THE WORLD OF THE GUILD
The tales you will discover within the pages of The Vagabond of Limbo and the following episodes have come to our knowledge by sheer chance - nothing short of a miracle. Thus shall we first attempt to tell you where these stories came from, and how they came to fall into our hands.
The Universe where these adventures take place is not ours, despite what one might think at first glance. It is not unlike a distorted reflection of our own world; the doors between both universes are narrow and fragile, and there are only three of them in all. This is the reason why information on that fabulous universe is so patchy and incomplete, and why we thought it necessary to gather here all we could find out about this “other world”, so near and yet just out of reach, in order to make this an easier and more pleasant reading experience for you.
We shall start with a report on all we know about the Empire of the GUILD, that huge entity ruling all sorts of planets and species. Then we shall explore some of the most typical civilisations of the Empire that Axle MUNSHINE, formidable traveler that he is, crossed through and through during his many adventures, before he vanished in circumstances remaining, to this day, unknown…
Thus let us start with...
1-THE EMPIRE OF THE GUILD
This empire is huge, and comprises most of the universe’s inhabited solar systems: all 7.342 States and Sovereignties gathered within the Central Confederation - the others, being more or less affiliated to the Confederation, known as "Peripheral" - thus joining together a myriad of planets, so numerous that their census never could be concluded with precision (we now know certain Sovereignties are somewhat reluctant to keep a precise account of the planets they control).
At the head of the GUILD, the SUPREME MEDIATE, selected for his wisdom, rules with undeniable and uncontested authority. His government relies upon the "High Restricted Council", whose thirteen members are serving a life-long mandate.
Five of them have the ability to gather "in vertibe" three overlapping authorities: the "Widened Restricted Council", the "Military Council of Maintenance", and the "Special Confederate Council".
It goes without saying that establishing such powers cannot take place without implying numerous conflict situations between the states concerned.
This is why, in certain circumstances, when time is of the essence, the Supreme Mediate may choose to get represented by the GREAT CONCILIATOR, who has the rank of Head of State and wields considerable powers.
AXLE MUNSHINE bears this much-envied title as he returns to XYLOS after a mission, as the first volume starts...
axle munshine great conciliator - the throne and the supreme mediate
XYLOS, THE CAPITAL-PLANET
The capital of the Guild has been on planet XYLOS for the past 173 years (as we speak, this is the 47th year of the era of the Mongoose over there).
The site was selected for its remarkably stable, mild climate. It is conveniently located on the stellar roads of the Angoulmêh and Wolapûtch regions, i.e. the biggest trade route...
... In addition, it is known that XYLOS used to be the location for multiple "primitive" interstellar organizations, over the centuries. Thus did archaeological searches bring to light several superimposed layers of traces left by ancient nomadic civilisations.
Both this peculiar situation, and the concern of public Services over preserving traces of the old migrations, explain some of the picturesque and slightly cockeyed aspects of the Capital-Planet, in the old city as well as in the business district.
Everywhere, one can feel the political concern of the Empire, which consists in recognizing to every civilization of all the Member States their right to existence and respect, no matter what their "differences" may be.
Currently, 4.723 “non-bellicose” species live together in harmony. Every year, the Foreign Office for intra-Guild Additions receives approximately 2.804 new candidates' files.
One should know that public opinion gives an increasingly favorable support to the party of the Magus Pompen. This political party militates for a return to the traditional values of the GUILD, and for limiting access to the Guild to the 342 initial species, known as "RED" in reference to the color of their blood. Their rise to power poses a social and cultural problem that tends to get more and more distressing.
In spite of this, life on XYLOS, although noisy and animated, is full of charm and unpredictable things.
Countless are those who are actively lobbying, from the remotest provinces, in order to obtain a temporary residence permit.
Entertainment is plentiful on the Capital-Planet, especially in the various red light districts: the theatres’ district, the "physical challenges" district, and the "body exchanges" district.
The official language on XYLOS is Terrorean, or Terroastrian, the oldest-known language, coming from a long-lost system. The business lingo is based upon an old idiom, Engulisch – it’s not used much, except within the "Boonks", Kambit offices, and by Agents of Dreams.
The Political Administrations use a peculiar dialect, Germanischel, a difficult language, somewhat unpleasant and harsh to the ear.
LAWS OF THE EMPIRE
The law that is at the GUILD’s core stems from what is known as the "THIRTEEN TRANSGRESSIONS".
It enumerates thirteen absolutely prohibited deeds which all involve, for the rule-breaker, instant death and "final cleansing".
The term rule-breaker must be taken here in his broadest sense. Thus were three Sovereign States and sixteen Intermediate Provinces put to death and “cleansed”.
Upon this law were established the 2.711 "bases” constituting the summary of all the rules of the Empire.
Remarkably liberal and permissive, such a system is built not on what one MUST do, but on what is FORBIDDEN, leaving open to interpretation all of the remainder.
A few words on the technology of the GUILD...
This is what the Empire built its force and its fantastic development upon. No civilization before it had ever managed to bring such a rigorous system of thought to such a degree of improvement.
Three legendary figures rank first in the panegyric of Great Mathematical Architects.
They are Afristyd Ptomymee, Albere Flemschtein, and Korian Munshine - father of AxIe.
We shall soon see how crucial a place the latter occupied in the astounding History of the GUILD, filled with amazing adventures and discoveries...
xylos - capital-planet of the guild
xylos archeology and various species
2-CREATURES AND SPECIES OF THE GUILD
Let us temporarily leave aside the ETERNAUTS, who occupy a very special place in the multiple adventures of AXLE MUNSHINE, a subject upon which we shall come back at length, later on ; for MUSKY - one of the main characters of this saga - is an Eternaut.
And so, let us now start with a few typical species.
The UHUrticant warriors, more commonly called "UHU", are big, fit, muscular, and have friendly-looking, pleasant faces. They are generally bald and devoid of any body hair, except for some ageing males who tend to grow a thick fur around their legs and ankles as they get older. Their rough skin is nicely mottled with pink and green spots, to the most beautiful effect...
... Prevalence of the green areas over the pink ones is to them a mark of exceptional beauty. They only ever wear a small white square of fabric, hanging over their oral orifice, which is situated at sternum level. This cavity shelters the language organs, teeth, gullet, and, erm… private parts.
They’re covered with distinctive itchy, hives-inducing, poisonous protoplasmic growths on the upper arms, shoulders and chest. This peculiarity used to make them much-dreaded warriors in olden days. All they had to do was grab from behind the body of any enemy clan member who had ventured upon their territory, to paralyze him instantaneously, and kill him, all within a few seconds. This strange ability led to their martial arts, known as "Koog fu proto", a graceful, choreography-like close-combat technique.
Most probably for the same reason, you would find on their premises, within each tribe, social rules that astonished many an unsuspecting observer. Thus, taking somebody in one's arms is regarded as a gesture of frank hostility. On the other hand, turning their backs to them (as they do not have protoplasmic growths on their backs) is a mark of great affection, and it is most curious to see all the members of any given closely-knit family, whenever they are gathered together, all trying very hard to turn their backs at one another, and this, in spite of the fact that they are completely immune to each other.
They were often used by the GUILD during the Great Migration to conquer new territory - as, by that time, they were regarded as faithful and trustworthy allies.
Nowadays, having grown more peaceful, most of them surgically get rid of their poisonous growths during their teenage years, by what is known as "legal and final option", if they do not intend to become soldiers. The operation consists in the removal of two glands located under the ears, and is generally coupled with tonsils removal.
They hail from the Constellation of UHUthes, from a system made of 16 planets, two of which are inhabitable ; these revolve around the Star of Marge Rynne, and a score of satellites. This constellation is located over one VL-Sun week from XYLOS - that is, if you’re traveling on a traditional tourist space shuttle.
But tourism is not this planetary system’s main asset.
Indeed, cities are very wide there, with, between each residence, each monument, each administration, complex and dangerous networks which are somewhat reminiscent of their own protoplasmic conformation, and are deliberately messy-looking and confusing, so as to discourage visitors.
Countless stray travelers have vanished in this maze...
Many an Uhu left his planet to come and work in the various administrations of the GUILD, where one cultivates a taste for secrecy, and endless lobbying. They work wonders there.
If you meet Uhus, it is recommended not to shake hands with them, their poison never being totally removed.
uhurticant warriors - uhu family back to back
Regurgitating Merchants are rather small, bent, with a peak on the top of their heads, a broad, seldom-closed mouth, and three stomachs.
They are generally regarded as pleasant individuals, eloquent, always willing to tell a colorful anecdote or share amusing rumors.
All in all, they are said to be pleasant companions.
Unfortunately their metabolism and their biological needs force them to apply most of their time to feeding, which considerably limits their possibilities of insertion, in a context as sophisticated as that of XYLOS...
Indeed, they saw their species develop on the Confederation of the Three Ovoid Planets of BALTI.
The Traveling Chronicles describe these three planets as covered with rock peaks, rising, through thick and noxious fog, up to 18.000 yords (1 yord = 6,55957 bullos = 98 centimeters = 12.384 zygotes). These peaks are smooth, slippery and unclimbable.
The extreme climatic conditions which result from this are forcing Regurgitating Merchants to head for the Lowlands, which are below sea level.
However the oceans, on planet Balto, as well as on Baltu and Balta, contain high doses of cadmiofene iodides and sulfuric acid.
It is definitely recommended never to venture there.
Trapped between these terrifying oceans and those gigantic cliffs, Regurgitating Merchants fortunately found something to live on, in these Lowlands.
The Lowlands indeed primarily consist of semi-liquid muds, highly charged in micro-organisms, like larvae and mud worms. Regurgitating Merchants swallow a lot of mud as they go, filtering it and slowly digesting it thanks to their three stomachs. In the first stomach they draw aside pure mineral matters. In the second, they sort out residual cadmiofe waters (there are many infiltrations against which they must fight by building and rebuilding dams constantly). This activity (eating) takes two thirds of their time (since they tend to sleepwalk, the last third of their time is spent fixing leaky dams). This prevented them for a long time from being accepted within the ranks of high society in Xylos.
Today, thanks to substitution foods, two of their stomachs have narrowed, and they succeed in living almost as the rest of the world (except when it rains a lot, and dirt tracks become muddy, which to them constitutes a true delicacy).
Still poorly accepted in today’s society, this situation has incited most of them to become traveling salesmen (hence their name, Regurgitating Merchants).
All around the Cosmos, "Sizzlers" are deemed unreliable, unsavory and unpredictable individuals. They have heavy-set faces, broad and greedy mouths, yet manage to look rather attractive. Their tails are very long, thick, and ringed. Thanks to these rings, one can easily determine their real age (for they are liars as well). Indeed, each ring takes two VL-Sun years to grow. Actually, there are several private clinics, specializing in plastic surgery, where female “Sizzlers” who want to lie about their age can have several of their middle tail rings removed. The males are arrogant and thieving, robbery being to them a mark of virility.
Hailing from the planetary system of Ghlumes, one month away from XYLOS, the biggest thieves among them are regarded as heroes, and carried in triumph after each one of their exploits. As a result, Sizzling Amphibian society is a giant chaos where no one ever respects the law.
They crave attention, permanently need to be in the spotlight, and are capable of the worst in order to get noticed. It came as quite a surprise to the Scientific Consistory of Remote Relations, when they discovered that She-Sizzling Amphibians feed their young with a thick, syrupy milk, highly charged in static electricity...
They attribute to this peculiarity the reason why Sizzlers’ skin sizzles as soon as they try to draw attention to themselves...
The noise they produce is not unlike that of a slice of veal sizzling in a frying pan. Some of the most gifted among them manage to emit high voltage sparks all around them.
A Sizzler by night, especially when he’s out on the prowl looking for a date, rarely goes unnoticed...
Life on Ghlomoo is sweet and easy, what with food in abundance, and a very mild climate. Altogether lacking any morals, and blessed with a strong power of conviction, Sizzling Amphibians generally succeed in business ventures, where their taste for negotiation and theft turn them into dangerous opponents and forces to be reckoned with.
She-Sizzlers are very much favored by adventurous men out for an adrenalin rush.
People say their embrace truly is like no other.
Glafieux Abroyers adore them – so much so that they sometimes have to go into rehab to overcome this, as they're highly addictive.
The GUILD – which always has the greater good at heart, and works hard at getting the very best from each species of the Universe, turned them into ministers, whores, jesters, stand-up comedians, flute players, and sporting clubs managers (especially football and rude-bhyh clubs). In the old country, only mothers and their children remain, along with old males and females who can hardly sizzle at all any more.
Great-Zozipos are on average 2 meters 40 tall, and are extremely thin. All those who ever saw up close some of these strange characters, equipped with two long wading bird’s legs and a long, curvy neck that seems to be sprouting from a huge flaccid grouch bag, were always disorientated.
The long beak on their small round head is a problem, for it is sharp and pointy, and Zozipos tend to shake it rather a lot while talking to one another, beak-to-beak (which leads to countless casualties, when their conversation with someone unaware of the risks becomes animated). If you’ve never seen two Zozipos launched into a philosophical debate, you just don’t know what you’re missing.
It can last for weeks, for VL-Sun months even, without ever faltering, and go on unto death, whether from dehydration or exhaustion. The GUILD hesitated for a long time before incorporating ZOZIPPE, planet of Zozipos, into the Empire. What can you do with individuals who spend their lives wading in marshes, feeding on fish and frogs, and whose main pursuit is philosophy ?... The GUILD, especially at the dawning of its history, did not have any use for philosophy. Particularly Zozipian philosophy, which bears no relation to the one we know, and mainly consists in debating on why God invented the number Pi...
Too busy conquering new territories, the Guild rejected Zozippe’s file sixteen times. Upon the seventeenth attempt, a Board of investigation finally went there and came back, by sheer miracle, with a favorable opinion. The aforementioned Commission had indeed discovered that this passion for philosophy and for exchanging views had led Zozipos to bilocate, i.e. to astral-project in such a way that they could actually be, in flesh and blood, in several places at once (three at the most) - sometimes in places very far away from one another - so as to carry on three different debates simultaneously.
Thanks to this gift, which happens to be extremely rare in the Universe, Zozipos were accepted into the Confederation, and were drafted by the Secret Service. They proved lousy agents in the field, by the way, mainly because of their irrepressible tendency to discuss anything and everything, and to waste their time in unnecessary chitchat.
Their life expectancy being generally of over 800 years, they all were disengaged, and were swiftly sent back to their homeland of Zozippe with a hefty retirement fund.
Any traveler searching for exotic locations should enjoy visiting this charming planet, and will be greeted in the most welcoming manner, for people there just love making new acquaintances. They basically keep open house (their homes are generally roomy and filled with many living rooms), and will offer all kinds of delicious fish, cooked in over a hundred different ways. Guests should always wear a sword-fighter’s helmet, though, so as to avoid unwanted beak marks due to overwhelmingly effusive greetings.
In our next volume, we shall evoke the PURPLE GUARD corps - spearhead of the Empire - and its importance in this saga ; and we will continue to describe for you some representative peoples such as BOATMEN-QUINCETREERS, Haddô from the system of Gnu, Boloph from planet Bolopfiz, Protogamets of La Crousth, and, if we still have time for them, Mouthcephales from Bousbbhyr (Planet of the Pleasures)...
Cover picture by J. RIBERA
Texts and drawings by C.GODARD
Translation courtesy of E.METAIN