Archives for posts with tag: Gonfi

Perhaps most of the worlds of all the universes possess no language, and are dumb, utterly inexpressive – silent as the airless moon – but O-yon is not like this.

Language is born of language | Languages possess architecture, and in O-yon, there are many lost and buried tongues, branches that are broken from the tree or do not blossom, or blossoms which, caught in the desert of time, become like fragile fossils, dry, perfect, but without scent…

In O-yon, it is said, there was a time before speech, but of that time, necessarily, we are ignorant || Then came the oldest language, the hypergrammatic language of the Ancients, the ‘Metallic ones’ | Their mysterious characters, inscribed in metal books, without date, without lexicon, are too complex for modern minds to comprehend, and so their beautiful, miraculous world remains closed to us, a matter of yearning, debate and controversy.

After the Ancients, came the LateAncients, whose language, made up of ‘Gonfi’ – ideograms – permits us the tantalising sense that we may understand their greater minds, and even that we might touch the glory of their forebears, the Metallic ones. For it is into the Gonfic LateAncient language that certain key Metallic books are said to have been translated, and of these books, the most wonderful book of all, the book of Metallic sutras, known as AmorZineZirIramOAram­TanZo, which means, transcripted into our common tongue, The Sacred Book of the Whole World of the Word of the Law of the Beautiful and Simple Way – the book to which all signs are ultimately drawn, and from which all signs ultimately proceed.

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The Lord undergoes a medical scan, using ancient Metallic equipment

…The Lord now sat up on the bed, then rolled off it, stepping down gingerly onto the black metal floor. It seemed strange to Zy that the Shion should not be almost hypnotised by the fabulous show of lights and colours, and the beautiful Metallic devices at work. The boy wondered whether there was an element of defiance, a snub, given by the Lord to the whole world of Doctor Gosa? It was also true, though, that the specialised information being displayed could mean little to Akzasosan – perhaps he had merely become saturated by the images.

The Lord regathered his towel around him. Even here, even now, Zy sensed something of the Shion’s inexorable restlessness – the desire to move on, to discharge his responsibility, deliver the letter, and go home.

Zy, though, continued to gaze, fascinated and delighted by what he was seeing. He intuited that there was some sort of systematic flow of information across and between the three separate scans: although it was too quick for him to follow in detail, he could see how, at times at least, an area of the Shion’s anatomy was being selected on the left-hand image, and Gonfi would appear in their circles, seemingly written upon the breast or solar plexus of the pale flesh; then the same site would become the focus of the central scan, where the flesh had been made translucent, and the bones glowed; finally, the scanner would pursue the problem down, further, through enlarged displays on the third screen, at magnifications that seemed to dissolve corporeality entirely, and produce pictures of geometric abstraction, of life beneath life, within life, of structures underlying vision – the very building-blocks of bodies themselves.

Zy watched.

Was this really what lay under his own skin?

He saw a new world. As represented across the fluid scans, the interior of the human body was a thing of pulses and routes, of pumps and junctions, of gases and cavities, valves and lubricants. It was more than a machine: it was a continent, a galaxy. He saw liquids being forced at high pressure along highways. When he had first intuited that the scans were showing him the internal organs of the body, he had looked for a bright red, soft, arrowhead of the human heart, as it was always drawn by children. But there was no such thing: instead, there was a pulsating, muscular creature, something he imagined lived on the seabed.

Teeth grinned at him, lipless, fleshless. The bones of the head had a dummy-like simplicity. Encircled, magnified images showed the boy installations of phenomenal fineness and intricacy. The Lord’s flat belly was revealed to contain a bewildering worm of coiling intestines. At unknown levels of magnification, Zy saw things coursing along through constricted thoroughfares, dashing by, irradiated by deep-hued, electrical light. The Lord’s bones seemed impossibly slender. The basket of the rib cage appeared fatally delicate, dangerously open, as if things should slip out of it easily.

The more he looked, the more Zy found it hard to relate what was appearing there on the wall-screens with his own physiology. There was something slightly monstrous about this splayed and avid thing. Some of the Shion’s disdain for it seeped into the edges of Zy’s feelings. The body was too complicated. There was too much of it. It was not – human. Laid out there, it seemed other. It seemed – unreasonable. Zy could sense why the Lord had sometimes appeared, as he struggled with his infirmity, to regard his own body as an opponent, and an enemy.

But what an implacable enemy…

Extract from River Direction | Volume 13 of Dustless

The culture of O is in many ways obsessed with and dominated by the number five.

The original reason for the importance of this number is lost in the Clouded Era. However, the number five also appeared to be crucial to people of the revered ancient civilization, known as the OnDomin, and the remnants of their culture have floated down the millennia and been incorporated into the current order.

Examples abound of the way the number five is inscribed into the culture of O:

The dynastic succession of the imperial clan, or the accession to the throne of a new clan, is overseen by the Five Bodies, the KorBan.

The imperial Mark, the ruler’s household Mark and the imperial bodyguard, is ViwaShar, the Five Towers Mark.

The ancient Han-nah Camellia Map – a map contained within one of the famous metal books of the Ancients – divides up the territory of the Land of O into fifty cantons. (In fact, there are fifty-one cantons on the Han-nah Map, but the central canton, Oron, with the great capital city LuinShar at its heart, is known as the “sublime canton”, a place of transcendent spiritual purity, and considered to be beyond the power of “description by numbers”.)

The culture of O is TanZo. “TanZo” is made up of two Gonfi (LateAncient characters), “Tan“, meaning “simple”, “pure”, “undivided”, “unadulterated”, and “Zo“, meaning “path”, “direction”, “way”. In the current tongue, TanZo is translated as “the simple Way”, or the “pure Way”.

TanZo has “five essential tenets”. People who live by the rules of TanZo perform the “five essential prostrations”.

TanZo is supported by the “five pillars”.

These are:

TineZo | The Way of Blood | rules governing the flow of ancestral resources

QuingZo | The Way of Harmony | rules governing intimate customs and social behaviour

HungZo | The Lawful Way | law over property and social behaviour

ZorZo | The Marked Way | rules governing the organisation and behaviour of Marks

MarZo | The Way of the Clans | rules governing the organisation of clans

The “five pillars” are designed to implement the wisdom of the Way across the whole of O.

MarZo, the Way of the Clans, is a set of laws designed to ensure that the basic unit of society, the noble clan, is run according to TanZo. The noble heads of households are responsible for ensuring that all the members of the clan behave according to the Way, and seek to follow the teachings of the sutras, and to live peaceful, gentle, vigilant lives.

ZorZo, the Way of the Marks, is designed to ensure that clans behave according to TanZo. Nearly all clans are members of Marks, which are associations of clans. The member clans of each Mark behave co-operatively, and seek to assure mutual safety and well-being. Thus, the Isen (“head”) of the Mark has power over the noble heads of individual clans.

HungZo, the Lawful Way, is the set of laws that apply to all people and all social bodies in O. There are two organisations charged with implementing HungZo: KinChogan, known as “Protecting Hand”, who have power over all non-noble households; and ShimThet, colloquially known as “Black Star” – their Mark is Black Star – who have power over all households, both noble and common, and whose elite members, known as “erasers”, have the right to take life in the pursuit of justice. In theory, even the imperial household and the court must submit to the rulings of ShimThet.

QuingZo, the Way of Harmony, is an intricate system of rules designed to ensure that people treat each other according the wisdom of the sutras, and particularly the Strict Order sutra, one of the sutras making up the AmorZine. “Quing” literally means “smooth”, “silk”, “frictionless”. QuingZo governs every relationship in O, and seeks to ensure that everyone shows appropriate vigilance and respect, as laid down in the Strict Order sutra.

TineZo, The Way of Blood, is a set of laws relating to matrimony and succession. In O, the ancestors are revered, as the ancestors were responsible for maintaining the Way over eras of generational struggle. All people of a certain rank in society are obliged to have samples of their blood taken by ShoKun, the Mark of the Hatching Egg, who oversee the matrimonial arrangements of noble clans. The great Library of Blood, in LuinShar, is supposed to contain millions of samples of blood, and ShoKun is responsible for ensuring the health and purity of the noble bloodlines of O.

Thus, from the ground up, from the lowest to the highest, bonds of TanZo are formed. The lowest class of citizen recognized under imperial law is a Murli, a serf, whose family has been bound to a noble clan for five generations. Murli have the right to life and protection, and the Lord or Lady of the clan is responsible for ensuring the Murli are allowed to live according to TanZo. Even the Murli, whose freedoms are strongly curtailed, have the legal privileges known as the Five Bearing Rights of the Strict Order sutra. These Five Bearing Rights are: the right to meditate and follow the Way, right to cleanliness, including care for health, right to shelter, right to food and right to respect.

The clan’s retainers, who exist in a hierarchy, from the humble Murli to the educated and sophisticated chamberlains of the household, must ensure that the “lowest” are allowed full TanZo. All the clan retainers are ultimately responsible to the Lord or Lady of the clan. Should the Lord or Lady themselves prove to be corrupt, then the Isen of the Mark should step in, and seek to ensure that the Mark is cleansed of any impure clan. The Isens, although often tremendously powerful, are still accountable to ShimThet. And ShimThet, in theory, is accountable to the Ministry of Resolution, one of the Five Ministries, who together make up the imperial government.

Thus, it is said in O:

From the Five Bearing Rights to the central summit of the Five Towers, Mark of the Dustless One, from the ant to the lion, from teardrop to ocean, from a lone flame to the heat and light of the sun, all is TanZo


Five Towers Mark


hoo-sha-ha: hoo-sha-ha…

Zy was warm enough. The night continued still, with virtually no breeze – and it was usually the breeze that brought the more violent cold.

Gradually, the noise grew louder: Lord Berensota was right about the direction – they were moving towards the source of the sound.

They’d crossed the footbridge, and trudged through rougher and deeper snow, less compacted, in the empty area between perimeter fence and the main part of the outskirts of BerKur. There were some isolated buildings, but they seemed to have been abandoned by the town, and let stray out there in the darkness. There was no one about.

hoo-sha-ha: hoo-sha-ha… hoo-sha-ha: hoo-sha-ha… click! Zrrrrr! Click! hoo-sha-ha: hoo-sha-ha…

The lord had also been right: it was a machine making the noise – it could be nothing else. As they walked through the tranquil night, with the uninhabited darkness of the Endless Plains out on their right, and the town on their left, its centre giving off a soft aura from the many lanterns, its outlying streets and buildings black and silhouetted, the machine could be heard uttering a repeated sequence of sounds: on this day of wonders, a new, alien wonder was waiting for Zy.

Zrrrrr! Click! hoo-sha-ha: hoo-sha-ha…

Zyso began to tremble: he had never heard anything like this before. Or… Well: he had grown up among the sounds of a working SharDo – the low hums and clicks of a tower whose tanks were operative; and the almost inaudible tickings of Ancient mechanisms, the mechanical sighs of pumps, the purr of filters, had served he and Zysa for lullabies, almost for a mother – but those sounds weren’t, somehow, the utterances of machines; they were what home sounded like; they were natural; they were the only world he knew.

But this sequence of sounds…

hoo-sha-ha: hoo-sha-ha… hoo-sha-ha: hoo-sha-ha… click! Zrrrrr! Click! hoo-sha-ha: hoo-sha-ha…

He could see smoke – a number of fires were burning, on the outer edge of the town, although Zy’s view was obstructed by some straggling buildings. The riders worked their way round the wasteground, and approached another bridge – and there was another one further ahead, as well – which was covered in snow, though only by a thin frozen paste. The ground was more uneven here, with softly swelling, shallow dome-like mounds; and it was from a depression beyond one of these mounds that both the smoke and the repetitive noises of the machine were coming.

Under the clear sky that hung above them, the stars and the rising moon visible through a giant, motionless hole in the surrounding grey cloud, the air was very still and pure, and the machine’s noise was penetrating rather than loud. Its sound travelled not only through the air, but seemed to be communicated through the earth as well: the sound possessed Gur – “weight”. Indeed, even before he saw the machine, Zy felt the heaviness of its being, its presence – it seemed to be the sound of weight, of massivity, of bulk: of metal.

They clunked across the bridge, and began to follow a path that led round and through the swelling mounds.

Zy’s heart was like a flower, tensed and opening before the light of the sun.

Trembling: a trembling inside Zy, where his heart was; and a trembling in the air; and a trembling through the ground.

hoo-sha-ha: hoo-sha-ha… hoo-sha-ha: HOO-SHA-HA: HOO-SHA-HA… CLICK! ZRRRR! CLICK! HOO-SHA-HA: HOO-SHA-HA…

Still, the sound wasn’t loud – if the riders had spoken (but they didn’t speak), their natural voices would have been perfectly audible above the sound of the machine – but there was something profoundly convincing about the solidity and denseness of the noise.

Zy sensed an animal patience about the throbbing, humming, buzzing, clicking thing: it was curiously bestial – passive, ponderous, unmoving. It was the sound of waiting. For a few moments, just before he saw the machine, Zy associated it with the Chun trekking ponies the riders had used to cross the dusty eastern provinces of the Endless Plains; if they had been metal, this was the sound the ponies would have made as they stood, motionless, at the command of their human riders, during a halt in the ride.

The two riders entered a surprisingly large bowl-shaped dell. There were about ten fires, burned down low, arranged in a wide ring: they were embering now, and the blackened wood was cooling and smoking in parts, and only in the hearts of these small bonfires was the timber glowing and shimmering and sparkling in its own heat.


In the centre of the ring of fires, it stood: a vast machine. Before he’d seen it, Zy had felt its sound was the sound of weight: now, once the two riders had entered the dell, and gained an uninterrupted view of the machine, Zy knew he was hearing the sound of power.

He was shivering, not with cold but with excitement: his whole being was fanning open, responding to the deep, bowel-rippling sound – even this close, not particularly loud (you could still hold a conversation in your normal speaking voice, and easily hear each other) – emanating from the machine. This was sound you could feel: it was physical, it made the air shudder and, from within the foundations of the air itself, the sound throbbed out, hitting you in gravid waves.

Zysoshin was thrilled: he felt as if the sounds were making his nerves quiver in awesome sympathy.

The machine was about three times as high as the tall Lord Berensota, and about ten horselengths long – about twenty dedaziles. In terms of width, it was around seven or eight dedaziles. It was basically oblong – a stretched block of metal. The block was curved and smoothed, however, so that the sides didn’t form sharp right-angles with the top of the machine, but flowed gracefully over into it. The front and back of the machine – if it could be said to possess a front or back – were identical: here too there were no straight angles, but at both ends the oblong resolved itself into a high, basically semi-circular forehead, which then descended and pushed outwards to form a massive snout.


Zy’s initial impression was of sleekness and of enormous weight. The machine appeared seamless – cast from a single block of sculpted zuth – a metal of rich, glowing, silver-like sheen. There was no snow on it: although Zy could see no vent, the machine was steaming with a very fine, almost invisible pale vapour. The air around the machine rippled faintly with exuded heat. The ground seemed to be throbbing and trembling in time to the rhythm of the machine.

After standing for a few moments, contemplating the wall-like bulk of the machine’s sides, which flowed down and then flanged out to form a kind of armoured skirt at the base, the two riders walked along a little way towards one end of the machine, where the mighty, snub nose gleamed in the firelight. Here, near where the forehead began, Zy now made out a metal ladder, which seemed not so much fixed to the main frame, but to grow out from it. The ladder looked at first very dainty – against the mass of the machine, it had a rather slender delicacy – but seen close up, the ladder itself had a moulded, chunky weight to it. Glancing upwards, Zy could just make out faint seams in the metal, which appeared to indicate a door or at least a break in the flawless surfaces.

About a third of the way from the ground, the machine’s snout emitted two large, short, horn-like prongs, which ended in flattened discs of shining metal – if the machine had arms and hands, then these stubby protuberances were its arms and the discs its hands, the palms held up and outwards. These were towards the sides of the snout: from the centre, a hooked extension was sited not far from the base of the machine.


At first, Zy had thought the machine was standing on perfectly flat, level ground: now, though, he could see that one end was slightly higher above the earth than the other, and that the machine was also tilted over a bit to one side – the more Zy stared, the more definite was his impression that the machine had sunk into the ground and subsided a little as well.

The broad swerving snub nose – so smooth, it seemed to have been drawn from an immaculate, gigantic mould; and so shining that it appeared as if someone must come every day and polish the metal (but the machine was so big, a single person would take hours and hours to do that) – held a square plate that didn’t seem fastened on, but an integral part of the fundamental structure of the machine; and within the square, bone-like struts of metal formed an unusual Gonfic cluster. This cluster wasn’t like any Zy had seen before – it was more sophisticated than any LateAncient cluster, and yet it didn’t possess the dizzying complexities and asymmetries of truly Ancient hypergrams; and Zy was able to interpret it only very tentatively, and only in part – although of a rather alien configuration, the boy reckoned he could make out, at the centre of the dense array, in a large, bold cluster: AmAm Trai – “No. 3”.

Walking right the way round it now, Zy had a quite swooning sense of this gigantic machine. His earliest intuitions about it were confirmed: weight, power, patience; mass, strength, weight.


It seemed to be breathing. Breathing, not like a person of course, but like a machine. That hoo-sha-ha sound, repeated over and over again in what felt like an utterly regular and ceaseless circuit – it was the sound of metallic lungs. From somewhere within that sleek cladding, there must be moving parts – the innards of such a machine were unimaginable, but Zy had the sense of giant but beautifully organised elements working through a very limited sequence of actions, over and over again. The metal breath of this No. 3 machine was like a kind of panting, only, paradoxically, Zy didn’t feel the machine was exerting itself, or had exerted itself – it was simply there, breathing, waiting, prepared.

He became conscious again of the sounds that were rippling through his flesh, it felt, and moving up through the ground, and the thick soles of his boots, passing into his bones and treeing off through his whole nervous system. The clicks the machinery uttered were profoundly interior, but, like the exterior, sculpted, precise, integral. The zrrrrr!, a buzzing, toothed noise, seemed to indicate movement, as if, under the burnished cladding, one part of the machine was being passed along, then halting, then being passed back again in an endless shuttling cycle.

Zy felt flushed with the heat from the fires. The two riders moved slowly on, coming to the end of the machine, the one that was slightly sunken into the ground, but which otherwise appeared a perfect replica of the end they’d already walked round: there was the same forehead and snub nose, the ladder, the door-like seams, the moulded protuberances. Seen now from every angle, the machine – bigger than many single-storey peasant houses – stirred Zy’s imagination and his senses: the machine was brutally beautiful, it seemed a thing of dense, almost tragic power – though why tragic, Zy couldn’t have said. As big as a house, and like a house, in some ways – a house for power, a place power sheltered. It was staggering.

Yes – staggering. But what did it do?

Excerpt from Mask [iv], Volume 12 of Dustless

Please consider…

Dustless | Volume 1


The notion of a hypergram…

Zysoshin, consulting a lexicon he has found in the ashes of a burnt-out tower, discovers more than he bargained for…

Zyso knew exactly where he wanted to be in the book, which item he wished to look up first: word.

He expected to find a definition – a definition, to Zy, was the solution to a puzzle, the telling of a secret, the exposure of the heart of a mystery. But what he found was simply a greater puzzle, and more secret and mysterious.

On the relevant page – the pages were indeed very thin, but very strong, too – he found word, alright, but above it, and apparently belonging to it, was an odd pattern. It was very complex, rather like a spiderweb, with many branches, radiating out from a core; only the pattern was not regular like a web, there were curious forkings and asymmetries, and at the ends of some branches there were more symbols, which in turn put forth further branches, like a tree that has a fruit from which another tree has already begun growing.

Zy stared dubiously at this pattern for a few moments. He turned the book through 90°, and looked at it sideways.

Then he turned to the words below the pattern.

This is what they said:

word: MidImperial. Tentative [probable] de-evolution [catastrophic] from iram (LateAncient Phonetic – Clouded Era); tentative [probable] de-evolution/derivation from LateAncient ‘iram’ gram – and here, there was a much smaller and simpler pattern printed in the line of normal MidImperial text, which then went on: – conjectured tentative [possible] de-evolution [catastrophic] from Ancient ‘beauty moving’ hypergram [degree of decypherment: minimal, conjectural, tenuous; effectual cypheration, 98%]. See tertiary, secondary and primary expositions below.

Zy looked up into the frozen woods around the tower for a moment, and then looked down at the tiny, detailed text again.
Well, this was gobbledygook. It was definitely very grown-up, Zy could see that – only grown-ups could write such things. But what did such things have to do with words? Already beginning to half-regret his decision to open the lexicon, Zy read on.

Probably one of the most important complex hypergrams (Shofi) in the extant Ancient set, and certainly one of the most beautiful, the ‘beauty moving’ hypergram represents the Zigorian Mountains for any potential expositor. It appears to be regarded by LateAncient symbologists as a “Shi-Shofi”, or “master hypergram” in our Paper terminology, and as such is an object of reverence for the LateAncients, and of mystery for us, their Paper imperial descendants.

The evidence for a coherent line of disintegration from the ‘beauty moving’ Shofi through to the ‘Iram’ Gonfi is purely formal. (For conjectured lines of de-evolution from the ‘beauty moving’, through the ‘intermediate’ early-LateAncient quasi-hypergrams (zu-Gonfi), to the ‘Iram’ Gonfi, see primary exposition.) However, there is no question that certain clusters of strokes (Gon) from the ‘Iram’ Gonfi are present in the outer radial motif of the ‘beauty moving’ hypergram. Whether these Gon function in a similar fashion in both Ancient and LateAncient linguistic arrays is impossible to determine at this time.

Formally, we see in the ‘beauty moving’ Shofi a typical ‘snowflake’ hub (although, of course, with five key veins only), although the hub here is both unusually elaborate and uncharacteristically symmetrical. From the hub, the array develops along the five radii into an inflorescence which is at once highly excited in terms of gramic momenta and extremely economic in terms of calligraphic resources.

In terms of proven decypherment, the ‘beauty moving’ Shofi is one of the most recondite and enigmatic of the Ancient system. And yet, on the level of intuition alone, expositors are almost universally agreed that this Shi-Shofi is of profound importance within the OnDomin language. The sheer density of Gon suggest a level of activity that is virtually unique among Shi-Shofi. No other Shi-Shofi, perhaps, makes the Paper linguist so regret his own limitations, or so wonder at the hypergrammatic language of the Metallic ones.

Gonfi present [definite] in the ‘beauty moving’ Shi-Shofi: builder, constructor, house, load, bearer, worker, shape, shaper; way, road, direction, horizon; spring, river, estuary, flow; point, line, gauge; base, core, foundation, ground; beauty, destination, journey, leap, move, mover, moving.

Gonfi present [probable] in the ‘beauty moving’ Shi-Shofi: truth, lie, real, false, value, aim, approach, desire, master, slave, song, silence, metal, dust.

Gonfi present [possible: first rank (primary)] in the ‘beauty moving’ Shi-Shofi: energy, transfer, balance, imbalance, light, lightless, endless, ended, harmony, disharmony, struggle, peace, unstill.

Gonfi  present [possible: second rank (ancillary)] in the ‘beauty moving’ Shi-Shofi: voice, mark, sound, system, form, point, draw, divide, drive.

Gonfi  present [doubtful] in the ‘beauty moving’ Shi-Shofi: wild, free, trapped, wall, darkness, prison, howl, cry, call, wind, destroy, fire, break, shatter.

Na-Gonfi  present [conjectured (probable)] in the ‘beauty moving’ Shi-Shofi: Beauty Moving. Built Light. Flowing House. Real Direction. Endless Direction. River Direction. River Destination. Free Base. Beauty Builder. Truth Horizon. Fire Journey. Song Bearer. Free Road. Metal Endless. Ended Dust.

Na-Gonfi  present [conjectured (possible)] in the ‘beauty moving’ Shi-Shofi: Beauty Transfer. Song Wall. Song House. Song Silence. Endless Silence. Trapped Silence. Ground Silence.

Na-Gonfi  present [conjectured (doubtful)] in the ‘beauty moving’ Shi-Shofi: Master Darkness. Shape Spring. Divided Fire. Fire House. Fire Song. Light Cry. Slave Cry. Free Fire. Free Voice. Dust Voice. Dust Approach. Slave Dust. Beauty Dust…

Excerpt from Fire House, Volume 6 of Dustless