The Watchers of the Stones are a cadre of telepathic-sensitive volunteers who tend and watch the Singing Stones on Nephestal.
The Watchers are a close-knit group with a long tradition that predates the Scattered Worlds entirely. Before the Pyslistroph, the Coruman seer Taryhensh founded a Stone-watching priesthood on the planet Glebanac. Some form of Watching has gone on ever since. The great Daamin seers -- Crettim Bruv and her descendants -- used the Singing Stones in combination with the Forever Dreams.
In the time of the Empire of the Iaranor, many Iaranori grew interested in the Stones. The formal Watchers, however, did not begin until many million years after the Iaranori ruled. Aartak Mykal of Treplith Wat was the first to organize the Watchers, at about 300 million BCE; she was also the first non-Daamin since Taryhensh to have a say in the maintenance of the Stones.
At first the Watchers were a small band, closely allied with the Galactic Riders; their main work involved search-and-rescue operations in the increasingly-trafficked Scattered Worlds.
Sometime before 200 million BCE, the Watchers began to do scientific inquiry, and by 150 million BCE they had located nearly 200 new civilizations -- including three that had never discovered star travel.
The formal organization of the Watchers developed slowly, with most volunteers being drawn from the ranks of the Riders, the various schools of Nephestal, and not a few from the Secluded Realm. The community of Watchers usually numbers between thirty and one hundred, of which perhaps half are Daamin. The entire community elects a leader/co-ordinator, usually a lifetime position (or, at least, until voluntary retirement). This co-ordinator is called the High Enlightened, and is responsible for standing between the Watchers and the demands of the world. By tradition, the High Enlightened is seldom a Daamin.
The Daamin Watchers, as always, are formally referred to as "Elder" or "Wise One." Other Watchers have the title "Maestro." In conversation among themselves, the preferred terms are "cousin" (casual), "Maestro" (formal), or "Sagacity" (most formal.)
Although individual Watchers are free to persue any line of investigation they wish (and, indeed, are free to withdraw from the Community entirely), most will follow requests from the High Enlightened -- who in turn passes along questions originating with the Council of Free Peoples or the various Schools.
Watchers' etiquette is highly formalized. It is considered improper to eavesdrop on another's mental state, or to discuss another's investigations unless the other volunteers information or asks for help. It is highly improper to use the Stones for one's own gain, and most improper to spy upon one's fellow Watchers with the Stones.
A Watcher who has misused its ability may be judged -- by the whole Community -- and if the Community is decided against it, it may appeal to the Council of the Free Peoples. The penalty is swift and cruel: the Watcher is cut off from the Stones by a mental screen somewhat like the Curtain of the Hlutr. To one who has heard the song of the Stones, this is a penalty worse than death.
On rare occasions, a Watcher so interdicted will be able to regain contact despite the Community's curtain. In those cases, the Watcher may be forgiven . . . or summarily executed.
Apprentice Watchers come from all over the Scattered Worlds. Most folk are unable to read, even a little, the music of the Stones -- those who are perceptive enough to become apprentices must find a Watcher willing to sponsor them. Training is long and hard, with many dropouts -- a Watcher's discipline is unremitting and few can make the grade.
copyright (c) 2008, Don Sakers
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