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Without Intent - The Lost Notes
by Davide Mana, with input by Dave Farnell, MarkMcFadden & Edward Lipsett
On December 12th 2000 I wrote to the Kurotokage list
Let me tell you I'm not overly fond of dissecting my own writing - that is, I love to talk about myself and my artistic pursuits, but looking too closely at the thing might bring up all the errors and inconsistencies! :P
Anyway, I owed this one to the list.
Here goes a most unhealthy exercise in personal conceit..
I repeat, comments and further questions welcome.
As luck would have it, the notes were swallowed up by the web and resurfaced only on <insert date here>.
In the meanwhile, wuestions were asked, comments provided and what else.
More ideas were thrown around.
This page collects the original notes, integrating them with the supplemental material, and is still the most unhealthy exercise in personal conceit.
And now it's publicly displayed.
1 . 'Without Intent'
The title comes from the Miyamoto Musashi's quote Mark gave us: "Without intent the sword does not cut."
I found it extremely fitting to the storyline - even if in the end the rationale might be just the opposite.
2 . 'The dog-faced creature seeped through into the Wakeworld'
Aha! "Seeped through" indeed.
I always had a problem with the fact that you can enter the Dereamlandas both physically and in dreams. I'm currently further exploring possibilities.
But when it comes to ghouls, that exist both Wakeside and Dreamside, how do they move between the two? Do they need contraptions like the Lamp of Alazred? Gating spells? Or can they just phase from one level through the other?
I like this last option best, as you see.
And in retrospect I added:
Normally newbies enter the Dreamlands through the Gate, following the Staircase, through the Hall and pop un in the cursed Zoog's Forest (I do not like the Zoog's Forest).
More experienced dreamers can simply take up their dream from where they left before - this needs practice, but it's basically what Val and her partner usually do, materializing somewhere around Hlanith.You can also bypass all these places by using a Gate/Window Spell or a Lamp Device (like Alazred's, or Abe Zelkowitz' in my next story), with the added bonus that you enter Slumberland with your physical body (don't ask). The Ghouls tunnels work like Gates for all practical purposes.
In my rationale, Ghouls - being creatures of both worlds - can 'seep through'; sort of a phasing in/phasing out trick.
Mortar does this in the very first line of the story. Tetsuro the Ghoul uses something similar to pop away from under Tosui's sight and reappear behind him to strike.
3 . 'It took it some time to ascertain its position, but the familiar profile of Mount Koma to the south….[etc]'
The Wakeworld bit of the story takes place in the Iwate prefecture in Tohoku, on the northwestern slope of mount Iwate itself. The "gray stone strip" is the Tohoku Expressway.
The Iwate area is - according to my references - often overlooked by tourists but rich in history. Nice place to bring in some Ghouls.
And later expanded, adding:
My mental processes while writing tend to be rather convoluted.
I selected the Iwate prefecture because it's low profile from a tourist POV, a mountainous region with a lot of traditions. The Fujiwara clan ruled these lands, and Yoshitsune hid for a while in Hiraizumi, which he reached thanks to the help of "mountain monks" (most likely Yamabushi from the source data I have).
I picked up Morioka because of the Juroku Rakan, a statuary group there, erected in remembrance of the famines that struck the region.
Famine = Lotsa Dead Bodies = Ghouls
I do not want to push my impromptu piece of fiction as canon.
And talking about statues…. Also in Morioka is the Hoon-Ji, featuring 500 statues of Buddha's Disciples (this was done in 1731). The group also features Marco Polo and Kublai Khan.
Now that's weird.
4 . 'It remembered a darker Morioka, when the famines struck and people prayed for relief. Its people had been there, then.'
According to my sources, Morioka was hit by four catastrophic famines in the past - lots of dead and desperation.
A famine, plague or major battle ("luckily" pretty standard events in Japan's past) are probably the only occasions in which Japanese ghouls could feast on the dead. That's why they have been getting scarce ever since WW2.
5 . 'And if the ones in the temple were still keeping the faith, they would help it, and its god.'
This is based on the assumption that Taininhodo monks made contacts with the ghouls and established some non-aggressive modus vivendi with them. After all, they are carrion eaters but, as long as they stick to the Mordiggian cult, not such a bad lot. The monks are compassionate.
6 . 'The monk they called Simple Mamoru had never been the sharper knife in the drawer….[etc]"
Not much to say here.
The ghoul uses his shape-shifting abilities to sucker Simple Mamoru. He has problems with the technical term to indicate the head of the temple community - an actual problem I had too as I was writing this.
The scooter is just an old Vespa. It was used as transportation for a Buddhist monk in Lupin III, first series. Ignore it
"Not much to say" my foot. Nt when you have eagle-eyed readers, that is.
And one of them's the father of the Taininhodo.
A scooter ;>
But yes, they are not reclusive hermits in the proper sense.
More, they are out of the spotlight. Their solitude is not due to physical isolation.
The open door is also symbolic - they are here to help, after all.
This conforms with my main perception of most Buddhist monks I met (admittedly, not many) and read about (much more).
As I noted in my Lost Notes (hey, sounds good….), the scooter-riding Buddhist monk I first saw in the Lupin the 3rd cartoon series; hardly a doctrinal source, but it stayed with me.
What I read about everyday life in Japanese monasteries led me to think of them as very down to earth institutions. The Vespa parked behind the main door is a good way to show that (hopefully).
A donation from a faithful?
And then it is pretty damn useful - they are pretty far from the closest urban center (Morioka).
None is a superdude, and they'd probably shy away from the notion.
They are a monastic order. Their doctrine leads them to interact with some elements of the Real World with which most do not interact. So they developed relevant abilities. Some are better than others.
The 'need to know' thing is very strong here, and serves two functions.
First - the very best way for keeping their special knowledge hidden from prying eyes, is surrounding the ones in the know with people in the dark but in good faith. And someone's got to take care of the laundry.
Second - this Knowledge is a hard thing, so you can't hit the guys with the full Truth in a single shot. As the monk progresses through his studies, he is let on some more facts.
As I said quite expansively in my Lost Notes, the Tosui guy is showing at the same time his power and his shortcomings.
He senses the Ghoul ("senses it", mind you, not "smells it" like his boss did), but then classifies it as a Foul One, thus showing a tragic lack of compassion.
Tosui is quite well versed in doctrinal affairs (and is by default a high level Dreamer), but his is a knowledge of the mind, not a true knowledge.
He knows it, does it but is it not. That's why he gets a severe beating by the ghouls.
The old monk can read Mortar like an open book (that's mentioned passingly) - he'd recognize a liar.
And then Mortar mentions the Sword Taia by name.
Taia is something all men have (so Takuan says), but in my rationale its power is such than Mythos-connected creatures cannot even mention it. Hence the fact that the name burns the mouth of the Ghoul. As he is pleading for the Sword's intervention, he obviously knows of its powers. By his suffering, he demonstrates his good will.
More from my Lost Notes.
Tosui knows very little of the Dreamlands, and probably feels badly about the place - after all, it's a realm of illusion. What he lacks is direct experience and true feeling for the place.
That's why he completely loses his concentration and screws the whole op badly.
I'd not call it a trial by fire.
I'd call it a much needed lesson.
We basically do not know the details of what Mortar told the abbot.
The abbot knows (as usually abbot know) that the kid can make it.
But he knows that the kid has one major shortcoming he needs to face and overcome.
He probably underestimates the Heretic ghouls - this is the first Heretics/Taininhodo face-off, after all - and so the kid has it a little rougher than expected.
But my take from the beginning was - the abbot _wants_ Tosui to get a short and sharp finishing lesson, topping all his doctrine and practice with a taste of what's it all about.
Hope this helps and stimulates further questions.
(It certainly did)
7 . 'The one they called Nyogen caught the smell before everything else.'
Ghouls smell of death in my stories. They can't hide that for long.
I wonder how Agent Qualls deals with that. She's lucky I'm not writing her stories, I guess]
8 . 'So it was that when Simple Mamoru came to him, introducing a "strange gentleman", he was ready for the thing that made its way into the empty room…. [etc]'
The head of this Taininhodo monastery is a "person informed of the facts".
He knows about Ghouls and Mythos stuff. The thing does scare him but does not alter his composture.
No amount of illusory shape-shifting can sucker this man.]
I'm not excluding there are not other monasteries, and I've avoided the whole hierarchy-scale stuff.
I cannot exclude - even if it's a bit far fetched - a stable Taininhodo presence in the Dreamlands. But something like that, should it be there at all, would rather be some kind of mirror group endemic to Slumberland.
But Dave thought about that, too, so I later added:
As for the Monks having a foothold in Slumberland, I like it but only up to a point.
It would be _much more feasible_ (IMHO and all that) if the guys had some kind of connection with one religious order endemic to the Dreamlands (The Saffron Robed Priests of K'thay or something like that).
Pilgrims of both orders might ask for sanctuary in the other's monasteries, Wake- or Dreamside.Gives much more gaming hooks, does not force you to build a complicated structure and keeps most of the Taininhodo firmly anchored in the Wakeworld.I do not exclude - and actually actively propose - the option of Dreamlands Wondering Monks of the Tainihodo.
Apart from the obvious "Kung Fu in the Dreamlands" angle, the lone monk exploring the various corners of Slumberland, seeking and dispensing wisdom is - probably - more in keep with the original structure.
9 . 'He was not going to forsake etiquette.
Time was of no import.'
But ritual is. Repeating the movements in the correct order, concentrating on them but with the levity of a child letting his father's hand go, is a shield against chaos. Better, a viable interface with chaos.
10 . 'Mortar, Wasp and Baked Chestnut, whoever had been that named the members of that ancient Namahage embassy had been fond of old tales.'
Mortar, Wasp and Baked Chestnut are the three beings that help the Son of the Crab to extract his revenge upon the Monkey in the "Crab and the Monkey" faery tale. Sounded good. Humor is also important to Zen monks in general and (IMHO) Taininhodo monks especially.
The Embassy refers to some ancient parley between monks and Ghouls.
11 . 'They were young and without faith….[etc.]'
The confrontation between the traditionalist ghouls and the Heretics of the younger generations is outlined in various DG books. Countdown posits the possibility the Heretrics are actually a new breed of Ghouls. I have other, tangential opinions. I've added cannibalism to their many sins, to make them really scary, like in "badass psycho cultist dopehead scary".
12 . '"Taia," the thing said, and let out a yelp, as the word itself scorched its mouth.
It bowed its ugly head once again.
The monk nodded.'
The Sword Taia is something every man has, but few learn to use.
Its power is such, a Mythos-connected creature cannot even speak up its name without being hurt. Mortar knows but has to give witness of his commitment.
13 . 'And so it was that they came to young Tosui where he sat meditating, as he had been doing twenty years since…. [etc]'
Not all monks learn to use the Sword Taia.
There are other mantras, other paths. But someone with the proper attitude surfaces every now and then, and is trained.
We get a pretty unflattering detail about Tosui - for him the Ghoul is a "Foul One". The kid still needs practice in the ways of compassion.
14 . 'It was like in the old tales, and the irony was not missed on the young turks taking their time in the Zoog's wood.'
OK, I hate the Zoogs and I hate their Forest.
The fact that most Dreamlands entrances seem to drop the dreamer there is just an aggravating fact. But you have to stick to the canon sometimes.
This is where the Dreamlands part begins, and as the story was also (and most importantly) the dry run for a set of gaming rules, things heated up:
1 - instinctive reply: How the fu@# do I know? :>
2a - true professional reply, part the first: most of the action takes place Slumberside - to be precise, from the paragraph that goes….
'It was like in the old tales…. [etc]'
[In the Dreamlands it's always like in the old tales, silly!]
The Tosui chap has been sent to grock the Heretic ghouls - not necessarily blast them away from the face of the universe, maybe just find some common ground.
He finds himself hindered by his own drawbacks - most notably a lack of compassion and experience that's positively crippling. Val and her pal cover him for the time he needs to find his balance. Then he goes off like a little tactical a-bomb. More worries for our heroes.
2b - true professional reply, part the second: strictly Dreamlands activity.The Wakeworld simply excludes such effects (same with Val's Weaving spell) from the makeup of reality. Granted, Nyarlathotep might pull it, but no human.
While this is not spelled out, Tosui is a monk with strong meditation and doctrinal background _and_ a strong Dreamer, what would be called Elton-class by my Dream Operatives.You need both capabilities to operate in the 'Lands as a Taininhodo monk - that's why there's not armies of them stomping around the whole Slumberland landscape.
Only, Tosui has little or no Dreaming training and very little first hand experience.
And considering how he sees the Ghoul Mortar as "a Foul One", he probably sees the 'Lands as something alien, the realm of Maya or Illusory Perception.
He's not at ease, and he loses his concentration.
He's a little prig, in other words.
But he will learn - as soon as he'll realize that his presence alone in the Dreamlands can kill thousands, he'll start walking on the right road.
Oh, he might go bad and decide that as Slumberland's illusory anyway, who cares if a few dummies get scrapped?
But he would not live long following that path.
In my fictional world, Wakeworld expression of Dream powers is a theoretical possibility (there should be a paper by Phillips himself, privately published in '21) but for all practical purposes this is regarded as an urban legend by professional dreamers.
You'd need a Kuranes class dreamer (you usually get one in a generation) working in a Weakened Texture Area - like Kingsport, or Prague.There he'd be able to express part of his powers, and most likely cause some major mess.
15 . 'The one they called Snapper, who had been a fairly successful broker…. [etc]'
As I was saying, my take on the Heretics is, they're not a new breed, they're just the dregs of the ghoul gene and meme pool - turned humans, people that spontaneously got ghoulish, changelings like Pickman and so on. The malcontents and the misfits, those that were probably looked down upon by the Traditionalists. A bunch of punks, with some agent provocateur added to the mix.
They are developing as a culture apart, and share their texture with a plastic reality. Unsurprisingly they are taking a morphology of their own.
16 . 'They called him Tetsuro even if it was not his true name'
So yes, the Heretic leader is called just like the older Taininhodo monk, the one that goes to bed early. I wonder if he dreams….
(But apparently no one noticed that. Sigh!)
17 . '"Mite mi," the leader grinned, swaggering forward.
He offered a chunk of ribcage. "Moo kutta ke?"'
Tetsuro speaks with a distinct Kansai accent. Make what you will of it.
18 . 'Fear disappeared between an inhalation and an exhalation.
This was what the training had been for.'
Centering and controlled breathing can dispel fear, but training is not enough. Even twenty years meditating cannot help you if you are not at peace with yourself.
As already noted, considering how he sees the Ghoul Mortar as "a Foul One", he probably sees the 'Lands as something alien, the realm of Maya or Illusory Perception.
He's not at ease, and he loses his concentration.
He's a little prig, in other words.
Couple that with little or no Dreamlands experience, and you get a disaster.
19 . 'The leader popped away and something heavy and spiked hit the monk between the shoulder blades.'
Neat trick - Tetsuro blinks in and out of phase, in order to get at his opponent's back. Further reinforcement of the fact that he might be a dreamer.
20 . 'Something scratched his throat.
He felt the foul breath on his face.
So his eyes are closed. Is he concentrating, or refusing the experience of Dreamlands reality?
21 . 'The man sitting on the standing stone handled his crossbow with casual ease.'
The Dreamlands Repeater Crossbow from "Chasing the Bride".
Val and her pal are here on some (possibly) unrelated business - civil war between ghouls is sure to attract Outfit attention.
And if these are the Cursed Zoog Woods, then Hlanith (were the guys have a safe house) is not that far.
Also, they probably perceived Tosui's effect on the texture of the Dreamlands (as all strong Dreamers he has a large fingerprint).
22 . '"Is this all Eibon the Black's been able to pull together for this party?"'
Here I drag screaming a chunk of the MiB's imagination in my own story - Eibon's got plans for the Dreamlands, he's been slowly enforcing them. He's got a finger in everyone's pie Dreamside and can't even be pinned as good or bad anymore. Here I see him like one of those western robber-barons that use mercenaries to "relocate" local settlers. The Heretics, with their costly needs, make for excellent cheap muscle.
23 . 'He was wearing a codpiece and it was damn unnerving being so scared…. [etc]'
The infamous black codpiece. IIRC it was Mark that pointed out how Tetsuro gets scared after he notices the codpiece. He then let himself get distracted by some sophomore humour instead of expanding on this brilliant insight in Ghoul ethology. Pity.
24 . 'An auburn-haired woman in green brocade stood in the middle of the highway, one hand on her hip, the other toying with a tear-shaped bauble at her neck.'
Val, of course. The bauble's new, as is her knowledge of Kansai expletives.
25 . 'Thumb and middle finger touching on the left, right hand extended, palms upward.
The Weaving effect is pure Shirow's "Orion"; I decided to pay more attention to Val's gestures and positions when performing, after the discussion(s) on DGML about non-verbal components of languages and spellcasting. Add to that the trick of looking at one's own hands to get control of the Dream. Hands are important.
For the rest, the rationalization is the usual: the Dreamlands are made up of Meaning (what stands for matter) and Harmonics (what stands for states of the matter, but it's more complicated than that). The Dreamer can alter (Shaping) or manipulate (Weaving) meaning. More later….
26 . 'It was things as they were….[etc]'
OK, here we get to the hard part.
First and foremost - meditation and sleep are normally mutually exclusive.
My Dreamers meditate _before_ entering the dreaming state, as a way to focus their self-image, but that's it.
According to some of my sources, expert yogis can meditate while sleeping, but we are talking _expert_ yogis.
A case can be made for Lucid Dreaming, which is a state in which you dream and know you are, and have a certain amount of control over the comings and goings of your experience; but I'm pretty sure this too would be met with a good whack from your roshi should you try this stunt while meditating.
And anyway, the mutual exclusion is only part of the problem: meditation dispels illusions, is actually _another mind_, you brain finding the basic note despite all of the harmonics. No more veils, no more falsehood.
If you are meditating, even as you sleep, you cannot dream.
Couple that with the power of a strong dreamer (LK Level or above), one that influences the Dreamworld with his presence alone, and, entering a perfect state of meditation while in Slumberland obliterates the Dreamland Reality in the half second before you are expelled from it.
I explained again when the Lost Notes got Lost, so here's Take Two
Ah, the micro-nuke.
It's not that, you know.
Let me try to recap….
In Dreams you have Meaning (that stands for Matter), and Harmonics (that stand for the States of Matter).
Combinations of meanings and harmonics thereof make up the Dreamlands "Reality" - which is much more plastic than our own because humans (and certain humans in particular) are highly adept at manipulating Meaning and/or Harmonics.
To the Awakened Mind, there are not Dreams but one True Meaning.
So all the rest just ceases to exist. Instantly.
The moment in which Tosui achieves a state akin to Awakening
a . he cannot stay Dreamside any longer (and in fact, he wanes)
b . his Dreamers power adapt the surroundings to his perception, annihilating most of what's around.
In the future he'll be able to re-enter the Dreamlands (if he is not a hopeless tight-assed prig) but he'll have to maintain a strict balance between the Dreaming and the Awakening.
So, even more, this short unpleasant visit is part of his instruction.
27 . 'When the blaze abated there were just black shadows imprinted on the ground…. [etc]'
Had we not just left this party?
Yes, in "Dream Reaper".
Tibetan-primed Buddhist artist robbing the Dreamlands of meaning and blasting whole areas into nothingness. The effects are almost the same.
The fact that Val and her partner have been there before is the main reason of their attitude. In that story and in this, Val's partner grasps a handful of dirt and feels it with his fingers, essaying the calcinated soil.
28 . '"Nice and smooth,"
Ray Davies says it at the beginning of "David Watts", a song about a real guy everybody always thought was a Davies invention. Ray Davies's book "X ray" has some strong Dreamlands elements and is absolutely a suggested reading.
King Mob says it a lot in the Invisible comics (and at the start of Volume 2 acknowledges the Davies bit).
I say it once in a while.
The Dreamer with No Name probably refers at whatever spared him and Val a quick and dirty demise. The bauble on her neck?
29 . 'They watched as the monk slowly seeped back, his effortless concentration bringing him back to the Wakeside.'
Obviously. As we said, meditation and dreaming are mutually exclusive. You enter the state, you pop out of Slumberland. Afterimages linger for a while. The collateral effects of your taking off are not pleasant.
30 . '"Are these ones on our side?" he asked.'
The Outfit does not have tabs on Taininhodo. And vice-versa.
Considering the Taininhodo monk showed powers akin to those of the Tapir God cultist in Dream Reaper, investigation is obviously pending.