StoryEarth is comprised of the central, urban area called The Preservation Precinct. This is where all the stories are kept whole and consistent, where the Players embody characters in the stories, and where the Precinct Agents keep everything in strict order.
Surrounding the Preservation Precinct is a region called Ddrym, and its inhabitants are looked down upon by most Precinct folk because of their ‘backward ways.’
Despite the split in cultures, in Storyearth, babies come come into being one of three different ways, depending on the circumstance.
1. PRIMAL BABIES
One way for a StoryEarth baby to come into being is as the offspring of a heterosexual couple. On StoryEarth they are known as Primal Babies. Male and female beings join, and babies grow in the belly of the female. The baby is born after a time, but the gestation time depends on the mother’s heritage: If she’s from the Precinct, her body decides, and gestation will be anywhere from eight to ten months.
If she’s Ddrymmian, the baby decides when they’re complete. They might be ready after six weeks. Or it might take longer than a year. There is no telling in Ddrym.
Although the Preservation Precinct tries to maintain freedom from bias, everyone knows that primal children receive preferential status and end up as either high level executives in the Administration, or they get plum Player positions.
2. CEREMONIAL BABIES
The second way for a StoryEarth baby to come into being—and this only happens in Ddrym—is through ceremony. These babies can be born to anyone who meets the requirements, but because of those requirements, they are most often born to same sex couples.
Ddrymmians hold them in very high regard because of how much intention, action, and cooperation from the unkown must coalesce for them to be born. Deep desire for a child must be present. And then, the person/couple/village involved, the grasses under the parents’ feet when they speak the wish aloud, the wind, and the Rascal Star Galaxy must all align in one fateful moment for the process to begin.
The process involves the parent(s) to give seven offerings to their communities:
a substantial gift of time that benefits the society (work in forestry or roads, tending animals, erecting shelters/buildings, etc.),
a substantial gift of time caring for existing children,
a substantial gift of time caring for cantakerous elders,
a vial of gulikar (tears from imaginary animals, which must be gathered while they sleep. It’s a practice that requires infinite skill and patience. There is a whole industry around this product and practice),
blood, (spilled either in rescue attempts, or given freely to someone in need)
breath, (usually—but not necessarily—offered in the form of gratitude songs), and
a one-year-old green Stika plant in full flower, raised by the couple from seed.
When all those conditions are met, a ceremony is performed to invite the child into being. The parents stand at the center of a great circle formed by the members of the community who wish to participate. The parents have brought the Stika plant and set it between them at their feet. As they maintain eye contact with each other, the outer circle sways side to side, humming, until they start stepping to the left over and over. They hum, low and sweet. The humming can last all night, or for many days in a row. When the spirit moves them, the parents will sing out something to the effect of:
Come little baby, come to us.
We’ve got a place for you.
(Whatever words move them.) The parental song is repeated for however long it feels right. This humming and singing continues until everyone falls into a deep trance—and they all lie down where they’ve been standing, feet toward the outside, heads toward the center. If you were to see it from above, it would look like a great sunflower. The parents lie down facing one another, with the plant between them, and fall asleep.
If the ceremony goes one way, upon awakening, the Stika plant is still there and the circle must unwind itself with the same action, only stepping to the right, singing,
Oh little baby, not today.
Feel your wisdom, find your way.
Us today, oh us today.
Let’s feel our wisdom, find our way.
If the ceremony goes another way, upon awakening, the parents hear the baby’s mewling noises between them, and the plant has disappeared. Great joy ensues, and StoryEarth has a new little being in her midst. The circle approaches, crawling tenderly and slowly — getting as close as possible to the threesome at the center, humming. They take turns blessing the little one, and the humming continues as, very gradually, the circle finally disperses.
The Precinct does not acknowledge the existence of Ceremonial Babies. They contend that the babies were probably conceived in an illegitimate coupling and this is a Ddrymmian custom for preventing shame. This view is only one of the many ways in which Precinct and Ddrymmians differ.
3. STING BABIES
The third way for a StoryEarth child to come into being is at the end of Sting Season, which lasts eleven days. During those days, there is indiscriminate joining between lovers.
Sting Season renders it impossible to know who fathered or mothered a Sting baby, as no one has ever witnessed its birth. The babies are simply discovered in the forest on the last (the eleventh) day of the season, already wrapped in faeriecloth and placed at the base of ancient trees. It is thought that there is faerie involvement in their making because of the special sensitivity they exhibit later in life to the faerie world. But that remains conjecture at the beginning of this story.
Sting babies are said to have been born to a no-couple. As soon as they are fully in this world, they begin their ‘pulling.’ Instinctively, each sends out a fequency that pulls a particular individual. A different one for each. If you were in StoryEarth on the eleventh day of Sting Season, especially in Ddrym, you might feel an irresistable urge to go into the forest. Your skin would sting, but the sting would subside the closer you got to the little being pulling you.
When you go, when you answer the ‘pull’ until you find your Sting baby, you become part of that year’s Gathering.
Anyone can be pulled by a Sting baby, but Ddrymmians are the most open to the pull. Because Stings come into being in the forest surrounding the Precinct, sometimes, they are just found by the compassionate patrols sent out by residents of Blakes House—a living complex for Precinct Worker couples. These couples have difficulty conceiving, so they live at Blakes House to be near the forest during Sting Season.
At the end of the eleventh day, they will go in search of a foundling—shocked that Ddrymmians would leave their infants at the mercy of whoever walked by. They see themselves as rescuers, and if they find one and bring it home, they are given the title “Orticas,” as they are considered powerful healing agents for the little foundlings from Sting Season. Those who are paired with a foundling (or several foundlings) are usually a fairly decent fit, though not always.
No matter how a baby is born on StoryEarth, they all undergo the same basic training in schools, learning the Precinct rules, developing a respect for the integrity of Story, the crucial importance of Players, and the authority of Preservation Precinct Agents. Also, whether Ddrymmian or Precinct, they are imbued with the desire to serve StoryEarth in whatever manner becomes most appropriate when they’re grown. All of them have a chance at any spot in StoryEarth. But not all of them know it.