Birdverse

Birdverse is a secondary world fantasy universe that is much on my mind, and in which I have been working since I started writing fiction in late 2007. Despite the many words I wrote inside this world, only one piece has been published so far, and another is nearing submission. Birdverse is very complex, and I needed to grow as a writer and a human being before I could do its complexity and intersectionality any justice. I am still flailing, but I feel that I am getting close.

Birdverse is so called after its deity, Bird (in-world, Birdverse is called simply the land, or the landmass). Not everybody in Birdverse worships Bird, but she is nevertheless real. She is of many bird-shapes, appearing to each person according to their origins and character.

Above me, the sails bloomed red, painted with traditional yellow Birds. The goddess was a cormorant for the Bodumi, a partridge for the rest of us on the Coast, a quail in the capital, a hawk in Niyaz, a pelican in Burri. Taemin and I made a game of it once, laughing and shouting out Birds to match the imaginary countries we would visit: bald-necked buzzard! cockatoo! zebra titmouse!
(“Held Close in Syllables of Light“)

It is believed that Bird gathers the souls of the newly dead and carries them up for an afterlife in her brother’s hall. Little is known about Bird’s brother, except that he is made entirely of music.

The starcounters of Keshet say that Bird comes from the mountain-peaks of Tadai. The Birdfeeder lives there, and it is the Birdfeeder who sends out Bird after Bird to be deities of the worlds she grows from small seeds. And they also say that Ladder, the headmaster of the assassin school, is connected to the Birdfeeder somehow – and that there are schools like this in each of the seedworlds. There is no agreement over him; some say there are many Ladders, yet others argue that he is always the same person, and only one school anchors all the worlds.

Here is a folktale about these matters as told throughout Burri and in Lepaleh:

A thousand years ago, they say, a wise man from Keshet counted the stars that burned in the orphaned nighttime sky. Satisfied with his arithmetic, he pressed the numbers into the yielding soft body of clay, and baked it in an oven, and stored it away from curious eyes.

Twelve years later again he counted the burning stars of the firmament – and took out the tablet, and counted again.

Twelve stars were missing.

He brought his palms together and prayed to the goddess, and she appeared to him in the likeness of the lyrebird, and in her tail the missing stars appeared, iridescent and dim. “It’s but a dream of stars,” she said, “But if you come with me, I will show you where they can sprout.”

Yet others say that the starcounter was a woman, and that the goddess appeared to her in the likeness of the long-legged sandbird, the stars barely visible in her plumage of wind and melted dust.”If you come with me,” she said, “the mountains will become as a breath, and the stars as a drink of water.”

And the starcounter of Keshet donned pale yellow clothing embroidered with pale yellow swirls and dots, and rolled the mountains’ bounty up her sleeves, and pulled on the goatskin traveling boots to follow Bird north, to collect her missing miscounted stars.

The starcounter followed the sandbird until her boots frayed and tore, and he followed the lyrebird until his clothes dried up and tattered in the sun, and his skin was as ancient and sweat-colored leather. Then the great Bird stopped her flight, and shook her tail; eleven stars fell to the sand, and where they fell, water-wells appeared. The starcounter drank from the water, and walled off a city where he could live; and when she shook her sleeves, all manner of seed fell into the consecrated ground and grew into a bounty of greenery unrivaled in the desert – and therefore the starcounter called her city Chemaya, which means breath; and travelers call her the City of Eleven Wells; and the Khana who came to live within her called her Righteous, for all manner of seed fell into the ground here, but none were wasted.

Bird, having blessed the new city, soared up to the sky, but the twelfth star still dangled from her tail. Afraid to let go, afraid to fall, it gathered darkness into itself, weighted Bird down with doubt like the desperate predawn hours. She cried out in a great voice, and eleven sandbirds arose from the desert and sang to her, and she danced for them in swirls of heavy light, faster and faster above the windblown waves of grit, forgetting herself, forgetting the world, until she shook the twelfth star off.

Ladder caught it.

I am not putting more on this page right now (it seems strange to post too much about the world before more work in Birdverse is published), but if you are curious, I’d be happy to answer questions. The comments are open.

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