Upon the earth we are all liars, for the stories we tell are but fractals of what we have lived through, endlessly imperfect.
So now let me lie.
Do not forgive me when I sing. The ancestors care not for half-truths baked in fire.
Oh vengeful, hateful spirits, remember my name. I am Gugmamibuto, Love-in-Fulmination, singer and poet, swathed and clad in rainbow, violence, and blossoming lightning.
May the revered spirits that watch all about me allow me passion, and may they keep my heart aflame, so that no part of this song might be half-hearted. Let there be errors, let there be omissions, but let not my love waver and fail.
Let not my love waver and fail.
Now drink, as the palm leaf torches are ablaze. The moon is full tonight, and harvests are done. Play your boat lutes, beautiful men, and resound haunting tunes with your bamboo zithers, handsome ladies. Let us sunder the world with our song, so that we can create something new out of the violence.
Look now, to the center of the sea.
A memory strikes you, like lightning. An image of a grand warrior, a thunderous one, tattoos running up their sky-skin, their face perverted into a devil god grin.
Their kris impales the heart of the world. Gubat Banwa, the Warring Realm, in a single instant, is boiled.
Another lightning flash: the kris shatters. It falls upon the center of the world.
The god is the Sky.
This is one of the many stories for the origins of the Sword Isles, although this is the one most important and shared across the isles themselves. The Sword Isles, when looked upon from above, is in the shape of a shattered kris.
The heart of the world still bleeds.
There are things that we all have forgotten. And so I sing. I sing because it is my duty to remember the things that might be forgotten. I am the memory recaller, I am the recitant of secrets, I am the recaller of flowers that have long wilted, of the petals that float down the river from sacred mountaintops, watcher of down washed away in sea brine.
Some call me a god, but I am nothing but. Gods do not remember, they simply are: they do not perceive dying as we do. We do. We are subject to the endless march of decay. That is why we must remember. If the tattooist etches upon space, then I etch upon time. My words are my calamansi thorn, my experiences and the traditions of our peoples my ink.
And our stories last for eons and eons.
So gather about, gather about for I have the story readied. Gather for a story that shakes the entirety of the Sword Isles. A story that has shifted the flow of the river of time. A story so fresh in the minds of us all that my voice and my words drip fresh with honey, still, and will still be.
This is the story of the Patayaishvara, Noble Killing God. More commonly known as the Busawbatarabughaw, the Azure Demon Lord. More commonly known as Bakongsinhiwahiwa, the Spider Lily of Cutting. Most poetically, she is known as Putri Tigpataysin Barani, The Hero Murdering Princess.
Her story is the culmination of long cycles of sun, moon, and star whorls, of long seasonal repetitions, of the silent regard of nature for change. Her story is the final climactic fulmination of a keening thunderhead, as ten lightning bolts, like swords, strike down upon the same tree ten times, until the tree becomes conflagration.
And thus to understand this culmination is to first know the grand song of the ages. The dance of Sun, Moon, and Stars.
But we will not begin at the beginning. What are beginnings but infinity choosing to start its story? I am not infinity, I cannot claim such a title reserved only for the grandest of our nature spirits, and so I begin in the middle.
Worry not, beginning in the middle is far less complex than it sounds. One does not need to follow every strand of history, every thread of tradition. One simply needs to hear the shape of the story, so that your eyes will bring life to my dead words as I sing, and it is etched upon akashic record.
So hear! Hear and experience through me, one thousand-million souls crying out in violence and love. Feel and think, and rejoice finally in the glory of combat.
In the Eighth Moon Era, as reckoned by the starwatchers and the sages of the settlements, the Sword Isles had arrived at an impasse. At a veritable crossroads, where the trade winds slam against each other and the currents form into whirlpools, attracting every monster in the isle.
The veritable Virbanwan Lakanate, led by a Batara Lakan and policed with virtue by the Mahapari, Grand Priest, is a polity established upon imperialist policy. Once the prestigious trading port of Tundun, a trading city connected intricately to the Gold Empire of Sonyoh, it was ravaged and destroyed when the Pale Kings of Issohappa, uncanny alien-fey-bloodwitches that wanted nothing more but to conquer the center of the world for their empire, arrived on Sword Isle shores and took it as imperial capital.
The disparate polities of the Sword Isles, together with the Chrysanthemum Longbow Isle of Iyamat and Sonyoh, mounted an attack against Issohappa and succeeded, and sent them away.
Their Reconquest is in the stars.
It has been a hundred harvests, or years, after the fact. Virbanwa is its own Lakanate now, but Issohappa has left its indelible mark. Its crown city, Ananara, is a veritable trading nexus, but it is led by nobles and politicians that have decided to take too much from their conquerors, including their way of thinking.
The Lakanate boils. It readies its spears. Its gun foundries are equipped with dragon flame. They seek conquest of the Sword Isles, for their power must be known. United by the Ashen Star Faith, an indigenized form of Issohappan Sidereality, they ready to march in the name of the Almighty: Makagagahum.
Of course, the rest of the Sword Isles will not stand so idly by. Let me sing of the great deeds of the four other veritable Lances that will change the world.
Nearest to the Lakanate is the Kingdom of Ba-e, the oldest surviving state in the Sword Isles, intricately influenced by Baikhan culture. They walk about in lamellars, build pagodas within pentagonal house compounds. Their royalty take foreign titles, Holy Lightning Titles, and mix it with their own mountain god. They worship six-armed, azure-skinned deities in the sky, alongside their ancestors who created enlightenment.
Furthest from Virbanwa, to the far north, is the chivalric moon-knight Sultanate of Akai. They stand upon horses, swordfishes, and rainbow raptors, wielding long spears adorned with pennants, riding upon royal war barges decorated with cosmic serpent dragons. In the name of the Moon, they fight, hoping to achieve Divine Striving, so that they may join their great Moon Goddess when they die, becoming holy winged lunar warriors that will join Her in the Final Strife where she will sunder the 14 Layered Cosmos in half.
In a Confederation of Five powerful polities is the Confederation of Apumbukid, a region of sovereignty surrounding the Holiest Mountain in the entirety of reality: Mount Apu, a sword that skewers all 14 layers of the universe, binding it together. Apumbukidnon not only worship Apu, but actively protect it. To protect Apu, however, is to be the stewards of nature in general, and to be maintainers of that ancient metaphysical concept of Hiyang: harmony with nature. And so, they protect nature and enforce harmony. It is long said that if the Confederation falls, then the end of existence will follow soon after, as rain follows thunder.
Finally, in the center of the Sword Isles is the majestic city of the Naga Eating the Sun, known as Kangdaya. Established by the Overlord Ablaze, Sri Daya, it has only burgeoned as trade expanded in the isles and other cultures introduced newer and scarier things. Kangdaya is the heart of the Rajahnate of Gatusan: wherein 999 Chiefdoms all pay allegiance to the Rajah of Kangdaya. Together they are Gatusan, for they number a hundred, and their fate is dictated by the Council of Crocodile Lords, who choose who must become the next Rajah, who will rule in Kangdaya.
That is… if Kangdaya should continue to stand. Kangdaya, at the peak of the mountain, so so close to the sun, is poised to melt, fall, and be consumed by the great Bakunawa.
And it is in Kangdaya that our song begins. Nay, forgive me, that is a lie. It begins in the seas north of Kangdaya, for there a young moon-haired veiled maiden, a Putli or princess, but never called that, sails to the beginning of her song. This is no destiny: songs are not destiny. They are matter of fact.
We cannot sing of destiny. If we do, then we have already lost, have we not?
A few days south, in the island of Rusunuga—the largest isle in the Sword Isles, home to grand Ba-e, and Virbanwa, and Sinuku, and Kabuluan, and Asinan—a young boy swallows a star, and is rent from the inside out. In the act of shredding, he is born again into the Hero of Prophecy.
Prophecy. Is it not so funny? We’ve never dealt in prophecies until the Pale Kings invaded. Yet here we are, with an intrusive narrative thread, seeking to conquer us all. And must we let it? Must we sing their song?
Our Spider Lily’s chorus is about to begin, and her melody harmonizes with a large cast of rhapsodies. Of dissonances. Her symphony is a celebration, a festival: of shining lightnings, lonely stones, queen flowers aflame, demon jars, forgotten ones, flood stoppers, and 87 sidereal sundang.
Do you trust me? You must, or else the song will not ignite. It will not catch fire in your heart. Nothing will change, and blood will be spilled, and the words I shall sing tonight will be etched not into your hearts but into the atrocities we have built for ourselves.
The hero must die.