To Be Unhuman

by PsiDraconis

Disclaimers: This story and these characters are mine. Of course, by "mine" I mean that they pull me out when they want to play, and put me away at the end of the day covered in dirt, scratches, and firecracker burns. They get a little rough at times. This particular bunch are particularly inconsiderate, often quite willing, even eager, to kill, maim, and destroy. Some of them are definitely not nice people. Therefore, expect moderately graphic violence, and one instance of attempted sexual assault. Fortunately, they're oddly willing to control their potty-mouths, saving their cursing for a variety of obscure languages. If you speak Orcish, though, watch out! Some of them are also quite keen on sex, and are not particularly concerned with the general shape, size, or colour of their cuddle-bunnies. I can also neither confirm nor deny that something quite unpleasant will happen to a chicken. (And no, that does not have anything in particular to do with the cuddle-bunny part. Perverts.)

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When all the world recognises good as good,

This in itself is evil.

When all the world recognises beauty as beauty,

This in itself is ugliness.

• Tao Te Ching, Verse 2

Some Notes on the World of Zhaiian:


In the Var Imperium, as in most known lands of the world known as Zhaiian, the year is divided into 10 equal units of time, each corresponding to a particular "Eye," and each exactly 35 days in length. These Eyes are cosmic objects that appear to orbit the planet. Unusually, the Eyes rise at the beginning of their allotted time, but rather than rising and setting daily, they maintain a slow, fixed speed across the heavens over their entire 35-day cycle. They are very bright objects, comparable to a very luminous star, and each is a different hue, capable of being observed even in the daytime. The exception is the Eye of Radiss, the last Eye of the year, which rises in the depths of winter, and which is an utter black. It is invisible at night, but its existence can still be deduced from the manner in which it occludes other stars. The Eyes are named such since most mythologies consider them the actual physical Eyes of the most powerful Gods. The exact God associated with each colour of Eye varies somewhat from culture to culture.

The general terms for the state of each Eye while it is visible are Waking, Rising, Clarity (at mid-sky), Falling, and Slumber.

On a smaller scale, larger towns and villages use devices of varying sophistication to divide up the day. These range from simple sundials (which, due to the brightness of the Eyes, also double as calendars), to ingenious water-driven clocks (hence the division of the day into various "waterchimes"), to Power-created timepieces of incredible accuracy.


The common units of distance in the Imperium are the pace and the span. The pace is measured at 1.21 metres in the measurements of the inhabitants an obscure world so primitive it has not even discovered freespace energy, and the span measures 1.94 kilometres.


Once again using an arcane source of comparison, the stone-weight equals 2.64 kilograms. The term comes from the early days of the Imperium, where farmers selling their goods would have their harvests weighed using very carefully shaped stones.

On to Chapter 1…

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