Fellas I’m on levels of morb expy even I don’t understand.
A not-insignificant number of my stories start as a call-and-response with whatever is holding my attention at the time. When I come away from a piece of media feeling unsatisfied, or wanting to explore intentional gaps in the narrative, I ping-pong around ideas about what would make it feel “complete” to me. Usually this happens in fanart, which later gets recycled into original work, but sometimes I jump the turnstile and go straight to “if this happened in Moribund, what would it look like?”
This is a natural form of creation, I think, but it naturally rubs elbows with the ethics of miming others’ work. I try to be open about this, both when it’s blatant (i.e. Chief and the R.A. and Warhammer 40k) and also when it’s 276837428 standard deviations from the source material. (i.e. parts of Asthaom, Basedt, and TES.)
Anyway, I wanted to share some incomplete scraps that come from that. I am usually cautious with Moribund, only sharing things that are 100% ossified as Canon ™ in my head, I thought it would be fun to share something that’s in the baby stages of ideation and barely dancing on the fringes of what I would consider its heart and soul. This time it comes on the heels of playing Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, thinking about monstrous plants, simplified caricatures of nature, and the Endlings.
[…]Death came to us in the time of our ancestors. Before this, there were the plants, the animals, and the mountains, rivers, and stones. There were the Wild Folk, the bones of the earth, and there were we, the orphans of the earth. We killed and were killed, but we were merely changed with the killing. The world was an unbroken circle. We all became one another.
The Houseless Sarikote say that the troubles began when the people became Housed. Some say they began even before this—when the people first yoked the plants and animals—but that story is more popular with our free-wheeling relatives to the West than us herdsmen. Nahe, the people began to build walls and move rivers. They cut into the earth and exhumed her arteries. They built wonders and horrors. They yoked each other.
In those days, the Wild Folk still lived with us in the desert. Our House relatives started calling them that—Wild Folk— because they could not be controlled the way other things could. They were tricky and unyielding, disinterested in the vanity works of powerful men, and yet they were very powerful themselves.
Chief among the Wild Folk was the Tamahuaq, the Salting Tree. They say that he was born from the Snake and the Osprey’s ancient struggle with each other. Their war-making left a deep wound here in the desert, a canyon that runs with water the color of blood. Today we call it the river Roan. Tamahuaq was the scar tissue of that wound; his body a ribbon of green, a great bosque that flanked the river from Mother Mountain to the ocean black. He was one great tree made of many trees, a forest unto himself, and there wasn’t a drop of water in high Asthaom that escaped his far and winding roots. He guarded it fiercely, just as he guarded all small things that lived in his boughs.
Being the river’s warden, Tamahuaq was the first casualty of the water wars. This type of killing had never been done before, I do not think our ancestors even knew that this is what they were doing. Of course, we cut parts of Tamahuaq’s body away, we burned him, we ate him, we scattered his seed and cultivated him, this is normal. But it is hard to imagine why anyone would want him to die the way that he did. To understand this, you must understand that water was power in those days… And to our ancestors, Tamahuaq hoarded this power jealously.
They came to realize that the only way to kill Tamahuaq was to starve him. How do you starve a beast that can eat light? That drinks water from the stone? They cut him into pieces and buried him deep underground. This is when the killing truly began, you see[…]
A couple names: Tamahua, Tamahuaq, Manahue, Monomyth, Manimouth, Many-Mouth, War, the Salting Tree, etc.
He is a spirit-being-tree that has been mutilated and buried deep underground, and is now trying to survive by parasitizing and consuming the bodies of dead gods that have been interred deep under Sond. Cosmologically, Tamahua is considered the roots, the body of the world; a world tree upended and then planted upside-down.
- Called the Monomyth, in contrast to the Manimyth (the creation story of the Osprey and the Snake.) “Monomyth” is pejorative because it is collapsing many gods/beings/”myths” into a single body, a monoculture. It is a constellation of bodies, and also of the pain that Old Sond has inflicted on those imprisoned there.
- Called War to allude to the “first war” in Asthaom, which was either between the Ancestral Sarikote and themselves or the Ancestral Sarikote and the land, depending on who you ask. Tamahuaq was its first casualty. Also to allude to what war is to the Sarikote, that is, a deep and unsettled wound that everything circles around. (everything is eaten by the Monomyth)
- Tamahuaq is a play on tamarisk and “tammy-whacker,” Salting Tree also nods to salt-cedar (and various forms of salting.) Tamarisk/salt-cedar is a noxious weed that grows along impaired rivers in the real-world Sonoran Desert. I am cheaply amused by wordplays (Taosinta, Sund, Mercasor, etc.) and alluding to current environmental issues in Asthaom’s distant past, because Asthaom is a post-post apocalypse. Tamahuaq is not actually a salt-cedar, but it is funny to mythologize about it with rose-colored glasses, the way you might a native river tree like cottonwood.
- Embodying the Endeme a little bit, but from the opposite end of the horseshoe. The Endeme is a way of wringing positive environmental stories out of beings that are typically objects of horror and disgust in Warhammer 40k, i.e. parasites, funguses, diseases. Such narratives in Moribund are already typically “positive,” or rather humanizing. Instead, the Monomyth imagines what could happen in the interior world of a plant that is grossly abused and mistreated, and left to fester in isolation. The horror should come from the circumstances that created the plant, not necessarily the existence of the plant itself.
Coming from the other end of the ADHD lateral thinking: tree boy in Endling cosplay. Trahearne sent me down this dark path (as is typical) because… how do I put this… Trahearne is Sylvari, is Firstborn, is created for a specific purpose and shackled by inescapable prophecy. Not really congruent, but some parallel themes with Moribund’s flavor of Endlings.
(which I should find a better way to talk about, I don’t like sharing names across different universes because its confusing, but also the word ‘Endling’ kicks ass.)
The gaps are compelling to me to fill in. But mostly I just couldn’t get the idea of polychrome-pot-slash-fungus-cyborg out of my brain.
- Came into being by accident, when his inanimate body was “watered” by the god Sentin’s tears. Has no recollection of a past life, but instead seems to be embodied by some of Sentin’s fears and hopes for Sond.
- This makes him a shell with no ghost, in that he is one of the few beings in Moribund who is animate, but does not have a metaphysical body, or “soul.” This is typically upsetting for cultures that conceive of a soul that is separate from the physical body (true of the Ancestral Sarikote) but I’m not sure how this affects his peers’ perceptions of him.
- One of the “New Guard,” or the Endlings who woke after Old Sond was sealed away. Remarkably well-preserved because of this (a fact which his peers can’t seem to let go; most of them are duct-taped together and running on fumes.)
- Formative memories with Sentin give him an unusually positive image of manmade gods.
- Is the first to discover Tamahuaq’s hungry corpse and return to tell the tale. He assumes responsibility for the Endlings’ new and urgent need to contain it, and gains their respect that way.
- Sword is a single, continuous piece of stone. Sentin prophesized about it, of course: “Tamahua, slain by a blade / not knapped, or forged, or shaped.”
Fate is not so kind to this man, as we know. Ideating about how Tamahua cheats death a second time, by hiding inside what he thinks is an empty space. We make a fucked-up sphinx about it.
And, of course, trouble never walks alone. The Lastborn's design was pretty much Moribund-ready from the get-go. Story is another question entirely. There are some elements that have been interesting to translate, namely:
- Exile and pariah.
- Superficially resembles his people, but isn’t "one of them".
- Has beef with his creator and “family”, despite never meeting them personally until much later.
- Like his foil, Mr. tree boy, he was created by accident. But rather than being grown on Sentin’s tears, he was spontaneously animated from the spilling of god’s blood—maybe Sentin’s, or Lex’s Bleeding Heart, or even Tamahuaq. Violence left a deep mark on him from his first moments of awareness.
- Came into being alone.
- Also a shell with no ghost.
- Why is he a pariah? In this scenario, he is not intrinsically “wrong” any more than his foil. Or rather they are both “wrong” (no ghost in the shell) but why is one the golden child and the other the black sheep? Is it because of something he did rather than something he intrinsically is? I don’t know if this should be justified or unjustified. Changing unfair persecution to maybe not “fair” but understandable resentment, I am not completely averse but not sure I like this either. The Lastborn commits unjustified and terrible acts, but they are informed by that first wound, which is being persecuted for something he is rather than something he chose to be.
- Intentionally or unintentionally released Tamahua from its prison?
- Framed for Tamahua’s release?
- Considered possessed by or a puppet of Tamahua?
- Committed the ultimate transgression and breached the surface?
- Does not “pass,” but his foil does?
- Interesting secret to reveal, but restrictive.
- Flip the script: The default is mistrust and persecution, but his foil has done “everything right” to win the trust and respect of his community (getting into common themes of respectability, weight of expectations, imposter syndrome.)
- Intentionally or unintentionally released Tamahua from its prison?
Much to think about.
There are other things orbiting around my bonedome, mostly Yuri-shaped, but also some others. I guess I will add to this if/when I feel like it. Trying to make space for more freeform things and reduce the pressure to have everything put together all of the time.
We have fun here.