This chapter begins a while before the show - hence the Pariah talk. The first few chapters (maybe this and the next two) will be how the Zone settles after Pariah's fall before getting to Danny's life.
(I might dedicate a few chapters to the time between Danny's birth and his Accident; be warned about that, because that means getting to the events of the show will only take longer.)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
History, as all eventually learn, isn’t reliable without a primary source to learn from. Clockwork, for all intents and purposes, was a primary source for all of Time. He takes pride in how much he is aware of throughout the time stream.
But even the confident can still be knocked down. The aware can still be surprised. The strong defeated; the weak triumphant.
Clockwork sighs, body shifting to its oldest state as he watches a friend-no-longer be dethroned and power subverted. Pariah Dark, the Zone’s first official King; he raved and cursed and swore oath after oath about getting his revenge on those defying him. And still, Clockwork dispassionately watched, unattached and uncaring.
Like he should be.
Like he hadn’t always been. (It was his fault Pariah was as he is now. Feelings when one shouldn’t feel causes backlash that hurts even the innocent.)
But the temporal ghost doesn’t mind the change - though he probably should, he couldn’t just turn off emotions once they were there. Though he does lament the power vacuum that will forever exist until someone was powerful enough to step up. (Clockwork could list many who would try and who their allies and enemies would be. The list of contenders was small, but their allies vast. He was interested in seeing who would get the closest before reality shoved them back down to their place, as it always did.)
Clockwork turned once the Fallen King’s screams ceased to even echo, intending to head home. (He wanted to get on his self-formed bet, really.)
The Eldest shook his head, staring down the Youngest from where he was perched. “That’s a horrid plan,” he gruffed, “where’d it come from?”
The Middle sighed and shuffled away from his siblings. He had no need to get involved unless the two turned the argument physical.
“You and I know perfectly well how likely it is Pariah will be awakened again!” The Youngest’s head bobs in agitation, eyes void of a pupil intense on the older brother. “That much power, the legends of his reign, it’d be foolish of us to believe otherwise! We need to create a proper fail safe for when that happens.”
“And you supposed stepping into Fate’s area is best.”
Even the Middle brother flinched at the dry, unamused tone of the Eldest. (The Middle agreed with the Youngest though - making sure there was a plan for a contingency was a good idea. Though Middle had to agree with Eldest that messing with Fate’s plans was never a good idea. But , Middle could see why it was the best plan. Having an antithesis of Pariah created, without fail, was the best option. It wasn’t the safest , but Middle knew neither of them was bothered with that piece of information.)
The Observants gathered around their central viewing table. There were fifteen in total, a number less than half prior to Pariah’s reign. All of them were of similar heights, able to pass off as one another without suspicion aside from one, the tallest of their number. And the oldest - the only Observant that wore white.
The White Cloak, as they’d been dubbed, stood at the head of the portal. Their height gave them the needed sight to see all their subordinates, minimized as the numbers were.
“Pariah has been sealed,” the large being began, voice softer than one would believe of a creature that height. “Clockwork has confirmed his defeat; the Three Brothers have confirmed the Lost and Wounded while the Seven Sisters are working about the edges of the realm to heal what the Dark King has broken.
“Our duty, now, is to keep an eye upon the vacuum now swaying the minds of those left alive.”
The Greys shuffled, barely keeping their whispering thoughts to themselves until the White Cloak was finished.
“Each of you will be given a Sector, devised by Clockwork, and the Brothers and Sisters. Treat these areas with care; they do not need another oppressive presence. Nor can the Realm handle another rebellion.” When all fourteen grey heads bobbed in understanding, one white covered arm rose and the two dozen dispersed.
The Zone watched as its inhabitants picked themselves back up and licked their wounds. It paid mind to those lost to its surface below where the smaller beings dwelled, making sure to tend to the new ghastly forms trying to fight their way back up despite the lessening in their energies. The presence tried easing the eternal suffering those creatures would be subjected to but even the Zone had little control of what wasn’t supposed to exist.
(Some part of the Zone would forever loathe Pariah. It had allowed the Dark King to use parts of itself to create his weapons of destruction; he had been chosen, after all, by the Zone to help watch over the denizens in its care. And he had betrayed that trust, had twisted and warped it until he had no idea what the Zone was supposed to be anymore.)
Once the Zone was certain it has done all that it could, it turned its focus upon a few of the more powerful inhabitants flitting about. There were four specific areas of itself that the Zone split its consciousness - Clockwork Tower, the Observatory, the Garden, and the Jungle.
The Clock Tower was a fascinating place run by an equally intriguing figure. Clockwork, an extension of Time itself, worked closely with his patron and her sisters, Fate and Destiny. The Zone loved watching the anchored ghost set out to begin the plans of the Primordial Ones. (The Zone found it curious that such powerful beings were bound by rules, unable to play their part of existence with their own hands. But the Zone has long since decided the smaller forms were odd and illogical.)
Time usually had her ghostly subordinate watch over the many variations of herself for any anomalies and to fix those that might collapse the timeline. Fate and Destiny usually had their fun, tag-teaming the poor male by using his abilities and perspective to weave their complicated webs. The Zone could suppose that Pariah Dark was partially their fault, too, (just as Clockwork’s emotional upheaval was, for he wasn’t safe from them just because their eldest sister favored him).
Currently, as the Zone was focused upon the ghost, Clockwork was contemplating what his three mistresses (for that was what the Zone assumed they were by now) were spreading out before him. His hood twitched, allowing the Zone to know it was felt by the young-old ghost. But like he usually did when focused upon plans for the future, Clockwork ignored whatever was around him after assuring himself it wasn’t volatile. As he continued to keep his silence, the Zone allowed the piece of its consciousness shift, fading further into the background until another part was stronger.
Strong enough for the Zone to see the Observatory up close and personal. The shifting forms of the surviving ghosts as they prepared for their extended separation drew the Zone in closer. It could tell the difference between grey-covered creature, just as they were very aware of it watching them. (The Observants were the only ones of the four the Zone was interested in to actively, directly acknowledge it, as evident by the White One motioning the Zone’s broken consciousness closer.)
“I apologize,” the taller, older Observant whispered, a slight feminine lilt creeping through and about the words, “for the damage our arrogance and ignorance dealt you.”
The Zone, lacking a mouth, pressed close to the female Observant. With a gentleness unseen by the Zone on a larger scale, it let the other, smaller being feel the heaviness of its existence. But kept it comforting. Kept it light. Because no other creature but a King could handle the full force of its presence pressed close to them.
“Thank you for your forgiveness.”
The Zone was fond of the acolytes. They were polite to it, even when its silences pushed at their collective patience.
But the consciousness couldn’t stick around so heavily for much longer. With one last press against the female ghost wearing white, it pulled away, letting itself work closer to the Jungle.
The avians that lurked beneath the canopy of the thick trees were watching the Zone come closer. They did this each time it decided to visit them, which was often as they were the closest to the Zone’s energy than any other beings within it’s hold. In a way, the Zone could say the Three Brothers were its version of Time’s Clockwork. They did what it couldn’t physically do - but they were chaotic creatures at best, so the Zone knew not to expect them to follow every order to the letter. It would just lead to a pain the Zone was sure it wouldn’t be able to handle properly, to trust them with that much.
“You know, brothers,” the Middle began, voice thick with amusement, “I’ve heard tales about how the Observants believe our home is sentient.”
“Why, yes, brother, I’ve heard the same.” The Youngest, amused and slightly laughing.
The Eldest snorts and shakes his head, sticking to being quiet.
The Zone watched them as they did it, but it never dared to draw as close as it does with the Observants. They were too susceptible to the Zone’s pull. It would tear them apart if the Zone tried to register as a physical thing.
So it settled for being seen with the birds’ weird eyes.
“Wonder what the consciousness wants,” the Eldest finally ventures, turning to glance at his brothers in askance.
“Beats me, I’m not an ancient form of consciousness bound to be a realm.”
The Youngest huffs at the Middle. “That’s something I would never be able to tolerate being said about me, brother, do try to treat our nice host politely, if they exist at all.”
“Too true, my dear fellow, too true.”
It was with amusement and assurance, minutes later, that the Zone pulls away from these three. They knew what it wanted of them, they were prepared to fit into their roles.
Now the Zone wonders if it would be so easy with the Seven Sisters in their nebulous Garden. They were, after all, the least connected to it than the rest. And they were the most connected to the Other - the world where all the Zone’s inhabitants came from, in some form or another.
If the Zone could sigh, it supposed now would have been the perfect time to do so.
Maia breathed in deep, wishing to feel actual air fill up lungs that stopped existing the moment she died. Around her were the sounds of her younger sisters, each of them preparing to leave their assigned portion of the Garden for a few days to heal what was corrupt with the negative power of the ex-king.
Alcyone was swiftly moving between each of the still-packing sisters. Her voice reached Maia from where she stood at the edge of the Garden, watching the ever-moving atmosphere of their home. The green-black-purple color theme was, to Maia, odd, even after the millennia she’s been here. (Though some part of her found it relaxing. This place, even with Pariah’s dictatorship causing strife for so long prior to now, was less chaotic than where she and her sisters had lived before their deaths.)
Maia turned, lush green eyes meeting the dull grey of Merope - the Lost Sister, the first of them to die - as she walked closer. Behind her was Asterope and Celaeno, the two sisters born around Merope - Asterope before and Calaeno after. The three of them looked lovely in their colored chitons, their russet hued curls pulled up and pinned tightly to their skulls.
Battle styles, Maia knew, likely done by Taygete.
“I’m alright, Merope,” she calmly answered the unspoken concern. “Just, thinking about how much this place is already falling back to old habits. Barely a week and everyone’s acting like nothing’s happened. That nothing’s changed.”
Celaeno moved forward and hooked one of her arms with one of Maia’s. “People need stability right now; if acting like things aren’t different helps them find it, then let them pretend.”
Maia closed her eyes and let out a sigh. “Still, only negative things have ever come from this much reversion, we all know that from experience.”
Merope gave a gentle shrug, letting Asterope curl an arm around her waist. “That’s just how people are, living or dead. It’s instinctive , Sister - we all know that as well.”
The Eldest concedes the point with a regal nod, pulling her arm from Celaeno and turning to move further into their shared haunt. “I should go see Taygete.”
It is of the belief that life does not end after death that paranormal investigations hold ground. Though many do not agree that the Afterlife - in this sense, existence after death - is the realm of Ghosts, apparitions or echoes of people long dead, this practice has gained popularity. The idea that Death is not the end of existence is where the intrigue, and thus the popularity, comes from. Nobody, after all, wishes to stop existing, even after dying.
Many who feel the curiosity and academic need to know tend to educate themselves - through self-study or colleges offering parascience degrees and classes - on the topic. (Parascience is an unsteady subject; without concrete proof, many courses are being shut down.) Though there are a number of Paranormal Enthusiasts - a term used for all people that believe Ghosts are real and exist within the Afterlife - that don’t take that path. They are the loudest, typically, when talking about how and why they believe in the Afterlife.
But those that formulate some kind of educational background with the topic are usually those that have the soundest theories on how and why the Afterlife exists.
One of the most famous theories, however, comes from before Parascience was founded - before much of anything educational was founded. The Bible. It depicts the Afterlife as three separate areas - Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. As such, there are three paths for one to take, of which the Bible says is chosen through actions done while alive. (i.e. The good and Righteous go to Heaven, the Evil and Corrupt are sent to Hell, and the Lost or Forgotten tend to be left in Purgatory.)
It is because of this belief that many misunderstand the Ghost Zone - the world in which the Dead and Deadless live - and it’s composition. As the Bible is widely quoted and cited when talking about the formation of the Afterlife, it isn’t surprising very few accept explanations on how the Zone is formed and who and what goes where within it. The best way to explain how the Ghost Zone is settled, one has to look at its actual name - the Infinity Realms, plural, which is where most people get caught up on. They don’t want to share their Afterlife with someone of an opposing belief, after all. And they don’t have to - being infinite allows for space between each ‘sector’ of belief (i.e. Christianity is separated from Satanism; Greeks are apart from Romans; peace and chaos are not close together). But those ‘spaces’ allow for other things to grow or form - like a merger of beliefs, or areas in which Mythical creatures, by Living standards, that held no true place within religions could live.
Which complicates, and in a way simplifies, how the Zone is constructed…
The ending is not likely to be in every chapter.
It is an excerpt of an essay beginning that essentially details the Ghost Zone. The topics of future essays will range from general things (like the Ghost Zone) to specifics (like ectopsychology and ectobiology). There might even be some about Zone Politics.
The Author of these essays are the same, but for plot reasons, I'm not saying who writes them. (Outside of the obvious, since I'm the author of this story.)
With that said, thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed!
As I promised LuckyDreamer in the comments - it's out before December!
Looking at this chapter, I will have to say, though, that getting to Danny's birth is going to take a bit longer. I don't know how long because a few characters in this chapter decided they wanted screen time, so who knows how the next chapters'll turn out.
A note on the chapter's actual contents: There's introductions to another religion's pantheon in here, and an idea that I got from Marsalias's "Mortified" pops up. I also introduce a group of my own creation that's just as confusing as you might think it is. Sorry about that.
Nothing really happens outside of general world building here, so I apologize for that too. There's a lot of information in this bit and I didn't want to overwhelm anyone with actual action. Next chapter (already started) kind of has a bit of the action in it as it's going to deal with the "larger Council" spoken of in this chapter, but that might be all that the chapter deals with. (With alternating perspectives so y'all can see what's going through the big players' minds.)
Take caution with the new tags. I'm messing with an area I shouldn't be by involving religion - but the show did that too, to some extent, so can't be surprised I'm messing with it further here.
(Sorry it's also so short - again, didn't want to overwhelm anyone.)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Clockwork rubbed at his chin, jaw tired from how much he’d spoken in the last three days.
The old-then-young ghost has always hated Council Meetings. Too many ghosts with differing opinions - the Three Brothers were chaotic as ever, and the Seven Sisters were as impartial as ever, but what always tripped the Ghost of Time up was how fluid the Observants were. The White Cloak never stuck to the same methodology each time a Meeting was called. And that was just talking about the larger groups upon the Council.
Smith and the Anima - the Bear this time, when it’s been the Tiger all others - were the type to wait until the last meeting, when things were put to a vote, to show their cards. You could never know what side they’d decide to be on. (Clockwork himself, as per his oaths, was always surprised by them.) But their reasoning was always sound.
Pandora crosses the hall where Clockwork had stopped. Her own face is pinched and heavy - as a ruler of a realm herself, the topic of replacement and arguments over rules likely displease her. The anchored ghost rises to meet her, his smaller form shifting to something larger as he meets her gaze.
“Smith says he will not be here for the rest of the day,” she answers his silence. “Three days away from his lair is too much.”
“Understandable; unlike you or Frostbite or Aragon, he has no one to delegate duties to.” Clockwork shuffles his purple cloak so it wasn’t pressing into his throat as his form shifts to its elderly state. “The ones I’m more worried about would be the Egyptians and the Monks.”
Pandora’s face pinches; Clockwork is very aware of the relationship between Pandora and the Monks, though he knew the two were the other’s most steadfast allies. Simply because the Monks trusted Pandora’s ethics when it comes to protecting provinces such as the haunt the Monks inhabit. But then she’s sighing harshly out of her nose and nodding, face smoothing out into something thoughtful.
“I can check in on the Monks later today,” she promises, sending the temporal ghost a pointed look he nods at, agreeing to take a look into why the Egyptians haven’t sent a representative to the meetings yet. “Good.”
A bell chimes and both of them step back, sliding into the mental capacity needed to deal with the rest of today’s meeting.
Amun-Ra - this time, as others he’s one or the other - stands tall as he greets the Ghost of Time. He knows why the other’s here. It isn’t often a king is chosen, after all. But it is even rarer for Amun-Ra to find time to get away for five minutes, let alone a full day; too many provinces to look after and very few willing aids to look after them. (It was something he and his Chosen are working on fixing, now that Pariah wasn’t breathing down their necks trying to see treason and deception where there was none.)
He knew Clockwork was aware of his predicament.
What surprised Amun-Ra, though, was how the other forwent a proper greeting to say, “The Brothers are up to something and we honestly need to have beaten out enough flaws in whatever plans we can make now before they truly get started.”
Why wasn’t that a surprise?
The Monks were a conglomeration of many differing beliefs that agreed to co-exist in one haunt for the sake of simplicity. In total, there were sixty-three specific beliefs among the Monks, give or take some of the more violent ones that lived on the outskirts of the large, mountainous haunt they all lived on and within. Those beliefs had to rely on one representative in general while each of the other had their own, singular member upon the Council.
The Council of the Monks wasn’t anything more than a fancy title that Pandora had asked for, to make things easier on her when she personally visits to see if they had any need of her. Her representatives lived pretty split between the Mountain and Pandora’s Keep, so they had the time to spend among the masses. (Said reps were one of the few warriors allowed within all areas of the haunt, though they did spend a lot of time with the warriors that resided as the first line of defence, sparring with them and learning their ways out of interest and respect.)
The Monks were large enough in numbers on a singular land, the Council was allowed to bring the opinions of them all to the large Council of the Zone.
Pandora, in short, loved and loathed them.
They were orderly but slow to come to a decision, since they wanted to make sure all agreed on one action or another before placing forth their votes or worries.
Though, and this was based on Pandora’s own interactions with the group, they did tend to send some of their scholars to larger meetings so they had enough information to deal out an informed decision. Which made the complete absence of the Monks worrisome and a concern Pandora didn’t want to have, and yet did as it spelled possible trouble she might need to interfere with.
Gods be with her .
Smith considered the molds before him. They were covered in dust aside from where he’d recently picked them up off their equally covered shelf. Both of them were incomplete, destroyed by Pariah out of arrogant belief that he’d always rule.
He sighed and turned to the drawings of the molds he’s kept safe in a hidden area of his haunt and considered the runes missing.
He could keep the crown and ring the same, should the time to remake them came about that he’d need to. Or Smith could change the design just enough…
Before he reenters the talks over what the Zone should do next, he’d need to figure out what he wanted to do. With a hum, he moves to place all items down upon his desk so he could stare at them as he made more designs and hope to come up with a few viable ideas by the time he was needed to show his face again.
Life had very little to do with Death’s Realm of existence.
But when Fate and Destiny come to him in a flurry of excitement and glee, he has to take a look.
The greeting of the sentience Death created in one of her glum fits - or would it be better to call it one of her sad moments? - was adorable. It wasn’t exactly alive but it was just far enough from death that it could be considered one of his own creations. The Zone was a welcoming presence as Life peeked in on Death’s people.
And he was surprised.
What Life saw was the aftermath of a war to tear down a tyrant king.
Death had mentioned none of this last she’d spoken to him. Usually his companion would tell him if something like this happened with her people, worried or excited that she could witness similar things as Life does within his Realm.
But he could also see why Fate and Destiny were in a tizzy - this allowed for prime situations for the two to create something convoluted and brilliant.
He, for certain, couldn’t wait to see it unfold.
The hierarchy of the Ghost Zone is as complicated as it is simple. There are the ‘peasants’ - the people who hold no standing politically; the ‘scholars’ and the ‘priests’ and the ‘ministers’ and such are the people who hold the least amount of sway in the decision making beyond where they live. The ‘knights’ and other ‘warriors’ tend to be the ones most involved in enforcing the decisions of their leaders, usually tracking down an outlaw or protecting dignitaries moving between each lair for negotiations or treaties. ‘Mayors,’ ‘Governors,’ 'Sheriffs’ and other high ranked officials tend to depend on what sort of government a haunt is adhering itself to - they could be equal to Kings and Queens of other lairs or they could be the equivalent to Princes and Princesses, and there are a few moments where they could be nothing more than the dignitaries themselves, moving between haunts in hopes of gathering allies or lessening punishments after a war lost.
Then there are the Barons, Viscounts, Earls/Counts, Marquesses and Dukes (and their female equivalences). These, just like the Mayors, Governors, and Sheriffs of other lairs, they are dependent upon what haunt you are in. Not all monarchies have such titles to give out, either because they are too small or they are handled differently enough that they don’t need them. These titles are to be considered of equal importance throughout all monarchies, and tend to be treated as dignitaries of the highest importance.
Princes, Princesses, Kings and Queens are all treated like their titles suggest. They are the highest ranked people within a monarchy and tend to be the ones who can change the laws of whichever lair they’re in (doesn’t always happen, but they are capable of doing it).
Most active ghosts tend to be leaders within their realms. They are the strongest among their people in the sense their ectoplasm is more stable, allowing them to leave the Ghost Zone without fear of dissolving - and this is in the sense that there is no outside forces trying to tear them apart in such a way.
If these ghosts are confronted with such outside forces, they treat them like they would any threats. And they are usually able to gather enough energy to back up their declarations of war or conquest. It’s best to avoid causing such situations as not all rulers are fair in how they fight in wars.
I'm so sorry if this was an info dump that didn't make sense.
Hopefully it was enjoyable, though!