Post Spotlight: Ibn Sharjar: The Sky at Night
This post is a culmination of so many pieces of lore including the original novel source (Vulcan’s Forge) featuring the planet after which our Fleet was named (Obsidian), fleet reference material, established posts for our sim, connections to the GM’s mission background, and OOC collaborative work— all forming into a narrative witnessed by Polar’s character, Ibn Sharjar, as he journeys into some of the least known regions of the desert and learns of things the UFP has not uncovered in a century of working with the natives from the city of Kalara or with those that come to the clinic or outreach centers.
Unlike Starfleet’s official channels, Ibn Sharjar trades directly with the tribes people in the farthest reaches and, as he gains their trust, is invited to some of their firesides and now to one of their sacred rituals, where the children are trained in the Stations of the retelling of their history, a Watch they keep of the past, present and future. While most other tribes shun outsiders from the stars, or treat them with distrust or indifference, this one, though fiercely hated by the other tribes for their heresies, still looks to the stars for the restoration that is to come.
And as Ibn Sharjar listens to their story, we, the readers, are treated to a deep history of the Planet Obsidian and the oldest surviving account of the people who came to call the barely hospitable planet home, many thousands of years ago.
Ibn Sharjar: The Sky at Night, Stories and Legends
Posted on 18 Mar 2023 @ 10:45pm by Commander Calliope Zahn & Atif ibn Sharjar – Merchant of the Al Ashar
Mission: M3 – Into the Deep
Location: Oasis of the Nine Stones
Timeline: MD 10. 23.30hrs
5113 words – 10.2 OF Standard Post Measure
.: [The Oasis of the Nine Stones – The Sky at Night, Stories and Legends] :.
Ibn Sharjar came awake to the soft beeping-vibration of his chronometer. He reached down, silenced the alarm and sat up, rubbed a hand over his face and scratched his chin between his mustaches. He stifled a yawn, threw the blanket aside and got to his feet. He had spent the evening sleeping outside of the ship, in the shadow of the port wing stub. He stretched out his arms, the sleeping pad he had lain on was getting a little thin and his back was feeling his age, he twisted and arched his spine a little more until everything was back in place.
A gentle breeze rustled across the sand, there was the near constant shushing sound of grit forming ripples and dunes on the land. That, and the hum and buzz of nocturnal insects, flitting around the nearby oasis, were all that stirred.
He looked around, the night was dark, no moons shone, across from him, near the deeper blackness of the obsidian walls, the flicker of oil lamps burned in a few house windows, the only illumination besides the glow from above. He peered upwards from under the wing tip, it was a clear night, above was an ocean of stars, countless bright points of light with no moons or storm blown sand to obscure them.
It was also cool, almost chilly, a far cry from the earlier heat of the day, he shivered and retrieved his robe from where he had hung it and his shemag, on the landing skid. He slipped the robe on and fastened it, then donned his Qatarek-skin boots. Being careful to first turn them upside down and shake them out, lest any insect had decided to climb in and wait in ambush for one of his toes. Satisfied they were empty, he put them on and buckled them up. Cool during the day, warm at night and comfortable, these were fast becoming his favorite footwear.
He knelt, rolled up the blanket and pad and stashed them by the step to the main hatch. Walking back to the landing skid. he retrieved his shemag, flapped it out, then carefully re-rolled it into his preferred style and settled it on his head. Finally, he lifted his haversack and canteen from the skid. Slipping the bag over his shoulder he took a long drink of water and then put the canteen in the bag. He sat on the edge of the skid and waited.
After a short while he heard a door creaking open, then several more and his eye caught movement in the shadows, figures began to exit the houses, small dark shapes accompanied by a few taller ones. Soft echoes of conversation drifted across the oasis, too distant to make out words but enough to recognize the excited whispers of the village children as they gathered in groups.
He saw three figures, one short, the other two taller, with a fourth on the back of the tallest, moving around the oasis and coming his way, he stood up and moved down to meet them. The tall figure set the down the fourth, the smallest of the group, and it ran forward to meet him.
“Hello Atif” Sasil said in a breathless whisper “This is my first Song of the Stars”
“Mine too.” Ibn Sharjar smiled and greeted the boy’s parents and brother as they arrived. “Good evening, Jilek, Kniva, Gabrul. Thank you for inviting me, I am honored.”
“You are welcome Atif, as one from the stars your presence is an honor to my family,” Jelik replied quietly. ”Come, we shall await Niefle and join the procession.”
Ibn Sharjar followed the family back along the path towards the village, dozens of people were there now, waiting quietly in the night, as they arrived a group of six figures came from around a building. Four of the group carried red lanterns, two at the front, followed by a woman, Ibn Sharjar recognized her as Niefle, then two more carrying lanterns, followed by her husband, Gebran, the chieftain.
The group set off northwards from the village, the other figures filed in behind them, the group falling silent as they moved off. Ibn Sharjar fell in with Jelik and his family towards the back of the line. The group made its way along the main pathway, leaving the village behind, the trail wound its way through some fields and then began to climb slightly, up towards an area of rocky outcrops to the north.
The path twisted and turned through the jumbles of rock, to the sides in the starlit shadows Ibn Sharjar could made out signs of quarrying and the occasional neat pile of cut stones ready to be brought back to the oasis for building.
The procession moved along for half an hour or so, steadily climbing, the path petered out on a broad rocky plateau, perhaps forty meters up from the sandy floor of the depression, roughly halfway up the height of the obsidian cliffs encircling the oasis. The plateau was perhaps two hundred meters across, roughly circular, the procession moved towards the center. As Ibn Sharjar followed he saw the red lanterns ahead start to move downwards, as though those carrying them were descending stairs, until they dropped from sight.
In the gloom he saw there was a darker shadow on the ground ahead, the procession moved down into it. Coming closer he found there were a series of steps and benches cut into the rock floor, in a wide crescent shape, almost a kind of odeon amphitheater, surrounding an open area. The group with the lanterns were down there now, the red lanterns were placed on four short pillars, then the lantern bearers and Gebran moved back, leaving Neifle standing alone in the center of the pillars. The procession broke up as people fanned out around the crescent, taking seats on the stone benches.
Jelik and family took a seat on one of the upper tiers, Ibn Sharjar sitting with them. Kniva leaned down to Sasil, putting her arm around his shoulders, she said softly “Pay attention now, you must listen for Neifle to call down those whose first time this is. There will be seven of you. You will be called down and she will show you where to stand. Do you remember the words we have practiced?”
“Yes mother,” Sasil replied earnestly. “I will not forget. I will speak the words.”
Jilek reached over and patted his youngest son’s head. “I know you will my son. And you will learn the path of the Tej-Ka-Jalfa, as we have always done.”
Soon everyone was settled, a hush fell. Ibn Sharjar looked around, the benches filled with members of the tribe, huddled figures in the night darkness, all focused on the woman standing below in the glow of the lanterns and above them all the sprawling, scattered cascade of thousands of stars.
“Of the remnant…” The old woman began, her voice small and overwhelmed. “A remnant. They must close their eyes to see a-fresh.”
At this everyone hushed and closed his or her eyes, waiting for the next signal. While the red-glass covered lights were designed to allow for the best vision of the night sky, the closing and opening of eyes was important to the beginning of the ritual. Minutes passed in silent suspension.
“The remnant of remnants looks to the sky—” Neifle paused dramatically before completing the line. “—and sees the truth.”
With her staff as a pointer, her shawl forming wings, she motioned to the expansive milky-way, a cascading line clear in the still night sky, ever more luminous the longer they stared into it. “Behold, the first path of the Tej-Ka-Jalfa!”
The assembled people all turned their eyes skywards, repeating the line Behold, the first path of the Tej-Ka-Jalfa!
“The newest Watch is called forward.” Neifiel motioned with her arms for the little ones to make their way to her.
From among the seated people children stood up and began to make their way along the stone benches to the stairs and then down towards Neifle. Kniva gave Sasil a hug and the youngster edged past Ibn Sharjar and made his way down with the others. There were seven of them in all. As they reached the flat area Neifle had them sit down, between the first two lighted pillars.
Once they were settled, she continued. “To find a way in the darkness the people learned to use the lights. The lights that never die, the lights that burn longer than any candle, than any lamp, than any torch. They burn above us still, the lights of our stars!” She gestured again to the shimmering scatter of the Milky Way.
She lowered her gaze now to the people seated before her. “Let us begin the song.”
”On the circle, under the light.” In unison the assembled tribes folk spoke the words, in a rhythmic chanting style. “On paths long hidden, much did they stake.
“Yes!” When they had finished Neifiel nodded and elaborated. “First they guided our fore-people through the forests of the green light, the green light that they did not yet know. They followed them across the green land, they followed them across the green mountains, they followed them across the green oceans. They found their path by the light of the stars.” As it was the turn of the assembled to speak, she motioned with her staff as she would at each proceeding interval.
She looked again to the seated villagers and they replied. ”Reaching upwards, from the circle. Messengers, the way did make” The littlest ones began off-time from the other chanters, Sasil eagerly shouting-out the others, until a fellow new watcher elbowed him in the ribs…
“I see you have been practicing.” Neifiel said more quietly, winking at the eager energy of the little ones, touching the head of Sasil, the loudest, with her staff then stretched out her hands, upwards. “The people loved the lights, they reached out to the lights, but they were beyond their grasp. They climbed the highest mountains and reached upwards from the highest peaks yet still they were beyond their grasp. They could not reach the lights so they sent forth messengers. Messengers to the stars!”
The tribe responded, “United, the circle of the people. The pathfinders to the stars did take.
“And the stars spoke to the people. They told them of wonders and they called to them to come unto them. The people chose a man, he who was to be first, he who would tame the thunder, would tame the lightning, he who took wings to the light. He who would be the first finder of the path! Jethdar!”
“Jethdar Jethdar Jethdar Jethdar,” the tribe repeated in soft echoing chant.
“Jethdar whom went up to the stars and it was he, whom first saw the green light, he whom first saw all of the green oasis of the people. It was larger than any oasis of which we know, it was wide and broad, it was a circle around the people in the dark. And the stars shone their light upon it and it was green in the night, green and bountiful. Jethdar wept to see it and he shared the vision of the circle of the green light with all, for it was the home of the people, and when they did see Jethdar’s vision the people were as one!”
Too soon Jethdar’s path brought him home, for there were so many stars that he could not count them all. Now did the people gather together and from amongst them they did seek out those who would follow in the path Jethdar had started. Many came forward and soon they did journey forth, for Jethdar did teach them to master the thunder and the lightning, and they did follow his path upwards!
Jethdar’s feet made the first path, they who came after him made many paths, they did step forth towards the stars. They reached out to the twins, the two stars who shone their light closest on the green. The twins taught the people they shared knowledge with them. But they could not yet touch the other lights, for even though they were now amongst them, the other stars were further still than they could grasp. Jethdar grew old but still people followed his path, afterwards when he was gone those new pathfinders built the first caravan, a caravan to cross the darkness to the stars, they did journey far, seeking their path.”
“Upon the circle fell the giants, scattered as sand, the peoples’ fate.”
“As they journeyed they did stand their watch and yet they were in turn watched. For in the darkness between the stars the servants of the Fiery One did lurk. They watched the caravan, they followed its path back and they came upon the green circle of the people. They were envious, they were full of hate and spite and anger. They did want the green circle and all of its bounty.
From the darkness between the stars, they fell upon the people, they fell with the might and weapons of the Fiery One. The people were as one but they could not stand against the fury of the servants of fire! The people did fight for their land but they could not defeat the enemy. For they were as giants! Black Giants of darkness! No warrior could they not smite, no weapon could they not sunder, no battle could they not win! They were fearsome and merciless in their anger and they did crush the people! So many did perish they were left unpurified, unburied, unmourned. ”
Neifiel reached down and took up a handful of sand, she let it trail though her fingers. “The dead of the people were like the grains of sand, uncountable unknowable…”
After the last grains had fallen she spoke more. “Then did they crush the green circle, crush the home of the people. They forced the people into submission, on their knees they made the people tear up their own fields and lands, they made the people tear down the mountains, they made the people poison the wells. They took all the green from the oasis of the people and stole it to the darkness.
The green light was extinguished in fire and smoke and ash. Day was as night, the light of the twins was barely seen, even at the time of noon, when they were closest in the sky and at night the light of the stars was gone from the heavens. The servants of the Fiery One had brought their darkness to our green oasis, darkness so thick the people did choke and sicken on it. The people cried out but the servants of evil had no pity, they took more and more, like a ravenous beast did they steal from the people.
The darkness was upon the green circle for years, so many years none could count. The people grew old and died, their children replaced them and their children and their children, all were crushed under the feet of the servants of the Fiery One. They could not count the years of suffering, yet still they remembered the pathfinders, those who had taken the caravan. They prayed they would return and drive out those who desecrated the once green oasis.”
“Returning to the sacred circle, the giants they did war upon.”
“Unknown to the people, the children of the pathfinders had returned to the twins but they saw the green light of the oasis was gone. They saw, too, the might and the power and the cruelty of the black giants, the Servants of Fire, and they knew they could not stand against them. So, they hid and they waited, the long watch began.
For a generation the children of the pathfinders stood their watch, to their own children did they pass the duty as we now pass our duty to our children here.” She gestured to the seven youngsters sat before her.
“And they did strengthen themselves, they did forge weapons like those of the evil ones, they did learn the ways of battle; they did build more caravans, caravans of war and vengeance. They watched and they waited, they did not falter, for they were pledged to lead the people out of their desolation.
Then came the day of departure, the savants of evil had sated themselves at last upon the green oasis, they had burnt and charred the lands of the people until there was but ash and poison. The fields were stripped and no crop would grown, the mountains were tumbled down, the oasis and rivers were dry.
When they learned of the departure the people had hope, they still believed they could return to the green circle, restore the lands and rivers. Yet even then the giants were not through, even as they left, going back into the darkness, they did order the people to gather for them still, that they would never release their grasp upon the people, that they would return and take again what was theirs.
The black giants departed, but a few they did leave behind, that few were still many and still strong in their evil. This did the grandchildren of the pathfinders see, for they had kept their watch. And their vengeance they did bring! Battle did they wage upon the servants of fire!
Many caravans did they bring, caravans of war and might. Just in their fight were they, they did use the weapons of the black giants upon themselves, they fought with fire and lightening and victory did they wrest from the darkness. But not all of the giants could they kill, some fled back into the darkness. Fled to bring back the others who had departed. The pathfinders did pursue them but the darkness covered their trail like sand!
“Until all did lay as pale as death, no green pasture for ‘ere long.”
“When the pathfinders did come down upon the land of the people they did weep, even though they had driven out the giants, for all the stories of the green circle they had heard from their parents and grandparents and all their fore-parents were undone. The oasis was poisoned, drying, left as ash by the black giants. Their people were as ruined as the oasis.
Now was a council held, the pathfinders and the people did meet, many spoke, many were heard, some wished to rebuild the green oasis, others to build up a great fortress to defend their lands but while they talked those who still watched in the sky learned the servants were returning. Those who had escaped the vengeance were bringing back the horde from the darkness!
There was no time to build a fortress, no time to replant the land, no time to set for battle, those which were coming from the darkness, those which served the Fiery One were too strong! Even the caravans of the pathfinders could not now stand against such a horde.”
“Four trails did the pathfinders draw, to guide the remnant to skies afar.”
“And so, the council made the decision, the pathfinders would lead the people unto the stars! They did gather them into the caravans, caravans that could reach the stars, bringing all that they could, yet still they could not take all. They did not have the room for all and some must stay. The brave came forward, but they did not stay to be as slaves again, they stayed to fight. The pathfinders did bring weapons and these they entrusted to those who would stay that they might slay and wound and slow the giants. Some of the pathfinders did stay as well, to lead the fight. To stand their watch upon what had been the green oasis of their fore-parents, to fight for the land they had never known.
Thus did the pathfinders take the people unto the stars. Four great caravans were there and each did set their path to a distant star. Each took a different path to outrun the darkness that followed.
And the black giants came forth from the darkness, more terrible even than their first coming. They did fall upon that which had been the green oasis again. The brave who had stayed did fight, but they were as bare flesh before a storm of glass. Their blood ran upon the ash, that land which had once been green was stained blood red.
The servants of the Fiery One left none alive but their anger was not fulfilled, they searched for the caravans of the pathfinders, they vowed their own vengeance upon the people
The pathfinders searched for the way, swiftly did they move, yet as swift as they were, the journey was long. The people who came up from the sundered land thrived in the caravan, they grew and multiplied, the sickness and malaise of the poisons left them. But not the fear and the despair, for ever behind they came— the darkness and the fire!
As they journeyed the pathfinders passed on their watch to their children and they to their own children. They found no new oasis or lands to make their home, as wherever they journeyed they found the black giants had passed that way. Other circles of people were as their own green oasis, turned to ash.”
“And three did meet the vengeful fate. But one, hidden by the Trickster Star.”
“And so they fled, fled across time and across the ocean of stars. As they ran they learned the other caravans had fallen, one by one, taken by the black giants and the fire, until they were alone. Ever the pathfinders sought the way and ever they kept their watch, until the time came when they passed the way to the ninth new watch.
Then did they find a place of hiding, a place of concealment, a place that was not illumination but a trick of light. A star in which to find shelter and safety. They searched within its light for a green oasis: there were seven circles within the light, but none were green.“
“On this black circle came they to settle. From all evil the people, concealed.”
“Only one was an oasis but it was not of green, only sand and black and covered in glass.
Another great council was held. Many did speak, but there was not harmony. For in the ages of the journey the people had sundered, while the pathfinders stood their watch those who were descendants of those whom had been brought up from the ash had multiplied and they held sway.
The council decreed the caravan was to be brought here and the people would begin again, hoping that the light would hide them from the black giants. And so it was, under orders from the council the pathfinders brought the great caravan from the sky unto the sand, and they did hide it deep within the earth. Three other smaller caravans did they hold in the sky to keep watch.
From the great caravan did the people begin to seek out new lands, they did find oases, but none such as the green circle that could provide for them all. The people did divide themselves, joining with their kin and tribes they formed, each unto their own lands. Still the pathfinders kept watch, still the pathfinders tended the great caravan, they kept the weapons of fire ready to do battle should the servants of evil ever find them. In the sky they kept watch also, hiding within the light that concealed them.
“The people divided! The prophet betrayed! The scars of the prophet upon us revealed.”
“The watch was passed for the tenth time, a new leader of the pathfinders was chosen, the prophet Tej-Selkar, she of the vision and the martyrdom! For seventy and three years did she keep the watch and teach the children of the pathfinders the way of the stars, that they might yet take the people back to the heavens.
The tribes had settled across the land, but still they feared the arrival of the Black Giants. They had forgotten the journey and now believed the caravans would lead the enemy here. They doubted the light of our star would hide them from the eyes of the Fiery One. They called a council. Tej-Selkar was summoned before the chieftains. She spoke of the path and the watch, she spoke of her vision, that the caravan would one day be needed to save the people yet again.
Yet the Chieftains and the people argued against her. They accused her of witchcraft and of becoming a servant of the Fiery One! For she had the power of the weapons and ways of the Black Giants, for she knew the pathways through the stars. In their fear and ignorance they condemned her!
As she left the Council the traitor, Senni, struck her, knocking her down and the Chieftains had her taken and bound. They forced the other pathfinders from the Council and then Senni led the attack on the great caravan!
The pathfinders keeping watch there could not bring themselves to fight the people and so they surrendered the caravan on the promise Tej-Selkar would be returned to them. Then did the traitor Senni called back the three caravans keeping watch in the sky and when they came to his call, two were smote from the sky!
Then did the traitor Senni convince the Chieftains to burn the great caravan! And he showed them how. They brought forth Tej-Selkar, though she begged them to spare the caravan and repeated to them her vision that it would be needed, they mocked her and abused her and cruelly did they cut in her face the path of stars!
Then they burned the great caravan, they mocked Tej-Senni as it burned and they did throw her bound into the flames! When it was done they drove the pathfinders from the lands of the people, drove them out from the dunes and the mountains, drove them from the wells and the oasis, drove them out on to the glass, drove them out to die!
But the pathfinders did not die! They took on the name of their leader, they took on her scars, they took on the path and they keep the watch! They are us! We are the Tej-Ka-Jalfa!
”We are the Tej-Ka-Jalfa, upon us, are the Prophet’s scars.” The tribe repeated.
“And now there is the prophecy, the future we know will come to pass,” Neifiel prompted the assembly, they spoke the prophecy out of the hope in all of their bosoms.
”The War of the Stars will hail from the night The Devil’s giants be driven from the shore
The Desert bloom! The green oasis flourish! Inheritance of the faithful, who do endure.
“Now we teach the path to the newest watch! We entrust to them the path in the stars! We stand our watch, for up there is the last caravan! Three the traitor Senni called back and two were smote from the sky, but there is one still there!
Safe in the hidden light, keeping watch for the black giants and the Fiery One!
For they will come, their hunger can not be sated. They will come for us. There will be a final battle.
There will be the last fight, in which the people will reunite and together we will follow the pathfinders to victory. For they shall bring forth friends of light to battle alongside us!
The black giants shall fall, they will be turned to the ash they themselves do make.
And in victory will this dark circle turn to our new green oasis!”
The tribe thundered applause pounding their feet and hands on the stone floor and benches.
Ibn Sharjar found himself stamping his feet along with them, quite taken up in the telling. He had listened to the people intoing the passages and Neifeil recounting the legend, providing the description of the saga. It was he realized an oral history, millenia of ancient Obsidian lore, distilled into a poem. It was not unusual, many cultures and species had legends of having come from another place, from the stars. But he had never heard it on Obsidian before, every other Tribe he had interacted with held the fear of the Fiery One, the demon to whom the majority of off-worlders were generally regarded to be in thrall to. Whose very technology was a sign of their evil inclinations.
This saga was the first time he had heard of an Obsidian prehistory, a people whose homeworld was invaded, destroyed by these Black Giants forcing them to flee across space to end up on Obsidian. Truely a loss of paradise, to go from a lush green homeworld to this desert of sand and glass..
He felt a strange kinship, his own Bedouin legends recalled the Land of Dilmun, a lost paradise so different to the harsh Arabian deserts. He spoke a line to himself “For Dilmun, the land of my lady’s heart, I will create long waterways, rivers and canals, whereby water will flow to quench the thirst of all beings and bring abundance to all that lives.”
The applause died away and people began rising from their seats. Jilek had caught the words and looked strangely at him “Are you a holy man in your lands in the stars?”
Ibn Sharjar smiled and shook his head “No my friend, it is a description of a paradise that once was home to my own people. It was lost but not because of these Black Giants”
“Ahh, then I hope that one day your people will reclaim it, and like Obsidian it will become a green oasis for them” Jelik replied sincerely
Ibn Sharjar inclined his head. “Thank you”
“Father! Mother!” Sasil had returned. “I remembered every line! Did you hear me?”
“We did my son,” Jelik replied, tussling the boy’s hair. “You have joined the watch of your people. What do we do tomorrow?”
“We go to the stars!”
“You do,” Kniva agreed and picked up her youngest son, “But first we go home and you go to bed!”
“Bed? But l’m not tired,” Sasil protested through a yawn.