The Art of Subtlety


Previously: The Peregrine Monk


"Aeons before it claimed the land and sky, life flourished in the seas. It was there that the chaotic confluence of nature, water and heat, light and dark, were together able to forge living things out of nothing. And the tides meant that these first beings all shared the same oceanic medium; even across vast distances, some coral waving in the current can affect the life of the algae, the fish, even the colossal, unseen leviathans of the deep.

What I'm trying to illustrate is that before life spread beyond the sea, it was unified. It was, in its totality, one with the world's flow. A fish cannot refute the ocean in much the same way that we are unable to refute the laws of our universe. This isn't simply spiritual– although, to my people, its spiritual significance is indeed profound. It's fluid dynamics. It is science, friend.

When life did inevitably depart the ocean, however, this bond with nature was broken. In the blink of a cosmic eye humanity discovered fire, and how to control it; suddenly, they were able to destroy whole forests with ease. Soon enough, the same discovery was made with magic, to even greater catastrophic effect. Freed from the sea's grasp, we became able to exert our will upon the world.

A fish devours another fish, and the order of the universe is maintained. But when one uses magic and might to drive whole species extinct for their own gain, the order collapses. Then the whole ecosystem may crumble in turn, and humanity along with it, because after all, we are merely a part of the whole.

In order to exert your will, to take some power in the world, no matter how small, you must take it from something else. And I do not fault anyone for wishing to attain their own happiness, their security and prosperity. But the philosophical question must be raised: how can you exert your will in such a way, while still maintaining the balance of the natural order?

You must be like the fish. You must understand your place in the universe, like the fish instinctively understands its place in the ocean. You must push at the boundaries of your existence, but never break them. When you push, the tides will push back; you must not fight when they carry you, and push only with that bond in mind. And if you cultivate the bond, discard the illusion of separation, allow yourself to be one with the medium… the tides, the clouds and all the living things of the ocean will acknowledge your will.

This, friend, is the doctrine of my creed. This is the Art of Subtlety."


Next: Lament for the Lost City