Archives for posts with tag: Dustless One

The society of the Empire of O is ruled by an ornate hierarchy, at the top of which is the emperor, the ShionDo, the Dustless One.

O is a clan-based culture. Over millennia, individual clans have formed with other clans into associations, each association differentiated by a Mark – a Zor, an emblem.

The Marks themselves are divided into two main groups — ZonO, and ShiO.

For much of the Clouded Era, the unfathomable period of time before the establishment of the empire, the most prestigious Marks and clans were ZonO. These clans valued blood, terrestrial power, wealth, property, and cultivated a world of fashion, wit and manners. They ruled the various city-states and kingdoms that made up the western lands in the Era of Clouds.

ZonO clans looked down on the more austere, spiritually inclined Marks who called themselves “ShiO“.

ShiO clans valued a more ascetic, philosophical way of life than ZonO. ShiO clans read and followed the wisdom of the sutras. These sutras, gathered together in the AmorZine, the “sacred book”, taught TanZo – the pure Way. For hundreds of years, ZonO regarded ShiO as a joyless and humourless  culture, given to useless “celestial” speculations, believing in a system that insisted on great discipline and patience, and denied worldly pleasures.

The last phase of the Clouded Era, however — known as the Era of Rival Clans — saw a gradual shift of power, away from corrupt and inefficient government by ZonO, and towards the more disciplined and organised ShiO Marks. Though smaller in number than ZonO, the ShiO clans were largely revered by the wider population, and were seen as pure and just.

Eventually, the rise of the ShiO clans and Marks couldn’t be resisted by the old ZonO order, and after thousands of years of rule, the world of “Society” and the aristocracy was overturned. Following decades of bloodshed, intrigue and struggle, control of LuinShar, the greatest city in O, passed into the hands of ShiO.

The effective end of ZonO power came when the first emperor of Shar, and of O, was declared: this was Jara-so-zirma I, who, after climbing the Five Thousand Steps, in the sacred precincts of the Palace of the Changing Moon took the Lotus Crown, and ordered the calendars to be set to a new system, with Year 0 starting on the first day of his rule.

Jara I and his immediate successors, steeped in their ShiO tradition, ruthlessly purged ZonO, and in many cases broke and destroyed ZonO clans, accusing them of deviating from the Way. Many ancient bloodlines were destroyed: properties were seized, possessions scattered. Nobles whose families had ruled their fiefs for hundreds of years, and were used to honour and the submission of the crowd, found themselves cast out from their lands, and – if they were lucky – sent to live in the public streets, covered with dust and with no way back to their former eminence.

For tens of centuries, those ZonO clans and Marks that survived the creation of the empire were forced to live remote from the Court and from the government. Their lifestyles were curtailed, and they were obliged to follow the Way. Shows of luxury were prohibited, and the ShiO laws of the empire were systematically and pitilessly applied.

Slowly, however, the ShiO tide began to wane, and the zeal that accompanied the formation of the empire began to recede. Once the whole Land of O was conquered and integrated into the empire, the imperial government began to relax its laws, and ZonO clans and Marks were permitted their ancient luxuries.

A historical coolness between the Court and the ShiO Marks developed, which in the long run benefited ZonO. With the waning of ShiO influence over the emperor, ZonO was once again allowed to rise, and to regain terrestrial power.

While each clan is unique, and each Mark distinctive, allowing for many different shades and nuances of opinion, there is no doubt that, fundamentally, there exists a deep traditional bitterness between ZonO and ShiO. ShiO despise ZonO for its deviation from the Way, for its love of pleasure and luxury, its devotion to appetite and matter. ZonO resent ShiO for its power, for its devotion to the Way, for its insistence on ritual and discipline.

Such is the main order of division between the clans and Marks of O: ZonO, and ShiO.

Those who before did not bow, now bow • and those who were kings and queens are sent either to the void or to the streets where the masses toil • Those who ruled are now ruled • and those who sipped wine from crystal cups • must now beg each breath • a sword forever crescent • over their bared necks | This is the fate of impurity • for impurity attracts dust • and dust gathers power | Only the Dustless are beyond the fate of the rising and falling, the living and dying, the strong and the weak | Only the Dustless cannot be sent to the dusts | Therefore, consider the fates of these lords and ladies now brought low • and how the trivial conceits of terrestrial power • end in a beggar’s death • lonely beside a busy road • dust filled with dust • while on the Way • calmly, the Dustless move ever on

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Dustless | Volume 7

It is RoMayZine to understand: battle is endless.

Men and women struggle in the act of love, they battle: and in the act of birth, women struggle with their child: they battle. Born, a child struggles with the first blazing of the light: the battle of sight begins, and of all the senses.

Decision is battle: life is fought by decision.

Having won the first light, children battle to see and to grow. Men and women battle to keep their children safe. Death battles to take all the living prisoner, to subdue all armies of life, to grow greater the already vast armies of dust.

In a remote province of the Desolate Cantons, two exiles meet, and speak of decisions, speak of war.

One describes a duel with the King of Swords. The other describes life by the sword, in a place humanity may be cast off: the Place of No Footsteps.

To each, battle brings a kind of liberty, freedom from a world of laws, a victory for intense life.

Yet, when their battles are over, have they not drawn closer, after all, to joining the ranks of the armies of dust?

•DUSTLESS-FIN7

Dustless | Volume 6
New worlds are being born all the time. These are young worlds, and young worlds, like young children, grow.

Old worlds await them. Into the old worlds, these young worlds rise.

If worlds are made of dust alone, like people they must age and die, and their dust blow into the wind, and fall away.

Must all growing be dying? Must all the young age, and all youth only fall away?

If there was something more than dust — greater than the dust, higher than the dust — would that mean a life that could keep growing, and not die? An ageless life, forever open, never closed?

Is there a life beyond the dust?


Into an old world, a young child travels, further and further, from the edge of a great empire slowly towards the centre.

And the edge, abandoned by the centre, withers in the freezing depths of a northern winter.

Dereliction and negligence: immense distances, isolated settlements where people survive or flee, and little more.

The law has retreated, the teachings of the book become confused, His Majesty no longer shelters and protects his subjects, no great clan orders and guards the struggling villagers of the Endless Plains.

To a dying world, what can a growing child bring?

From a world of dust, may a Dustless vision rise?

•DUSTLESS-FIN6

Dustless | Volume 5
The sun is hot, and the fields are wide.
I walk, head bowed, towards my village.
The path is hard, the earth is dry.
There is dust on the road, but no horses.
I am thirsty, but the well is far away.
The plains stretch on towards the horizon,
where my way goes.
This is all there is –
and all there is, they say,
fits in a hawk’s eye.

All places, it is said among the Pure, are places of TanZo. Yet, if you are not Pure, what might you think of a place?

For a civilised person, the Endless Plains are famously empty. The air is polluted, the climate extreme – ferociously hot in summer, gnawingly cold in winter.

A civilised person, in a civilised place, may enjoy many aspects of life, but for those condemned for a time to dwell in the Endless Plains, life may well dwindle down to consist of one master wish, a single, essential aim: survival.

A RoMayZine general once looked down at the pitiful remnants of a barbarian force, taken prisoner near the BisMarian Mountains. “They have survived – but what has survived?” he said.

“A human being plots a course between the animals and the angels”, an old ZirCong philosopher once said. And in a SurGaKu amendment: “A human being is a contract between an animal and an angel”.

What might happen, should that ‘contract’ be broken? What might a human being then become?

•DUSTLESS-FIN5

Dustless | Volume 4
It is natural, when embarked upon an arduous journey, to wish for shelter, to seek dwellings. And it is also natural, when circumstances within a particular dwelling place prove too much to bear, to wish to move on, to embark upon a journey, even if that journey should prove to be an arduous one.

The land wants nothing of us, it is only the land. Rocks seek no destiny, thorn trees ask no future, but simply adhere to the natural laws of thorns and earth, winds and water.

Upon a barren road, in the north and east of the empire, three travellers face the challenge of the wintry land. Here, shelter is hard to come by. The tanzo is unyielding. This is a place where space and time have settled, where space eats up the days, and the years dine on the endless plain.

For a poor human being, there seems no escape: it is a place the body must be, and suffer.

What does it avail a traveller upon such a road, to wish and to dream and to question? Is it that, faced with the bitter cold and the hostile earth, the delicate things of dreams and wishes and questions might give some form of shelter? And that questions and dreams and wishes may be the very things to help the traveller to survive? Or do they merely lead further into delusion, back to the bones of the hands and the skull?

•DUSTLESS-FIN4

Dustless | Volume 3
The purpose of a road is to connect one thing with another, and to enable travellers to traverse the landscape with greater ease. Yet, what happens when the land seems too great for the road? and when the road seems endless, connecting the traveller to nothing? What becomes of a journey once it appears to have no destination?

Is this not TanZo? Is this not the Way?

Through remote cantons, on humble beasts, a great lord for a guide, the travellers must follow the road, and endure the land – because there is no other road, and there is no other land.

It is said, among the SurGaKu: “For us, all things, eventually, turn into stories | and only by following the story | do we ever come to know of things”.

The SurGaKu teach: “And all stories, of course, come from the past; and to the past, of course, most stories return”.

And some among the SurGaKu add: “The past is a lost place. Do not go there”.

Dustless | Volume 3

Dustless | Volume 2
At the heart of all things, there are moments; and at the heart of each moment, there is change [Dust Sutra]

It is said, among the ZirCong, that “each thing is complete | yet each thing is also incomplete | and it is us, poor human beings, who bring our incompleteness to all things | with our yearning for power or with our yearning for | the resignation of power”.

Even a world that seems entire to itself, contained within its own boundaries, may neighbour another world. Is not the world of the seen forever at the mercy of the world of the unseen? And the known world, fragile before the jaws of the world of the unknown?

Change is inscribed in the heart of the atoms. The young grow older. The innocent grow corrupt. Those who have homes, lose them. Those who have lost homes, seek them.

Although yearning is a great power, sometimes, even in a vast land, protected by the emptiness of a continent, it is not enough.

•DUSTLESS-FIN2

Dustless | Volume 1
Far to the east and north of the empire, there are roads untravelled for years. What can it mean to keep watch over a road along which no one travels? What is the purpose of such vigilance? To a true sentinel, any tanzo is the TanZo: any road is the Way; and a man of TanZo will always be vigilant, even if those who charged him to keep watch have long ago forgotten his existence…

Unfathomably remote, this is a world unto itself, a polluted and a desperate land, which surely even the Dustless One has abandoned. Yet, even here, where so much is dying, life is stirring. What is it? And how will it grow?

Dustless | Volume 1

…‘Well: how will you get justice, now? The whole power of the state is behind Azulsokul and the Xira clan. You yourself referred to the rumour: that the ShionDo is not just Azulsokul’s nephew, but…’

Berensota’s hesitation before finishing the sentence once again alerted Zy to the difficulty people found in discussing the internal affairs of the Dustless One and the imperial clan. The Dustless One had to be… well, Dustless. No dust of ordinary life should be able to cling to His Majesty’s person. Even in private, out of earshot of anybody else, Berensota still couldn’t speak of the matter without unease, as if he was sullying something within himself by opening his mouth and voicing these unflattering things. And in a sense, to deprecate the ShionDo was to cast oneself down, too, for the ShionDo was the Purest of the Pure, the Guardian of the Law, the Lord who was Vigilant over the Lords: the emperor was simply the purest person in O, the quintessence of the whole labour of the state to maintain the TanZo, to practise vigilance and to achieve purity. If there were specks of dust on the ShionDo, then there were specks of dust at the centre of the world. And if there was dust upon the Dustless One, where wouldn’t there be dust? Dust would have reached heart of the empire. And if there was dust at the heart, who could escape dust upon themselves, as well? It would mean a profound collective failure of the SolTanZoZon. No wonder, then, that people were deeply hesitant to criticise His Majesty…


Excerpt from Master Darkness [i], Volume 21 of Dustless

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Dustless | Volume 9