Monthly Archives: April 2012
The stench was unbearable. Mirrortac’s paws were tied behind his back and he was up to his neck in it – a muddy cold green slime. What a way to treat a distant cousin, although there was the small matter of the theft of these people’s most treasured and sacred object – the Werdstone. But he blamed Phantac for that. It was he who set him on another mission without fully explaining the consequences of such an action. It had all seemed an easy matter from the First Heaven where the hard realities of life in the physical plane were mere abstractions. In the here and now, hardly able to move in a bog hole, and nauseous from inhaling the smell of the putrid plant matter, the First Heaven was fast fading into dreamland.
This book is still being written. This is how it begins.
They reappeared beside the hut and sat down in the soft grass. Mirrortac was feeling thirsty and went to the old well to fetch himself some water. He looked into it and saw the water level was about half an erfin-length from the top. He leant over the side and cupped his hand into the cool water below. The water was stale and bitter to the taste but it would quench his thirst. He wiggled over the ground until he was comfortable. His belt scraped against the rim and, as he reached in to gather some of the water, the sword dislodged from its sheath and slipped out, splashing into the well. He snatched at the submerging blade but had to let go as the blade cut into his fingers. Mirrortac muttered an erfin curse at it as all of Moongleam dunked out of sight.
As he stared after the sword, he could see the metal dissolve away in a flurry of bubbles and the water boil an ugly yellow. He jumped back out of the well and hit his head on the timber support above. Through dazed eyesight, he could see symbols written upon the timber but could not decipher them.
‘Beth!’ he called, holding his sore head with bleeding fingers.
The woman ran to him, gasping with concern when she saw the blood. ‘Mirrortac! Thou hath wounded thyself.’
‘What are these symbols? Can you read this?’ he asked, dismissing her attention to his wounds.
Beth wet a lump of earth and placed it upon the erfin’s head and fingers. ‘T’is a nasty lomp thee hath, sir. Ye morst take more care. Thou wouldst nowt wont to lose thy body here.’
‘The soreness will heal,’ he said with annoyance. ‘Now, tell me what these symbols represent. I have lost my sword in that damned well and the water has eaten it by the means of some sorcery.’
‘Sorcery? Thy sword?’ She gave him a questioning look and laughed. ‘T’is best rid of, thy sword. T’is but an instrument of death.’
Mirrortac pouted at her with irritation. ‘The symbols? What do they mean?’ he insisted.
Beth turned her attention to the wood and its faded symbols. She peered at it for a few moments then spoke. ‘The symbols say “Well of Lost Memories”,‘ she said, then added with a cheeky grin. ‘Well sir, methinks thy sword be but a Lost Memory now!’ she howled, and then glancing down into the well, her interest was caught by something floating on the water.
‘Thy sword ist a memory but there ist some rod or a stick floating in it. Hath thee lost anything else?’
Mirrortac leant over the well and looked in. As Beth had said, upon the surface of the water floated a long rod of silver metal. There were ornamental knobs on either end and at the centre of it and he could see familiar symbols etched upon its polished cylindrical sides. He reached down and fumbled with the smooth metal until he had a firm grasp of one end. Then he plucked it out of the water and lifted it to the light. Whatever the rod may have been, it was well crafted and provoked a strange air of familiarity to the erfin. He examined it closely, rolling the near erfin-length of rod between his thick fingers. As though it was his own, Mirrortac enfolded his hand around the central knob, locking his fingers neatly into the form. He swirled it and handled it with a deftness that surprised Beth. Beth’s eyes widened as she stared at the erfin and the rod, exchanging knowing glances with Roderick and beaming at Mirrortac with awe.
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The dull red of the unmoving sun was the only light that penetrated the fog reaches of the wood. Mirrortac scanned the black tree shapes for danger and, although he saw none, he felt apprehensive and giddy. He looked down at the silver tablet in his hand and for a moment, blinked at it thinking: ‘Now, what is that doing there?’ The sorcery had started to affect him already, making concentration difficult. ‘If I cross the woods at speed, the danger of it will pass quickly,’ he thought, starting to quicken his pace until he was running at a steady rate, regularly consulting the tablet to remind him of his purpose.
‘What am I doing?’ he thought, unable to remember why he was running and what he was doing in these woods. The erfin stopped and stood lost for thought. ‘These are…what are these? I do not…who?’ He sagged to the ground with his head in a muddle. He had forgotten everything, even his own name and the reason he was in the woods. He racked his brain to recall thoughts that eluded him just beyond mind.
A broken harsh voice shouted out of the fog. ‘Follow me!’ the voice said. ‘Follow me!’ it repeated. And as Mirrortac raised his eyes, he saw an old man wearing a tatty brown robe. The old man sauntered in his general direction, leading a group of bent over and dejected Nerthulians, all dressed in their rags and mumbling and shaking their heads. ‘Follow me!’ the old man kept shouting, waving his arms about in exaggerated movements and staring in front of him with glassy blind eyes. By some mindless rational, Mirrortac responded to the old man’s call and joined the group at the end of the queue, marching behind them as they strayed aimlessly through the woods.
Around and around the souls wandered in their eternal pathway of despair, mumbling meaningless dirges to themselves. Mirrortac followed, engrossed in his own confused mutterings until the blind old man staggered headlong into a tree and tried to walk up it. The band of souls sprawled into the old man and tumbled into a mass of arms and legs, crawling over each other as though they had all been struck blind. Mirrortac tripped and fell, passing right through the soul of a woman who lay in front of him. His head hurt and he lifted his hand to feel the bruise. The silver tablet passed before his eyes and recognition dawned in his consciousness.
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The castle of Hopocus consisted of many stairways and halls and passages that led into various rooms all lit by the dim yellow glow of torches that burned with a flame that could not be extinguished. Mirrortac was taken into a medium-sized room – perhaps six or seven erfin-lengths square – under one of the turrets. There he was surprised to see a five-pointed inverted star drawn into the centre of the stone floor. A circle was drawn around the star and many strange symbols inscribed about it. Tapestries depicting the likenesses of monsters draped most of the walls. At the far end of the room was a thick pile of half-decayed animal hide on which reclined the stumpy form of a half naked demi-god, exposing a pale hairless belly above earth-coloured oversized trousers, which were tied at the ankles. The sorcerer had the same wraith-like eyes as the sorceress and a thin covering of white hair on his head. He smiled at the erfin between chipped and broken teeth, patting the head of a creature that rested at his elbow. The creature moaned and its eyes flashed open as it sniffed the presence of a stranger. It snarled at Mirrortac between a jawful of tusks, regarding him with tiny yellow eyes.
‘Em-BAH! Ye shalt nowt feast on this one, ye hear!’ scolded the sorcerer.
The shaggy boar-like creature quieted and grunted a mild protest before going back to sleep. The sorcerer glanced briefly up at the sorceress standing near him then grinned thickly at the erfin.
‘Helok, this ist our erfin then?’ he said.
‘Yea, that ist he. Quite the emotional one, thee ist,’ Helok said, her face contorted into a scowling half-smile.
The sorcerer passed his eyes over the erfin and burped.
‘Hmmf! Emotional! Whence hath they nowt being emotional?’
‘Thou ist right, Krak. They art all emotional!’ she spluttered.
Both of them broke into hysterical laughter and the creature snorted, raising one eye before replacing its head upon its forepaws. Mirrortac felt revulsion. There was a distinct odour of rotten meat and fruit in the room.
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Mirrortac felt as though he was in some magnificent dream that was not a dream. He strolled alongside his she-erfin through the faint green lit glades of the Enchanted Blue Forest. Animals gathered around them and danced into the air, defying the force of the air and logic. Water appeared from out of the earth, forming into droplets that slipped up like rain in reverse, pouring up into a clear green sky; stones crawled up the yellow trunks of trees. Yenic smiled warmly.
‘We should give praise for this moment, you and I,’ she said. ‘With a cup of Merma-mead!’ She swept her fingers through the air, revealing a brown-gold chalice filled with the sweet whitish liquid. She took a few sips and passed the chalice to Mirrortac who drank some and passed it back to her. Yenic looked deeply into his eyes and gave a half-smile. Then she threw the cup into the air, saying – ‘Fly away pretty one!’ and the cup was magically transformed into a Cooit that flew up high into the tree tops.
Mirrortac could only marvel at these tricks, leaning his head on her shoulder and stroking her. She winked at him with a cheeky grin and danced off into the forest ahead of him. The erfin laughed and went after her as she jumped from tree to tree and swung suspended in the air. She giggled and grunted with delight, creating obstacles to slow him with her magical powers. Muddy puddles appeared under his feet and large boulders materialised in front of him.
The chase led them far into the forest where Yenic finally allowed herself to be captured. The erfin threw her down to the ground, panting and laughing. She giggled and blinked her eyes at him and, in an instant, he found himself perched high up on a branch. She appeared alongside him and took his hand.
‘Look! the forest ends,’ she said. ‘We must be away to the Castle of Hopocus. It is upon Fog Peak there.’ She pointed over a dark valley that was blanketed in a thick grey mist. The craggy peaks of several mountains poked up their heads above the mist and upon one of these rested the turrets and spires of a blue castle.
Mirrortac shivered. There was a sinister feel to the valley and its bleak mountains, quite different to the Enchanted Blue Forest, and the name Hopocus sounded vaguely familiar though he had never been to such a place.
‘Must we go to that place? It appears to be of darkness. I feel a strangeness lurks there.’ Mirrortac focussed pleading eyes upon her.
‘T’would seem darkness, my princeling but the castle is filled with wonders. And you must meet the Hopocus. Yea, you must meet the Hopocus. If you do not care to stay we will come back here to the forest. Is that not fairness?’ Yenic took his hand, stood up and smiled.
‘Yea, you would know this world better than I, sweetness,’ he said.
But Mirrortac was alarmed when she prepared to launch them both into the sky. ‘Yenic, be in memory that we cannot fly,’ he said, almost with apology.
She giggled. ‘Mirrortac of my heart. This is the Real World. If you decide to fly, you fly. Now take my hand and do not doubt.’
She jumped out into the sky, leaving Mirrortac gasping as he left the security of the branch. In moments they were already far into the air and only a tentative grip of her hand held him aloft. He flew alongside, magically and without the need of wings. Swiftly they glided upwards and over the mist clad valley. Peaks and stark silhouettes of trees passed beneath them and in the near distance, the blue castle of Hopocus speared the sky with its rows of turrets and spires. Stairways led up to the battlements and down into the courtyard where there was a fountain. Another pathway of stone stairs led down from the peak into the misty valley below. Mirrortac caught Yenic’s eyes and she looked back at him with a glint of strangeness in her stare.
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When Mirrortac had long lost count of the days, they sailed into a becalmed sea. Luma had assumed a similar path to that over Eol and the seasons were distinguishable. The air was cool and its freshness reminded the erfin of his old homeland. He thought of the gentle glades between the firs, the lush fields of nif-grass and the resolute snow-covered peaks of Elfa, Ohmga and Mateote. They had exchanged the tumu-Ra for refreshed residents of the sea that now rippled and swelled in gentle motion about them. But despite this peace there was a foreboding sense in the atmosphere. Mirrortac felt tightness in his stomach and a growing uneasiness. The serenetees felt it too and were concerned enough to bark new orders to the eeeps to sail eastering where they hoped to elude whatever unknown hazard loomed over this sea. The serenetees’ leader was agitated and barked at the eeeps several times without result. The others joined him in ordering the eeeps to obey but they were ignored. Mirrortac climbed onto the bow and peered at the five creatures. He barked at them with promises of fish but the creatures ignored him also and continued to drag the flut into the ominous calm waters. It seemed to him that the creatures were under some spell, focussing ahead as they did, fully concentrated on the distance, their beaks wearing false smiles and a shadow of darkness dwelling in their sad eyes. Mirrortac tried to meet their minds but was greeted instead with a dread that lifted up the hairs on his neck and sent cold shivers up his spine. As the Serenetees looked up, their faces visibly paled. A cloud of grey mist hung over the water ahead of them and Mirrortac shook his shaggy head in recognition.
‘The Mistness comes,’ he whispered to himself.
‘We be nearing the place now. Our mission will soon begin!’
The flut continued to sail toward the mist, taking the unwilling crew with it and an erfin who could not guess at what horrors he would soon face. And as the mist closed in around them, grey wisps curled up from the water like steam accompanied by an intense brooding silence. One of the serenetees yelped, jumping aside as some unseen spectre brushed by him. Mirrortac glanced nervously from side to side, expecting the worst. He squinted as a patch of mist swished past him. Green shapes flitted out of spaces in the grey and as the mist cleared, there was revealed a pebbly gold beach and a forest of tall firs climbing up and over a series of rolling hills and mountains. The serenetees sighed their relief. They all laughed and leapt clear of the flut, wading through the waist deep water until they stood upon the beach, grinning at each other and pleased with their discovery. However, the feeling of unease seemed to persist as though they had been tricked into feeling comfortable while some trap was being set for them. Perhaps they had all become too wary, Mirrortac thought, and started off on his own so he could be alone for the first time in countless days.
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Mirrortac searched the endless waves from horizon to horizon and finally caught sight of a long row of fins weaving from side to side towards the flut. The serenetees saw the fins too and exclaimed together ‘Gghorr!’ in a rough tone suggesting the hideous sound of what must be a monster. A huge head the size of the flut poked up above the waves and spied them. The creature’s eyes were almost opaque black and looked down a long snout that ended in a jagged point of flesh, angled over a jaw armed with a set of large carnivorous teeth. Its green serpentine body swayed and swirled behind it, untold erfin-lengths from snout to tail and much larger than even She, mother of all snerks. The Gghorr rushed at them through the water, sweeping the foamy water aside. Mirrortac unsheathed Moongleam and prepared for battle but one of the serenetees slapped his wrist and indicated that he should replace the sword in its scabbard. Despite what Shubek had said, the erfin still believed that monsters knew only one law – the law of kill or be killed. He had no intention of being killed but he decided to give the serenetee his due as a communicator with the creatures of the sea. He felt a conflict and rising panic as the Gghorr continued to surge toward them, opening its mighty jaws and eyeing them with black cold eyes. One of the Serenetees was perched on the bow in unruffled defiance, calmly surveying the menacing monster, which at any moment would crush the entire flut within its jaws and them with it. The monster roared a thunderous ‘GGHORRR!’ and the warm meaty stench of its breath blew over them. The serenetee abruptly broke into a comical dance and chattered a series of queer sounds at the creature.
Mirrortac could not believe what he was seeing. In moments, a hideous meat-eating sea serpent was transformed into something of an oversized child. The Gghorr rolled its belly up alongside the flut while the serenetees stroked it and picked off large parasites that irritated the creature’s thick green-plated hide. Contented groans issued from deep within the monster’s throat while it squirmed its long body, as thick as a flut is long, into spirals in the water. The erfin erupted into hysterical laughter; more from incredible relief than mirth. The serenetees smiled and hugged him then resumed their task of removing all the parasites from the monster. The tumu-Ra assisted them in the removal process, picking off parasites in places beyond the reach of their serenetees’ masters.
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The erfin and his companion pleaded for sense but the keepers all joined in one voice, casting the two out of the valley forever.
‘These things have been looking up at the sky too long? They are possessed! Take up the sword, now!’
Mirrortac’s hand slipped around the handle of Moongleam and before he could think, he drew out the blade with a clean violent action.
Twx stared at him in horror. ‘You must not! Mirrortac!’
The erfin came to his senses but his eyes were bright with indignance.
‘Let us go! We have no place here.’
In the near dawning sky, the clouds drifted into the opening and shut the valley in under a grey shadow of mist. Mirrortac and twx fled, pacing over the tiled courtyard and into the arcade of menacing pillars. They stopped at the head of the arcade and stared at the rows of statues. A thin film of greyish light had enveloped them, animating them with shimmering spectres. The erfin stepped out into the arcade, keeping eyes fixed ahead.
‘Stay with me, twx. Do not look at the likenesses but keep walking,’ he instructed.
Twx did as he was instructed, keeping close to the erfin as they negotiated the long arcade. Shivers of fear bristled Twx’s fur as they walked. They dared not glance up at the statues. The arcade seemed much longer than they had remembered and, try as they might, neither could shield their eyes from the shimmering half-light nor the burning stares of the statues’ gem eyes as they passed between them. Twx was frightened and grasped the erfin’s arm, sobbing softly. Mirrortac swallowed hard and forced his feet forward. The columns converged in front of them and the shimmering light moved around on their pedestals.
‘Oh Mirrortac. I am thinking these are spirits returned from Nerthule. What are they wanting with us?’ Twx sniffed.
‘I am not so certain, brother twx. There is a coldness about these.’
As he finished talking, all doubt was removed as the shimmering spectres separated from the statues and floated out into a group above the arcade, barring the way to the gateway. The spectres were formless except for shining red eyes and colourless lips that were able to take any shape. The erfin and the Ra-finelle shuddered as the spectres called out in rasping whispers.
‘Come!’ said one.
‘Come!’ voiced another.
‘Come! Come! Come!’ the spectres chorused.
Mirrortac turned to flee back up to the palace but there were more spectres behind them, hovering over the tiles with glowing eyes and misty forms. Twx was near panic.
‘What below Ra are these?’ he gasped.
‘I do not know. My sword will be useless upon these. They are spirits and I fear they mean to bring us ill.’ Mirrortac spoke abstractly, searching his mind for a solution.
The spectres hovered near, whispering in voices that carried through the mist like echoes. The whispering merged into a haunting jumble of sound that was words yet not words at all.
‘We will be dying now,’ twx cringed, hiding his face into the erfin’s chest.
‘Nay, that will not be so, twx. Be at ease.’ Mirrortac embraced his quaking friend. Despite the threat, he was smiling. And addressing the wraiths in a clear voice, he said: ‘Ra loves you my dearness poor spirits. May Ra’s blessings be upon you!’
Twx grumbled into Mirrortac’s chest. ‘What are you doing?’
The erfin did not answer. The wraiths stopped whispering as though listening.
‘Ra be with you wretched spirits. Be of peace and allow us passage,’ he told them.
The wraiths floated together as if considering a bargain. None moved.
‘Come twx, we must go now!’ Mirrortac dislodged twx and urged him to move on but the Ra-finelle clung to him like a desperate and frightened child, burying his face in his hands and bowing low to the ground. The two of them edged their way towards the silent wraiths that still floated motionless as though stunned.
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The pair followed the Astellites up the stairway and past the interconnecting domes where all was in the shadow of night. Mirrortac was taken to one of the Pool Stone amphitheatres where 12 bizarre figures had gathered, arranging themselves around the oval of the crystal reflector. In the dim light of moon-drops, he could see the dark hue of their robes but could not make out the colour. Occasionally one of the figures raised its head to speculate quietly on the strange visitor. Polished silver metal headdresses in the shape of an irregular six-pointed star encircled their faces. The Astellites were shorter than all other Meretees but in the silent green moons of their eyes, the erfin sensed an almost sinister presence, which sent a shiver up his spine. They were all concentrating on the convex crystal bowl, manipulating levers placed around the rim. The night sky was ablaze with a myriad moon-drops, emphasised by the funnel formed by the surrounding wall of high cloud.
On the altar the crystal astellite was filling up with an inner blue glow that deepened in hue until it seemed as though the cluster burned in a soft violet flame. And as the erfin watched, the violet flame darkened into a barely visible shining blackness that radiated out in an invisible beam to the crystal embedded in the pillar beside him. Twx stared out blindly alongside. The Astellites manipulated the levers some more, no doubt adjusting the bowl for the arrival of some demi-god, Mirrortac thought.
Suddenly, Mirrortac leapt up, startled at the vision of a huge ball of fire that sailed onto the bowl. On the surface of the fireball, brilliant white flares shot up in plumes and fell again in a burst of sparks and fire. More balls of fire danced onto the bowl, traversing it before disappearing off the opposite side. The erfin felt uneasy at the sight and stared at the menacing apparitions, unable to comprehend what they represented. Fused fireballs made the odd appearance while he could discern many hues, from magnesium white to orange and gold. Some were large and luminous while others floated across as small and distant.
‘What be these?’ Mirrortac spurted, grasping twx’s arm tightly.
Twx looked back at him quizzically and with smiling indifference. ‘Why these be asterees, Mirrortac. Only a night ago, you were pointening out the place of Nerthule among them. What is your concern?’
‘They are like Luma, blazing fire of the sky. Are there so many? What spell is upon this stone?’ The erfin shook with agitation.
‘Be calming. Be calming, erfin. Did you not know of this? There are as many fire-orbs as there are worlds. The Pool Stone makes big all of these so we can be expandening. You will see worlds soon. Be watchening and do not fear. The visions are of no harm.’
Mirrortac tried to relax as he watched the fiery parade of suns march across the bowl. There seemed no end to them. Then his eyes brightened as a sphere emerged into view, its mottled surface covered in craters and mountains, which showed as pits and peaks on a tiny ball that was partly in light, partly in shadow. The erfin’s fascination grew as another world rolled into sight, commanding a series of miniscule moons that strung out behind it like children. World after world followed in an assortment of sizes and hues of colour. The erfin could not determine whether life existed upon the worlds for even this magical magnification could not show this. Another sun chased the worlds off the bowl followed by a void of darkness and a stream of very distant asterees. The Astellites had assembled at one end of the bowl and were whispering and mumbling to each other.
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As the days swept past, he was beset by a series of startling and often frightening visions that became more frequent and irregular, striking him at any moment. He could be examining the crafting of an urn when he’d experience a sudden stabbing pain in his lower ribs, preceding a vision that flashed in his mind’s eye before fading away. He could be bathing, questioning a Ra-finelle or feasting. The visions were no respecter of occasion. They conveyed scenes of an alien world that seemed certain to be Nerthule. At first the visions were pleasant images of dofoons at play in the waters of the alien sea but as the days passed, the images gathered a sense of urgency and desperation. Spectres of drowning Utlontees screamed in an unintelligible tongue; seas boiled with superheated steam and many lands were swallowed in the angry spitting fire of Ra’s rage. Sadness filled the normally laughing eyes of the dofoons that leapt clear of the waters in frantic displays of helplessness. The whole face of Nerthule was changing. Images came of tribes of many upon many hundreds of warriors who violated the living places of peaceful folk, claiming the land where these people lived as their own and binding them like less than animals, forcing them to yield to their aggressive wills. The warriors were fearsome demi-gods who wore plumed crowns and robes of alien metals, raiding villages with their terrible swords and pointed shafts.
These visions were as disturbing to the Ra-finelles as they were to Mirrortac who was openly upset at the destructive dark powers of the warrior tribes. Visions of warring counter tribes haunted his days and nights, accompanied by the images of terrible creatures that the warriors kept within bondage for the purpose of entertainment. They would set the creatures loose to savage the living flesh of helpless captives left trapped in large public arenas. This was so distressing to them all that the Ra-finelles convened a Sacred Psalming of Ra in order to beseech Ra to save Nerthule from the dark peoples who had abused the places of those who knew Ra.
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