towers and battlements soar higher than either realm’s, their populace’s fervor and loyalty run deeper, and the civilization executes its vision of martial and material prowess with awesome efficiency.
The Crenellation is a dense city in all directions, one with all the familiar trappings of mortal totalitarianism—harsh punishments, crushing competition, intricate bureaucracy, impenetrable caste systems—and yet everywhere Rifes—alongside no small number of mortal immigrants—strive with purpose and determination: every citizen at every moment knows exactly what is required of them. One Rife hierarch presented their philosophy in some detail to this visitor which, despite its caricatured view of opposing laminaeAfterworlds that are each aligned with a particular set of facets. The twenty-seven laminae are layered on top of our reality and interact with it in myriad ways.Turn to chapter, deserves relating in full:
The weak assume that beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. We, for in our wisdom we feel it with exceptional strength, know that beings don’t only want comfort, safety, and well-wishes; they also want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades. This is psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. It is our duty to impose intolerable burdens on our peoples. Whereas the Concordance and the Brink have said to their citizens “I offer you a good time”, we have said to ours “I offer you struggle, danger, and oblivion”, and as a result entire cultures fling themselves at our feet.
In this visitor’s understanding, the Crenellation drives its citizens forwards with two overarching constructs. The first is a system known as the Eulexia: a monumental oral scripture that all Rifes must memorize and repeat under myriad circumstances. The Eulexia, however, is spoken in a language that Rifes do not understand. An elite caste of hierophants guards the Eulexia’s meaning, and many advancements in this society are granted by way of their revelations. It is an elegant system, Rifes say, to find for instance that the instructions and expectations of a new role are contained entirely in a segment of scripture that one has been repeating for countless years.
The second element that holds this lamina together is the enemy. In an endless city of ramparts one wall larger than all the others follows a tortuous path that divides it in two. These two sides are said to carry the same Eulexia but to have entirely different interpretations of it, and as a result they loathe and fear one another. And so the Rifes’ considerable energies go towards building defensive battlements ever higher and deeper into their own territories, as well as spying upon their opponents, stockpiling war machines, and training in limitless drills. At predetermined intervals the two sides face off in great military marches along the border and yet have never in recorded history come to blows. Despite this knowledge, the threat of attack is ever-present, and in far reaches of the Crenellation vast areas of city lie in total ruins, bolstering this fear.
Alongside its military focus the Crenellation is in its own way extraordinarily beautiful. From fortress towers one can see the city spiral into the distance in impregnable geometric arrangements that rival the UnfoldingArtists and engineers that have architected all of the most famous constructions in existence, original copies of which fill archipelagos that spread across the Glass Ocean, where the enormous automaton wind shifters interlock and glide across empty waters.Turn to chapter in magnificence if not in creativity: a city of citadels yet also a city of monumental concert halls, statues, and high-walled avenues through which wend the fearsome parades and ecstatic cults of a society seized with the iron conviction of purpose.