[Show Us Your Domain] Virtue
“While bones make up the walls of home
Our ossuaries’ halls are stone”

— Excerpt, Metempsychoses

‘Long is the memory of our people’, it is and has been said - and wisely - but in Mann’s recent ascendance the wisdom has been wrung out by our self-congratulatory vigor. We are, of course, no more the herdsmen of our world’s history than a Generan trade-magnate may divine the flux of ‘precious’ minerals, whatever his own fancies be. It is, of course, only that we were reared in rock that we have decided to write the world’s histories, and only that the To’resk grew among reeds and mud and myriad other icons of impermanence that they mistake gold as something to drag around on their necks.

A digression.

But this is all to say that history is something immanent that we only tap into. Stone watches our works, our pieties and our follies, and breathes its memory into us as stories that we transcribe to paper or - peculiarly - carve into rock again. I surround myself with minerals that strike my memory.

My floor is granite, pulled from the orogen to the west that serves as windbreak from the jaggedness of inland wind, and its black-and-white fragments remind me of Vice and Virtue and that we cannot help but cross both in our lifetimes; Pacyen forgives.

My wall is quartzite, something pure weathered by pressure and time but still of worth. It recalls to me a hunter who had stalked a dryas elk for a week and one day, through snow drifts that hid nodules of bone-like rock, one of which it trod upon, fell from the cliff and was torn open below. He smiled at me and said ‘Asiduuryn willing, I’ll find another’.

My shelf holds a tourmaline (an indulgence) whose fullness and redness reminds me of events in a cloistered hall of my city in my long-ago youth that Pudoros would not smile upon, so I ought not continue here.

My writing-surface is basalt, hewn from early volcanics in the epilogue of the sealing of the Vices. It is dark and flecked with grey fragments, smooth of texture. It is a patient rock that brims with promises, and it describes a tale to me:

The night was dark and flecked with grey fragments as snow caught in the moonlight. There was a tall man with ambitious gaze who was forced to stoop in the jagged coastal wind. He ordered the nameless adjutant that they were to march in the night, as their ships had their bellies ripped out by stacks of limestone, and they had no option but to continue the invasion. Between them and the city was a long stretch of alluvial plain, sediments that still remember the scratching of their boots as they stumbled in darkness.

They had come for an easy fight. Carpenteria was at its zenith and they did not expect resistance from the Hrothi, much less the land itself. Their general watched as men lost their footing on loose stones and they were thrown into waters that had eroded stone itself, to which men were little by comparison. They marched on.

The land around the city rose quickly, as if in anticipation of the dawn’s light, and the tall folk were drained as they approached closer, the incline sapping their strength. The dark, massive rock below them did not allow them to stand comfortably; it encouraged them to fall and to tear their skin on it. Some fell and had their heads broken, and their skulls are said to be found as round, tanned masses on the path from the coast, scalded by sunlight. They marched on.

The invasion was a traitorous thing, of course, and they had tried to make adjustments to their theology to commit it, but Virtue did not abide by their treason, and their legs failed them. The sun began to rise on the battered and bruised battalion and those who had survived could see the result of treason against their brothers - with whom they had sealed Vice - had wrought. They had not reached the city, but the general saw it and its towers, humbled by the mountains they were silhouetted against in morning’s light.

When the people of Virtue woke they saw an army, scattered and bled over alpine tundra, and they spared them. We rebuilt their ships with iron tools and marked peace with cinnabar dye; stone stood as witness.

This story is one explanation for a saying, ‘Virtue is the Stone-that-is-Shield’’.