Issue Three | Summer 2001
Perception of the Energies #3
A zine for the Visitations of Glory APA | December, 2001 by Robert A. Dushay
Comments and Kudos on Visitations of Glory #2
Special thanks to Brad Johnson for stepping in and keeping this thing afloat. It was another great issue, a worthy successor to #1. Mr. Svard’s first illustration reminded me of Moebius’s work. My printer made his captions come out all but unreadable, unfortunately. Likewise, most of the headers to Malcolm Heath’s comments printed as gibberish. Likely the latter is a problem with the printer translating fonts into a symbol font of some kind. Krista, once more, your scenario is a delight. I don’t know how easy demons are to summon by accident, but I’d overlook that for such a cool situation. I suppose I’ve earned my geekdom, because I recognized Chashána’s glyph as the glyph of Ever-Present Defense before you introduced it in the text. Brad’s and Malcolm’s submissions were also fun mood setters, and I’d planned to copy their example for my submission this issue, but luckily I found something suitable that was less work to write at the last minute.
The semester has just ended, and it’s past time for another submission. Visitations of Glory seems to be turning into a place for scenarios and adventure hooks, and I have little to add here. But, I have a few pieces of old business to deal with. This issue, I deal with one of my more pressing ones.
Puzzling out the nonhumans
I’ve been interested in the Páchi Léi for some time. From the original EPT on, the Páchi Léi have been described as very close to humans. Yet they are among the least known of the nonhumans outside of those who’ve played on Tékumel Prime. I wanted to write an article that would explain these beings as the articles for the Shén, Pé Chói, and Tinalíya did. I never could find a proper voice to frame the article properly. Keep in mind this is a draft, and has not been authenticated by the Professor, of course.
The Páchi Léi is a highly social race. Although they do not form families in the human sensetheir reproductive process makes it difficult to base stable relationships on genetic tiesthey nevertheless prefer to live in small groups of two to eight intimate friends. A Páchi Léi will pine away and eventually die if isolated, which is why the severest penalty in their forest homes is exile. Some individuals are able to adopt human friends (or friends of other races) in place of their own kind, but these individuals are unusual in other ways as well. A Páchi Léi who has bonded to humans will be incredibly loyal. Their ability to quickly make social connections is one of the reasons they fit so well into human society.
The other reason they adjust so well to humans is the Páchi Léi penchant for imitation and adaptation. They quickly learn to duplicate successful behavior, especially social behaviors. Páchi Léi quickly learn how to function in a hierarchical society, and they are able to gain promotions in human bureaucracies better than any other non-human species.
This sociability and adaptability is grounded in the distant past of the Páchi Léi race. These beings evolved on a planet in the Arcturus system, a world covered by forests and seas. Although not especially technologically advanced when discovered by humans, lacking space flight, for example, yet within a generation they were serving on human starships, and within two generations, they were building their own vessels. The Páchi Léi unit of social organization was the troupe, with a supreme leader and fluid, changing hierarchy below this person. Individuals could leave and join troupes at will, and they quickly learned the rules their Tree Lords set for the troupe. The Tree Lord was an absolute ruler, restrained only by the possibility of mass refusals of his followers to obey commands. This social organization was retained by the Páchi Léi colony on Tékumel, and lasted up until roughly 1000 years ago, when it was replaced by a system of circles and posts copied from human societies.
The Páchi Léi retained several traits from their ancient, pre-intelligent ancestors. They have an inborn desire for social organization. They are highly adaptable, able to copy successful innovations rapidly. Of most interest, however, is the state called “Biyúrh”. The ancestors of the Páchi Léi, when faced with mortal danger, entered an altered state of consciousness, a hyper enhanced fighting state akin to the human condition popularly called “running amok.” In this state, one would attack a threat with no regard for pain, injury, or self-preservation. The individual would usually perish anyway, but predators would receive such injuries as to make it unlikely that they would attempt such an attack again. In this way, the rest of the troupe would survive, and predators would be deterred. Once the Páchi Léi evolved intelligence and social structures and began to dominate their world, vestiges of these traits remained. On Tékumel, Biyúrh seems to occur at random, although there is almost no chance of it under normal circumstances. Stress increases the probability of an episode, imperfectly obeying the ancient genetic code.
During the Time of Darkness, at first, the Páchi Léi suffered less than other races. Individuals quickly assumed the role of Tree-Lords, and the sociable and adaptable Páchi Léi rallied around their new leaders. Some Tree-Lords preserved technology in caches and depots, while others used what was available until it wore out or ran out of power and spare parts. Some enlarged their domains outside of the forests, conquering human neighbors, while others enforced a policy of cooperation with the humans. By the time of the Empire of Llyán of Tsámra, the Páchi Léi were no longer able to extend their power beyond the jungles of Pan Cháka, due to the faster reproduction rate of humans. In spite of this, humans who wished to conquer the Páchi Léi in their jungle homes were always defeated, thanks to the superior mobility of Páchi Léi forces in the dense foliage. However, cooperative arrangements between human and Páchi Léi still existed, and Páchi Léi were frequently found in human communities nearby. In fact, the modern city of Butrús had always been cooperatively governed by humans and Páchi Léi (they called the city Bf-chrss, “(large) (deforested) dwelling-place”) until the Tsolyáni conquest of Pán Cháka in the early 700s A.S.
The main motivations of the Páchi Léi are social ones. The Páchi Léi are exquisitely attuned to the nuances of conversation, gesture, poise, and mood. All Páchi Léi are aware of who owes what favor to whom, and where they fit in this web of connections. While in the old days, Páchi Léi gave allegiance to a single supreme leader, they now have the same Circles and posts observed in Tsolyáni society. What confuses the humans of the Five Empires is the utter lack of clan structure or other social status: any Páchi Léi can aspire to any circle, and there are lengthy intrigues and maneuvers to climb the social ladders they have built, all invisible to human sensibilities.
Páchi Léi need society. Without a society to belong to, they lose their will to live, and waste away. It is for this reason that their ultimate legal punishment is exile, rather than execution. No matter one’s deeds, if you are a member of the Páchi Léi community, you are part of the social order. A severe crime is one that contradicts the social order, and the supreme penalty for this is to be expelled. Such exiles rarely find their way back into Páchi Léi society again. The fact of their exile can easily be perceived by other Páchi Léi, and they are reluctant to accept the rejects of other groups. This is part of the reason why non-Páchi Léi find it so difficult to become fully accepted members of the Páchi Léi community.
The reverse is not true. Páchi Léi easily enter and adapt to human culture. They can understand and imitate our relatively crude social structures with ease. It may take time before they truly understand such concepts as “money” or “occupation,” but they imitate the behaviors well enough without understanding that it rarely becomes an issue. Páchi Léi sometimes become restless if the structure they are in is static for too long: they may ask to be reassigned elsewhere, or given new duties, or begin an intrigue simply to make a change. The longer they have been in human society, the more they are able to withstand a stable position for long periods.
The constant movement of their social status makes Páchi Léi more sympathetic to Change than Stability, although they usually favor non-destructive Change. They see society more like an ocean, with currents and waves that constantly churn the surface, yet leave the body the same. In human societies they favor the temples of Hrü’ü and Ksárul and their cohorts: they are generally disinterested in the destruction wrought by Lord Vimúhla, the slow decay and eternal knowledge of Lord Sárku, or the endless hedonism of Lady Dlamélish.
It is for these reasons that the Mu’ugalavyáni saw the Páchi Léi as unsuitable for assimilation. The changeable nature of their social structures infuriated the Mu’ugalavyáni, who were unable to find any consistent leaders below a single supreme leader, and these underlings had authority at one time, and didn’t at another. They were classified as unsuitable for assimilation before the Mu’ugalavyáni discovered how adaptable the Páchi Léi could be.
The nature of Páchi Léi reproductive processes is radically different from the sexed species on Tékumel. They are technically hermaphroditic, both male and female. At certain times of the year, they release their male gametes as spores, and they are fertilized by the resultant clouds of dust. Fatherhood is impossible to determine. On their homeworld orbiting Arcturus, the air was filled with spores all across the planet during the proper times of the year. On Tékumel, there are few places that have enough population density to sustain such clouds. As a result, reproduction is difficult outside of the Páchi Léi enclaves of Pan Cháka or Butrús. In other cities, reproduction requires that the Páchi Léi release their spores in enclosed spaces. They find the practice somewhat perverted and distasteful, and the increased possibility of self-fertilization reduces the number of successful offspring. It would be very unpleasant for them to know the fertilizer of their child, as they feel this would permit another to claim parenthood with their podling, a bond that Páchi Léi instinctively feel is for one parent alone. They understand human reproduction, and approve of the togetherness that human sexual practices offer, even if the concept of fatherhood is somewhat disgusting to them. However, they are unable to understand the other feelings that are associated with sexual behavior, and find the worship of Dlamélish quite incomprehensible (although they are able to imitate it should they choose to join this temple for political, economic, or social reasons).
Páchi Léi are omnivorous, although the bulk of their diet is vegetarian. They prefer to eat roots and tubers, although they eat leaves for flavor and their various medicinal properties. Only the weak, the young, and the sickly subsist primarily on leaves, which is why they dislike the name "leaf-eater".
Similar to the Pé Chói sense of "rightness of action", the Páchi Léi have a sense of "rightness of place", which is why they have not spread outside of their Pan Chákan homes. This also explains why they do not sail far out of sight of land, although they have many useful skills. This is partly a natural phenomenon (similar to bird’s ability to detect magnetic fields), and partly a piece of their psychic make-up. Páchi Léi are able to read water and air currents in a way that only the Swamp Folk can match. From the shape of waves, and ripples, the smell, sound, and temperature of the water, a Páchi Léi knows how fast a current is going, how deep it is in the water, how far it will travel, and what loops and curves it will make. Similarly, they can read the winds and make accurate weather forecasts. Were they not so physically clumsy on the water and reluctant to leave their Pan Chákan homes, where the coast is unsuited to boating, they would be excellent mariners.
One human custom that reliably gives them trouble is money. Páchi Léi do not have any use for money in Pán Cháka. Goods are exchanged according to the same web of favors and status that regulates the other parts of their society. While they can intellectually grasp that money represents an abstract marker of one’s labor, clan status, and so forth, they find the need for physical tokens to be laughable and crude. Páchi Léi are frequently careless of money in human society, although they understand at a level deeper than most humans can exactly what changes hands in a transaction, and exactly how strong the relationship between buyer and seller is afterwards.