The Velvet Men, they do not think the way you and I think. They do not perceive the way you and I perceive. They are Other. They are as unlike the Giants as they are unlike the Lesser Races. They do not bleed when pricked and they do not laugh when happy. They are never happy.
Living Memory does not include them; their minds are as smoke and mirrors, if indeed they have minds at all (for who can say, when Living Memory provides no answer?) Their tales and legends run back century over century, ten thousand years or more, yet always their supposed truths are twisted into incomprehensibility. Zoetics call them abomination; pelagics call them pitiful; materialists call them useless.
Here is the tale of the Incense Children, as one of the Velvet Men might tell it.
There was a man and he met some birds and screwed them over.
There was a man and he was a woodchopper.
Or most likely
There was a woodchopper —
–Shut up. He lived in a forest and he met birds.
–Shut up. The birds gave him things, but they wanted something in return.
–Shut up. They gave him milk and a tool and some shoes.
–Shut up. They told him where the witch was.
–Shut up. The witch bribed him.
–Shut up. She had the birds in cages.
–Shut up. The witch said he could take whatever he wanted.
–Shut up. And the birds, they were really children.
–It doesn’t matter anyway. None of this matters.
It’s therefore difficult to extract from them a true measure of the extent of their history. According to them, they were spun from the wool of the Great Lambsheaded Mountain, which they claim is located deep within the hinterland of their home island. Given the small size and flat terrain of Velvetland, however, this is a doubtful prospect. The Velvet Men will, if permitted, go on to claim that the Great Lambsheaded Mountain is a geographic feature of the noosphere, not the physical world: it is the concept of a mountain, not a material mountain. In fact, given time, the Velvet Men will decry the very concept of having been formed from material as vulgar and gross.
Scholars observe in the Velvet Men the plain results of high magick, for surely animate mannikins of solid velvet bear the marks of an origin unnatural. A fully erect Velvet Man stands nine feet high, towering over an immature giant, but such posture drains the Velvet Man’s stamina. Commonly Velvet Men lounge, loll, or lie supine. They need not eat, drink, or sleep, and indeed cannot. Nor can they use most tools, for the long thin fingers of their long thin hands posses no strength; a Velvet Man holding a letter-opener is a Velvet Man straining with all his might.
“His,” we say, for the Velvet Men self-identify as male and are called so by courtesy. They possess nothing obviously resembling primary or secondary sexual characteristics (no genitalia, no whiskers) but, as Xiphias Windcutter (first to meet the Velvet Men, in DY 706) observed, such characteristics would only be clear in a population of both sexes.
The popular consensus holds that some rogue scholar prior to Living Memory’s beginning fled northward from civilization, either the Diamond Isle or, going back far enough, Old Habadad. There she or he came to the island of Velvetland and wrought the Velvet Men to be servants and slaves. If this is true, the work must have been called failure, for the Velvet Men have many many limitations as workers and few virtues. That no scholar has ever stepped forward to claim authorship, or descendence from authorship, is called by some proof positive of this theory. Who would admit to having deliberately created a so-called race of a few dozen invalid cloth statues?
Zoeticism made no provision for the crafting of animates over a span of more than a few minutes. The Velvet Men have lasted, their number neither increasing nor depleting, for more than seven hundred years. The Velvet Men also lack, or seem to lack, tacents. Therefore it becomes increasingly implausible for the Velvet Men to have predated the Landing. Xiphias Windcutter has been accused by some of creating the “race” in flawed imitation of the Lamplighters’ flawed experiments, but the memories encoded by Xiphias into Living Memory lack support for this theory.
SEE ALSO: the Incense Children, Xiphias Windcutter, the Zoetic Mystics