Saturday, January 30, 2016

Around Again It Comes--Part 6

The carriage made its way down the Great Stony Way.  Rhea glanced out the window nervously.  "Do not worry, milady," said Porone Belltower pleasantly.  "We should reach the safehouse shortly.  It's quite secure.  And my staff assures me the rooms have been cleaned since the Lady Ashurana's... spoiling of several of them."

The young Erl nodded sadly.  "Well, that's..."  She sighed.  "I'm sorry.  I just can't help worrying about mother."

The chubby merchant smiled at that.  "Oh, I wouldn't worry.  The Madame Armida is a woman of great resources, and skill." He patted Rhea's hand pleasantly.  "She will be fine."

Rhea shut her eyes. "I hope so, but...  Well, this is risky.  She says it isn't, but it is.  I mean... Lady Ashurana is..."

"Mad?" finished up Porone.  "Certainly.  But also clever.  And again, your mother has not done what she has by following mad leads."

"If you say so," muttered Rhea with a sigh.  Her eyes opened, and she looked out the window again.  "It's... very grey out, isn't it?"

"It usually is in autumn," answered Porone.

"Not in the Folly," said Rhea, a smile coming to her lips.  "There's always color and life there, even in winter."

Porone smiled at her.  "There are many fine places in the world, my dear.  And many fine cities."

Rhea leaned back in her seat.  "I suppose.  But only one place is home."

"To you," said Porone.  "I think you will find most places are home to someone."  He blinked.  "Except for the Weeping Waste of course.  Not even beasts can survive there."  He shuddered.  "A terrible place.  Truly terrible."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Around Again It Comes--Part 5

The two tall Cthonique Guards strode on the wall the wind raising their massive black cloaks behind them.  They walked a way in silence.  Finally one spoke.  "Chilly out, eh?" he noted.

His companion, a heavily bearded Jotun stared at him for a moment.  "I have known it to be colder."

"Well... obviously," said the other.  "So have I!"  He gestured to himself.  "I mean Moutain Erl and all that... but... well, that doesn't mean it can't be chilly out now, right?  Even if I have known colder days."

The Jotun regarded him for a moment, then sighed and continued down the way.  "If you say so."

"I do," said the Mountain Erl.  "I do say that.  This is a chilly day!  Am I understood?"  The Jotun nodded.  "Right.  I'm glad we settled that..."  The Mountain Erl blinked.  "I just realized I don't know your name."

"Just now you are realizing this," said the Jotun.

"Well, you know, we walk back and forth in silence so long," he noted.  "I've just gotten use to your presence, without actually... knowing your name."

The Jotun chuckled.  "Hymir Snake-in-the-eye," he said.

The Moutain Erl nodded.  "Right.  I'm..."

"Sindri Stoneshoe," said Hymir quietly.  "I did not say I did not know your name."

Sindri coughed.  "Ahh."  They walked on in silence once again.  "So..." said Sindri, "been in the Guard long?"

"Long enough," said Hymir. 

Sindri contemplated that, and decided to treat it as an answer.  "Six months, myself," he said.  "Joined when I heard about the War starting up."  He looked at Hymri significantly.  "You know.  THE War."  Hymir nodded and gave a grunt.  "You do know about the War, right?"

Hymir rolled his eyes.  "Yes, I know about the war that is occuring."

"Ahh," said Sindri with anod.  "Well, that's why I decided to join the Guard."

"As previously indicated," said Hymir.

"Exactly," agreed Sindri.  He glanced at the Jotun, and noted the definite beginnings of a scowl.  "Should... should we just march on in silence?"  Hymir made no response.  Sindri glanced away.  "Right.  Marching on in silence."  He heard Hymir making a noise that sounded rather close to a growl.

He decided not to comment on it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Around Again It Comes--Part 4

Eurydice glanced around the dank hallway, and took a sniff.  "Oh, you can smell it on the wind."  She glanced at Echidnae Bluebell.  "And you've only NOW realized this."

Echidnae glanced nervously at her feet.  "Well... you know we hardly ever go down here..."  She coughed.  "It's easy to miss."

Eurydice leaned forward.  "So, let me get this straight, Bluebell..."  Echidnae gulped.  When her friend and superior used her last name it meant she was going to emphasize the second aspect of their relationship.  "Your effort at explaining how you've allowed this HORROR to happen is to explain it away with negligence."  Eurydice gave her little head a shake.  "This is unacceptable."

"I'm sorry," squeaked Echidnae. "It will never happen again."

"It better not," snapped Eurydice.  "An entire wing of Castle Terribel infested with bedbugs!"   Eurydice placed her hands on her hips.  "Bedbugs!  The filthiest, most awful bugs imaginable!"  She shut her eyes.  "I don't think the Castle has faced such a dire threat in my memory!"

"What about the time they tried to blow it up?" muttered Echidnae.  "I mean--you have to remember that.  I do."

Eurydice looked to the heavens--or the ceiling of the room, which truth be told, she held in similar regard.  "Not as much of threat!  It wouldn't have worked, and anyway, blowing up the castle would just... damage bits of it at worst.  But bedbugs... bedbugs infest the Castle systematically, turning it into their own home, and making it intolerable for us--the true inhabitants!"  She glanced around the room, and sniffed again.  "They are my family's wiliest foe."  Eurydice bit her lip.  "Well, them and cockroaches.  It is a tight match there."

Echidnae stared for a moment, and then coughed.  "Of course.  So... I am very sorry for failing to keep guard against your family's... wiliest foe.  Aside from cockroaches."

Eurydice nodded.  "Apology provisionally accepted."  She turned, beginning to march away.  "Now, let's get to work.  Break out the Ancient Mummy Dust, and the anti-insect hexes!  We are going to be working on this all night!"  She raised a fist.  "Ha!  Those who threaten Castle Terribel are going to learn that the Fideles are always on alert!"

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Around Again It Comes--Part 3

"Ahh!  There we go!"   Nisrioch stepped back and nodded as he regarded the massive collection of glass spheres he'd hung from the room's ceiling with certain measure of satisfaction.  "Perfect!" he declared with an epic nod.

The children watching him nearby stared in awe for a long time.  "Wuzzit do?" asked a small girl at last.

Nisrioch turned to his audience, beaming.  "Why I am so glad that you asked that!" he proclaimed loudly.  "This is an astrological device of my own devising that allows me to detect the rhythms of the spheres, and make accurate predictions as to the future."  He grinned broadly. "All from a single room!"   He glanced back at his apparatus.  "Many fellow practicioners require multiple rooms!  Anzhad the Black had a whole house built for his!"

The children stared at him, uncomprehending.  "So howzzit work?" asked the small girl.

"Oh, it is frightfully and horrifically complicated, and would likely make your little unprepared child brains explode if I explained it in detail," said Nisrioch.  "Literally."  The children shifted glancing at each other.  They weren't quite certain what the tall man meant by this, but they sensed that it was somehow... neat, and they wished to hear more. "Still, essentially, this lets me see the future, through the careful examination of signs and portents..."  The children blinked as one.  Nisrioch cleared his throat.  "Essentially, when something odd happens with this, it lets me tell when something odd is going to happen in the world at large."

A little boy raised his hand.  "Is that something odd?" he noted, pointing to a sphere in a corner that had begun to spin in strange circles of its own accord.

"Exceedingly so..." began Nisrioch, only to stop as the sphere suddenly tore loose from the ceiling, hurtled towards several others that were knocked askew, and then tore themselves loose in turn.  Soon, most of his handiwork was flying to the floor  Nisrioch muttered a simple spell of protection as the room suddenly became filled with shards of glass. 

After it was done he stared at the wreckage.  "Was that bad?" asked the inquisitive little girl.

"Very bad" said Nisrioch quietly.  He turned to the children again.  "Now--who wants to go get cookies with Nissy?"

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Around Again It Comes--Part 2

"Yep, a good Midwinter this year," declared Morgaine loudly, as she leaned over the balcony.  "Everything went well.  Very well."

Elaine stared at her aunt for a moment.  "You know," she noted eventually, "I would fee a lot more comfortable if you didn't say things like that."

Morgaine managed a truly epic snort.  "Oh come on!  Are you actually saying that my saying that things are good will magically render them... ungood?"

"Well," noted Elaine with a nervous bite of her lip, "you will admit that there's a tendency for statements on good things to... jinx matters."

The previous snort was now topped by a truly extraordinary laugh.  "Oh, oh, Elaine..."  She chuckled and shook her head.  "You have had a neglected education.  Next I expect you're going to toss salt over your shoulder.  To avert the evil eye."

Elaine sighed.  "You're just being awful right now.  So I'm going to ignore you."  She shut her eyes, and began to hum loudly.

"Sure that will help," said Morgaine.  Elaine continued to hum.  "I mean--do you think that there's some sort of awful thing coming at us now, because I said things were going fine, and it will hit, because I said that, and we will all be sad, and I will shout at the top of my lungs, 'Oh, I wish I had not said that things were going well this Midwinter!  Alack and alay!'"  Elaine paused in her humming.  "Well, do you?"

"Well, no," said Elaine.  "Because you'd never say 'alack and alay', in a serious conversation."

Morgaine pointed at her.  "I might," she stated.  "You can't be sure of that."

Elaine raised an eyebrow.  "Yes, I can."

"Okay, okay," agreed Morgaine, waving her hand.  "I'll give you that one.  But come on!  Can we agree that this is just... ridiculous?  The world does not work that way." She gave a forceful nod.  "At all."

"You are just bucking for a metaphorical lightning bolt," muttered Elaine.

Morgaine shrugged.  "Ehhh, as long as I'm not standing under a metaphorical tree, I should be fine..."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Around Again It Comes--Part 1

The little group made their way through the tunnel.

"Well, this is... cozy," chirped Arsinoe, a thin blonde Erl from the Fangs, as they marched forward. 

Her sister Leucippe rolled her eyes at this.  "Oe, it's a dank hole in the ground.  That we are very slowly moving through.  In the dark."

"Well, yes, yes," she said.  "But consider the ambience."

"Being dank and dark is called ambience now?" muttered Leucippe.

"It can be," declared Arsinoe.

"If you will both shut up now," muttered Armida, rubbing the bridge of her nose, "no one will have to have portions of their anatomy broken."

The sisters gave a squeak and then quieted.  A smaller, darker figure standing next to Armida frowned.  "I thought we were following you to put an end to that sort of thing," she noted.

Armida winced.  "We are, Semele. I was just... irritated."  She glanced at the sisters.  "My apologies."

The pair nodded swiftly.  "It's all right," muttered Leucippe quietly.

"Yes, yes," said Arsinoe.  "It is just your righteous indignation, Agate, which makes you so righteous, and so terrible, in the good sort of way, which is why we follow you without hesitation or fear."

Armida turned away, continuing up the tunnel.  "Suck-up," whispered Leucippe.

"Attempting to avoid summary justice, sister," hissed Arsinoe, while nervously glancing ahead to their leader.

Semele looked at Armida and Tisiphone, both quietly leading their fellows through the darkness. "So... did Miss Crazyskirts tell you about this, or did you two find this during that time  they held the Council of Shadows here, or... what?"

"Or what," answered Tisiphone.

Semele bit her lip.  "You know--don't take this the wrong way, boss, but the air of mystery that surrounds this entire affair is pretty ominous.  And not in a good way."

"Your objections are noted," said Armida.

Semele nodded. "Not that you care," she added.

"Correct," agreed Armida.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Pages from the Cthonique Library: The Chivalrous Warriors

Amusing tale of a rag tag bunch of Chivalrous Warriors who blunder about on comical adventures, losing great sums of money in foolish wagers, and in essence, acting very poorly by the standards of Chivalrous Warriors.

Chivalrous Warriors love the novel, which they insist shows quite accurately how poorly behaved members of their class act.

Members who are not them.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Map of the Western Isles

Map created by the famed explorer Ion Maduc, which claim to show isles far to the west that he visited.  The truth of this claim has never been verified.  Maduc later disappeared on another voyage to the west.  His final fate remains unknown.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Pages from the Cthonique Library: The Book of Mountains.

A lengthy collection of beautifully rendered watercolors of mountains, painted in the classical style.  The mountains here include peaks in the Fangs, smaller peaks in the Mountains of Woe, and a few from ranges not identified.  The author is a mystery, their reason for creating it, even more so.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pages from the Cthonique Library: The Palace of the Silver Lion

One of the great plays of the Southern Kingdom, now tragically composed largely of fragments, with the missing parts now supplied from a pastiche ('The Lady of the Palace') written centuries later by an author who had access to the whole play.  The story tells of a Princess who has a great palace built for her, wherein her word is law, and of her tragic romance with a laborer therein. 

It ends with the Princess discovering that the law is a poor protection at times...

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Abraxas' Ballads

A fine collection of popular songs of the Lands of Night and their variations.  Abraxas, a Hardfoot, compiled them in his travels from around the lands, a labor of love for which he was hounded and mocked by many of his own religious brothers, who felt he should spend more time on his work on religious paradoxes.  The resulting volumes are classics and the most well-beloved thing Abraxas ever wrote.

The work on religious paradoxes is significantly less popular.  Even among people who like that sort of thing.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Pages From the Cthonique Library: The Endless Hills

An exceedingly meritorious work about a virtuous family of small farmers the Accursed Mountains and their struggles to survive.  Well-loved, endlessly praised, and seldom read, one latter-day critic has been known to state that one finds oneself wishing the entire family would fall into a well and stay there.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Where the Mother Wept

The classic novel that retells the story of the Dark Lordship of the Crossing, from its founding, to its rise to a regional power, to its sudden shocking fall in a war against the Shadow Woods, focusing on the Dark Lord Ancyl Mongrane, last free Dark Lord of the Crossing, and his slow, sad death in exile.