Labyrinth

The World of Nine Gods, around halfway through the Moondance.

Here we see a period where the Harvesting and Crafting Gods have come together again for the first time in over a century in local years. The moon gets larger and larger, until every flaming explosion on the surface can be made out by the naked eye–and then it retreats again, further and further away, until another one hundred and four years pass and the Crafting God comes to bless them once again with power and beauty.

There is a system not too far from Ajjamah, in the constellation Caprafellantor (chupacabra), known to many of the local inhabitants as [screeching noise like a pig being vivisected by bears], which translates roughly as “the World of Nine Gods” (Śiṇṭuhiryah in Salvian). Veering in and out of the habitable zone over a period of twenty-one Earth days is a gas giant known in local parlance as the Storm God, 7.5 times the mass of Jupiter–but one Jupiter radius. Orbiting around it once every five hours or so (but rotating very slowly, taking ten orbits to complete nine full rotations) at a distance of around a million kilometres is Labyrinth (also known as the Harvesting God), the only native-inhabited world in this solar system.

The Moon

Labyrinth is decent enough in terms of habitability–with a mixture of water, iron, and silicates making it almost a water-world–but it gets rather extreme weather conditions because of the orbit of the Red God. In the “summer” when the Storm God passes closest to the sun, the ice melts across the planet, filling up the oceans and drowning valleys with a rise of fifty metres in some areas. In the “winter”, meanwhile, the two polar oceans freeze up completely, lowering the sea level and cooling the climate. Winds are stronger, with only one cell per hemisphere and a day length of around 54 hours. Gravity is lighter than the Homeworld or Ajjamah, only 7.4m/sˆ2, and the plant life has absolutely taken advantage of this. Giant treelike structures clutter the surface, with the largest weighing over two and a half million kilograms and standing 110 metres tall.

The Locals

Labyrinth is constantly bathed in light from one of the eight other gods, and the climate is relatively constant. It’s really rather a pleasant place to live–and as such it’s taken slightly longer for life to get anywhere quickly. The one exception to this comes in the form of the occasional flares of radiation from the Fire God, which can cause serious damage to organisms even with the combined magnetic field protection of the Storm and Harvest Gods.

One element that differs quite radically from life on, say, Ajjamah or Ja, is that the inhabitants are made up of more macroscopic cells than microscopic, with cells millimetres or even centimetres wide (instead of mere micrometers). What this means for the locals is that cells tend to be a lot more self-contained than regular cells, with improved repair capabilities but a decreased reproduction rate. Diseases find it harder to get in, but cancers are more prevalent. The most efficient creatures have developed “organ spores”, cells yet to be fully inflated but which are preserved inside the body until such time as the old organ system fails and needs replacing. Fertilization in general tends to rely quite heavily on pre-packaged sperm or eggs (or both).

The slender, gazelle-like locals are called the palmacorns; their “antlers” are closer to elephant’s trunks with brachiation and a tough exterior, along with cloven hooves with a decent grip for reaching up trees; they’re actually quite dextrous. There are two sexes, male and female, but with two different mating strategies and different secondary sexual characteristics. “Dominant” males and females have horns; “submissive” males and females do not. Partnership occurs in dominant-dominant, dominant-submissive, and submissive-submissive categories, and each serves its own purpose. Dominants birth dominants, and submissives birth submissives; when it’s a mixed-dominance couple it’s rather more random. That’s not to say that dominants are less intelligent, or submissives are automatically weaker; it’s just a matter of averages.

The palmacorns have powers related to the Dream, largely in the form of granting life to inanimate objects–like, on a big enough scale, moons or planets).

The palmacorns are still quite primitive; only just discovered copper smelting, and it’ll be a while before they get to writing, let alone mass media. For this reason, the planet has been hosting visitors from several alien species for the past few thousand years. It’s a particular favourite of the Nadders, serpentine creatures with opposable mouth-tentacles, whose ribbon-like movements through the air may have influenced a fair few mythologies of the locals…

Mythology

The nine gods of the local mythology represent the home star, the gas giant and its most prominent moons, and a puffy Jupiter some distance away.

  • The Fire God is, quite naturally, the local sun, a red dwarf approximately 22% the mass of Sol. Big and red (angular diameter of 49’15”, considerably larger than our own sun), it is held to be the home of snake-like beings who act as the overall rulers of the solar system, and it is from them that all ideas come.
  • The Storm God is (also quite naturally) the gas giant, rings and all; the brilliant swirls of gold, orange, and blue are quite marvellous to behold. The entire planet comes to see the Storm God over the course of nine days or so, and it’s always visible at the poles. The Storm God’s inhabitants are said to be six-winged bird-like creatures who control the winds.
  • The Harvest God is Labyrinth itself, and the subjects of note are the palmacorns themselves. They know themselves to provide nothing in the way of light or life or air, but they alone in the nine worlds have the ability to worship other deities and draw on their powers, not just the powers of the Harvest God.
  • The Wedding God is a water-moon (at one point presumably icy before the gas giant migrated inward) with mixtures of pink-purple oceans and brilliant icecaps. Its inhabitants, glittering rainbow-fish-like beings, control companionship and love in the rest of the system.
  • The Crafting God is a volcanic moon, co-orbital with the Harvest God. Slightly larger than the Harvest God itself, every six Earth years or so (around 858.7 Labyrinthine years), Labyrinth and the Crafting God get so close to one another that they swap orbits, Labyrinth moving closer to or farther from the Harvest God depending. It is said that a people not unlike spiders live on its surface, mining for plant and animal life and creating weapons and totems of such immense beauty as to make one weep.
  • The Clashing God is a red-and-brown moon orbiting at some distance away. Also volcanic (but not as prominent as the Crafting God), the planet is said to be home to tall, bipedal creatures, with a genius for war. They live and breathe through bravery, conflict, and honourable conduct.
  • The Ice God is another ice-moon, this one with atmospheric conditions such that the ice never actually melted properly (it tends to spend more time than not just outside the habitable zone). The inhabitants are said to be bear-like hunters whose ice palaces are one of the wonders of the world, and in whose veins runs blood as clear as water. In actuality, alien observers from the Nexum have only found exobacteria hidden under the surface, although there are occasionally hallucinations of white figures running across the landscape…
  • The Dancing God isn’t so much a major moon as an oversized rocky minor moon, with part of the satellite taken out by a rouge asteroid at some point. The Speaking God is said to be home to a race of toad-like monks who harvest wild words and sounds and give them meaning.
  • The Night God, the last of the worlds considered powerful enough to merit deification, is actually a puffy Jupiter some 4AU away (but the brightest object in a moonless or planet-less night). The inhabitants are said to be nothing more than shadows, the souls of all dead beings in the rest of the system, who provide spirit and memory.
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