Regards of Great Forgotten Things – Day 10

READ ME: The Great Conflict, and the world, has ended. Magic is forbidden so that the world can heal. I believe it’s stolen your memories, too. Which is why you and I are keeping this journal. You, reading this tomorrow, and me, writing this today. Remember this if you can: Your name is Carth. You […]

READ ME:

The Great Conflict, and the world, has ended. Magic is forbidden so that the world can heal. I believe it’s stolen your memories, too. Which is why you and I are keeping this journal. You, reading this tomorrow, and me, writing this today.

Remember this if you can:

Your name is Carth. You are a warrior, aged boy. You are in the service to the Warlord’s clan in his mission to restore order to the Realm. Ask daily for your payments. For an index of items, places, people and locations, refer to the scrolls next to this one.

* * *

Sanctum is not what you expected it would be.

The whole town is carved from bulbous black stone that Aos says once glowed red hot like the light from a forge fire, and swarmed this place in thick ropes flaming fluid. It has dried to hotrock, and after years of chipping away, these residents built Sanctum as you and your companions know it now.

The town had no sentries posted at the gates and beyond was motley mass of greasy flesh and cloaks hemmed with mud. Such folk crowded the winding streets of Sanctum, careful of the shattered shards of obsidian and glass that littered the road. You could feel eyes on you.

“Are we in trouble?” you asked your companions.”

“These westrons are pale,” Desmon answered. “Did you expect we wouldn’t attract attention?”

You checked your hands against the pale skin of the men and women of Sanctum. They had blue eyes and fair hair. You couldn’t stick out more if you tried. The watchmen eyeing you had yellow beards that swept down their mailed chests. You eyed them back, and kept eyeing them.

Until you crashed into the mass of folk surging through the street. The two of you tumbled, tangled together. With some effort, you two untwined.

“Apologies about our friend,” Aos said as she helped you to your feet. “He’s quite simple.”

You realized you had crashed into a one-eyed woman. She did not blink. For a moment you mistook that for surprise. She still sat where she had fallen. “How fortunate,” she said. “We in Sanctum have been hungry, of late.”

Desmon licked his lips. “I could do with some food.”

“So say we all,” said the woman. She stood, still not blinking. She smelled of burning hair and rusting iron.

You turned your head to one side. “Do I know you?” you asked the woman.

She was still smiling. Never blinking. You couldn’t stop staring at the gaping hole where her other eye should have been. She cupped a leathery hand over your face. “There will be time for that later, my child,” she said. Unblinking. Still smiling.

Aos and Desmon seized you by either arm and dragged you away.

Aos and Desmon pulled you through ermine-trimmed bliauts of wealthy merchants who were themselves sizing up courtesans in satin sewn with cloth of gold, with pearl-inlaid broaching winking just above their breasts. Beyond them were armed men, spiderwebbed with scars, bearing swords and maces and axes and longbows. You wondered how hot they were in their wolf-trimmed cloaks. Their ringmail scraped against your pauldrons as you passed.

You navigated around whining beggars, too. None called for coin. Only food. You’ll find this is not uncommon nowadays. Such things are common, if your earlier account about the boy you met in service to the Warlord is to be believed.

Until at last Desmon shoved you forward and you braced yourself against the lip of a well, as black and ropey as the houses built from the dried-up hotrock.

“Water,” was all Desmon could say between his shriveled, cracked lips like two worms decomposing.

“Pull the rope, Carth,” Aos rasped.

You did as they bid you. “It’s heavy,” you said.

“It’s a bucket of water. It’s supposed to be heavy,” Aos snapped.

Grunting and hauling, such that your muscles burned with the exertion, you hauled the bucket to the lip of the well.

Desmon’s hands were shaking like a dicetoss when he got his hands on the bucket. But as he turned it toward him you found a viscous silver within: a spell. A withered, dying thing leftover from the Great Conflict. It blasted hot air in your face as it dried up into nothing.

For three heartbeats, no one spoke. And then Aos said, “That was a joke, right?”

“I don’t think so,” you said.

“You don’t think, Carth,” Desmon said. Lines on his forehead cut into a V shape as he eyed the townsfolk milling about, shuffling and shambling.  “There’s got to be a tavern here somewhere.”

The hotrock had been shaped in a curve to hold the bronze lanterns that swayed in the wind, carved in the face of dragons that lit the street before you found an innkeep. His floor was not the black glass that had scattered the streets. You were thankful for a wooden floor, and a home that was not carved from the hotrock.

The gate to the inn did no open by the roadside. Rather, you three had to enter through an alleyway. I could swear there were eyes on you. But I’ll not confirm this. I’ll let you guess.

The door was locked.

Desmon cursed and Aos groaned. But you noticed a bell above. “Try that?” you said, pointing.

Aos did, and a cold wind brushed past you to open a wicket in the door. A pale, blue-eyed face peered through.

“Open the door, you fucking–” Desmon began. But Aos clamped a hand over his mouth.

“We’ve coin to pay for a room for the night. Please.” Her stomach roared, which you felt illustrated her point.

The owner of the eyes behind the door hmmed and hawed. “No coin. Just food.”

“But we don’t have any food,” Aos said.

The innkeep squinted. “No. You have food.” He opened the door. As you passed the threshold, he locked the door and bolted it behind him. He was smiling. Constantly.

Before I forget, I must remind you: I do not remember watching him blink.

The main room reeked of smoke and sawdust. You could smell nothing cooking over the fire. A few scattered souls sat hunched over empty tankards, and did not regard your entrance with as much as a backwards glance.

Desmon held out a glittering gold coin. “We’ll have a joint of beef and a loaf of bread. Each. My friends and I have the coin to pay.”

“I’ll take a tankard of Ilian wine, while you’re at it,” Aos added.

The innkeep wiped beads of sweat from his forehead. He reeked something like wet sand. “I’m sorry?” he said. “We have no beef, nor loafs or wine.”

“Chicken, then.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” the innkeep said, still smiling.

“Chicken,” Aos said, slowly. As if she were speaking to a child. “You know. It’s a bird. You roast it over a spit.”

The innkeep hacked a globule of saliva between the floorboards. “I’m not sure that will do much roasting. I’ve never been fond of the taste of feathers myself–”

“Do you have food or not?”

He hadn’t stopped smiling, nor had he begun to blink. After two heartbeats of silence, he said, “I’m sorry? I’m afraid I don’t understa–”

“What are we paying for?”

“You pay for lodging. With food. Yes?”

“We’re not–” Desmon and Aos exchanged glances, and then looked at you.

“Are you accusing me of this?” you asked. “How could I be behind this?”

“This entire town is as simple as you,” Aos muttered.

“Yes,” the innkeep broke in. “Simple. A nice feathered bed for each of you in exchange for food. I’ll show you to your rooms now, yes?”

Just the thought of a featherbed made you feel heavy. Tired. You felt as if you were drooping, and with an effort you kept your back straight. “That would be nice, yes.” you told the innkeep.

So you followed him up squealing steps, down a long and narrow hallway sparsely-lit by lanterns. His slippered feet whispered across the carpeted floor flanked with tassels. At the end of the hall you reaches a door that, when opened, squealed even louder than the stairs. And within you found three featherbeds, side by side on the far right corner, and a copper lamp lit suspended from the ceiling. You gagged on a scent meant to imitate something akin to lavender perfume. You could see the scent misting through the room.

I can’t say the man doesn’t prepare. no windows, and a copper, lamp lit in the corner.

There were not winders, but there was a desk with a quill and inkwell in the corner nearest you. The padded seat in front of it looked more comfortable than anything you could remember.

Then again, what can you remember? Perhaps I’m lying. It’s not like you’ll know once you leave this tavern. At least I can give you happy memories. I’ll let you decide which ones are false.

“You will stay here,” said the innkeep. “You will pay with food later tonight, yes? Yes.”

Without another word, he shut the door behind you.

And this is where you write this now, Carth. In this room, by candlelight, careful not to let hot wax slip onto your pages. Desmon and Aos have argued over food. The hunger is affecting their mood. They have decided they’ll clear things up with the innkeep in the morning. At least you three have featherbeds.

And who knows? Perhaps I’ve been lying. Perhaps all I’m doing is trying to scare you. Like one who tells horror stories by firelight. I am your storyteller, Carth. Come close to the fire and listen. Without, someone plays a leather covered-drum, palms striking softly. As soft and smooth as a featherbed…

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Regards of Great Forgotten Things – Day 9

READ ME:

The Great Conflict, and the world, has ended. Magic is forbidden so that the world can heal. I believe it’s stolen your memories, too. Which is why you and I are keeping this journal. You, reading this tomorrow, and me, writing this today.

Remember this if you can:

Your name is Carth. You are a warrior, aged boy. You are in the service to the Warlord’s clan in his mission to restore order to the Realm. Ask daily for your payments. For an index of items, places, people and locations, refer to the scrolls next to this one.

* * *

Remember this if you can:

A field of grass bowing under your progression, crunched underfoot and cut apart before it could twine around you.

A village of stone-and-mortar homes.

White-knuckled hands wrapped around longswords.

The glint steel against the sun.

Scattered shrieks and raising shields.

Your hand, red and wet and holding a longsword plunged up to the hilt into a wide-eyed monster. Only a boy. A no-tusked, pale-fleshed boy.

Aos saying, “Couldn’t be helped.”

Aos saying, “Carth?”

Aos saying, “Talk to me.”

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Regards of Great Forgotten Things – Day 8

READ ME:

The Great Conflict, and the world, has ended. Magic is forbidden, so that the world can heal. I believe it’s stolen your memories, too. Which is why you and I are keeping this journal. You, reading this tomorrow, and me, writing this today.

Remember this if you can: your name is Carth. You are a warrior, aged boy. You travel with a woman named Aos and a man named Desmon. Do not concern yourself with the torn patch of boiled leather on you breast, nor the ones on your companions’, nor the looks that the empty patch may garner.  For an index of items, places, people and locations, refer to the scrolls next to this one.

* * *

I know you won’t remember the battle. But I must relay what I can while I do. I’ve given it thought and decided that these are memories we cannot let go:

Do you remember when we discussed taking up arms against monsters? This was what I meant when I said that. We fought against the monsters, garbed in steel and leather.

The leaders of the Warlod’s armies fought like something out the legends we’ve overheard at our campfires. They seemed to have the strength of half-gods and heroes as they slung their spears down on the enemy.

Their movements were taut; bronzed biceps growing as they hefted their weapons—and when they threw them, they did not seem concerned with the arrows hurtling toward us. They seemed almost lazy—after all, they were our leaders, and had made it this far. They seemed to know they wouldn’t die here.

The same could not be said of soldiers unnumbered, too young or unpracticed, or infirm. The ones could not raise their shields in time, pierced by arrow shafts, or spears, or swords; and littering the fields with eyes like their leaders—like half-gods and heroes. Eyes that did not seem to see.

We lost the battle all the same, fleeing the city with what few survived the onslaught.

Now you know you’re a warrior, don’t you? Only a warrior could hear that he had killed so many and not even bristle. You feel it don’t you? I feel it to. The nothing inside you when learning this news. That’s why you’re a soldier. That’s how you survive.

* * *

You were ambushed, Carth. It was only a small skirmish, but there’s more that I want us to remember, now. Though I can’t give you much—do you think anyone truly remembers fights clearly? Or do only you and I suffer from this affliction?

You need to remember Aos dragging a twin away from his brother’s limp body, leaving the corpse on the road for the carrion crows.

She herself would be dragged away later when she saw that her dog had suffered the same fate.

You need to remember Desmon spearing an injured horse—and the cavalryman whose leg it had crushed. He looked at you, then. Even through your fog of shattered memories, you knew what that look meant. And you know it now as you read this.

You and I both know how these men felt. I suspect we all know. We’ve all learned the guilt that comes with being alive.

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Regards of Great Forgotten Things – Day 7

READ ME:

The Great Conflict, and the world, has ended. Magic is forbidden, so that the world can heal. I believe it’s stolen your memories, too. Which is why you and I are keeping this journal. You, reading this tomorrow, and me, writing this today.

Remember this if you can: your name is Carth. You are a warrior, aged boy. You travel with a woman named Aos and a man named Desmon. Do not concern yourself with the torn patch of boiled leather on you breast, nor the ones on your companions’, nor the looks that the empty patch may garner.  For an index of items, places, people and locations, refer to the scrolls next to this one.

* * *

You three have collected your provisions—corn, corn and more corn once again. You gathered in the same alley as yesterday, in between the charred husks of houses. Once you started eating, you wondered if some of the ash didn’t make it into your food. If you happen to wake up with a taste like ashes in your mouth, you’ll have a small understanding of the ordeal it was to swallow that bile.

“War’s a bitch,” Aos said, “What did they do to this food?”

“Might be the seasoning,” you suggested.

Desmon giggled, sending pinkish corn-juice dribbling down his chin. “You don’t season corn!”

“Might be someone thought to use a heap of soil,” Aos suggested. Yellow filled the gaps between her teeth. “Perhaps they needed a light garnish.”

Before you or Desmon could respond, you three noticed a boy staring at you from the other end of the alley. He looked like a skeleton; he’d only a shadow of skin and a face that pocketed deep-sunken eyes that couldn’t remember to blink. His tunic was torn and he was caked with dirt and dust. One side of his yellow hair had been matted down and crusted with dried blood. Whether it belonged to him or someone else, you couldn’t say. He had only one leg and leaned on a makeshift wooden crutch for support.

You never knew people came that small.

Aos shouted at him; and then kept shouting until the boy hopped over to you. She tried to impress the boy with her longsword, but the one-legged boy only held out cupped hands, saying the same word over and over, as if he couldn’t hear Aos.

The word was foreign, though its meaning was discernible. “Food,” he was saying. “Food, food.”

So Aos gave up, laughed and dribbled some corn into the boy’s tiny hands. Desmon called the boy over and closed his small, dirty fingers over the corn. He whispered something you didn’t understand. Then the boy hopped off, plucking the corn into his mouth.

You asked Desmon what he said, ignoring Aos’s rhythmic chanting of, “One leg…one leg…one leg…” as she stared blankly into space.

“I told him to be careful—made sure he knew not to let anyone see his food—” Desmon stopped to smack the back of Aos’s head. “Stop staring!”

“Lord of Bones, that’s a boy with one leg!” Aos said. She turned you then with a smile like a curved dagger. “Some poor soul must have miswung.”

You decided you’d had enough of Aos and went off to forget her. But she and Desmon followed you, reasoning it was dangerous to leave you alone for very long. I happen to agree. Though they bickered through the whole walk until you found a river just outside the town. It looked like the best spot to rest for a while.

You sat there and watched your reflection. You put your feet in the river contemplated everything you’d read from me. Thoughts of a siege rattled your mind. You bunched up your cloak, dark as night time. You wondered what might happen to Desmon and Aos. You thought they had been as siblings to you. Though you weren’t even sure how long or how well they knew you.

You churned through your empty head for some god to pray to, but nothing came. You reread what I told you about lightning lords long before and you realized that you didn’t—or perhaps couldn’t—believe in such things. Gods? Fate? Comforts. Do you think this is happening for a reason?

You didn’t have time to contemplate this, for you heard Desmon shouting and Aos rising to her feet. You three rushed back to the ravaged town.

“The enemy is here!” Aos said. From just over a hill, you saw banners snapping and metal clanking, pikes and swords peeking over the apex.

“Get ready to fight, Carth,” Aos urged you. She shoved you forward. “Move! Let’s go!”

And you did. You fought the monstrous warband. That’s whose blood is smeared on your sword. And you’re using red ink—or has it dried to brown by now? Has it taken you this long to realize you didn’t hang on to any spare berries last night? All you need is a thin stick to write with. Crude, yes, but it gets the job done.

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Regards of Great Forgotten Things – Day 6

READ ME:

The Great Conflict, and the world, has ended. Magic is forbidden so that the world can heal. I believe it’s stolen your memories, too. Which is why you and I are keeping this journal. You, reading this tomorrow, and me, writing this today.

Remember this if you can: your name is Carth. You are a warrior, aged boy. You are in the service to the Warlord’s clan in his mission to restore order to the Realm. Ask daily for your payments. For an index of items, places, people and locations, refer to the scrolls next to this one.

* * *

You sacked a deadciv. You now camp the charred corpse of its slums as provisions are dispensed. The houses loom large and broken, speckled with survivors.

It turns out you haven’t been reading this as much as you should be. Didn’t I tell you to read this when you wake? I leave two scrolls right next to you every night. How hard is it to read them?

Now read closely, Carth: there is talk amongst the Warlord’s forces that the monsters you chase have doubled back to hit you in the rear. The Warlord has camped in this deadciv, in wait. You’ve heard talk monsters will chase their foes with great fury and vengeance until they’ve drank their fill of blood. You may have to endure a siege.

You’ve fought in a siege before, haven’t you? I’ll bet you can’t fully remember it, but your muscles do. You feel phantom pains where blades cut you long ago. What glimpses into your own past you can remember are frozen in time, without context. You’d just as well be hearing someone’s campfire legend, for all the sense it made to you.

After you received your provisions, Aos waved to you from the bones of an alleyway where she sat with Desmon.

Aos was cleaning her nails with a dagger, stopping every now and then to feed scraps of corn to her dog, or scratch him behind the ear (You didn’t remember she had a dog, did you, Carth? That’s what you get for forgetting to write).

She said that it was you who found the dog during your first raid with the Warlord. He was protecting some girl you met when putting this deadciv to the torch.

I didn’t bother to mention it. Tinker Taker, remember? You told Aos as much.

“I don’t know how you could forget someone like that,” she told you before proceeding to compared her beauty to a few goddesses you’d never heard of. I’ll let you forget some of her choice descriptions (I wish I could). “I’d prefer a few northern horsewomen to a warband of monsters,” Aos said. “If we’re going to die here, they might as well be our final sight: a dozen bare-breasted horsewomen riding for us, tits bouncing.”

Your conversation lapsed and she went back to cleaning her nails. To break the silence she mused, “I’ll probably lose a finger one day. Won’t be able to hold a weapon after that. Won’t be able to fight.” She scratched her dog behind the ear.

“Why not do it now?” Desmon asked, “Get it over and done with?”

Aos grinned. She pet her dog, and  its tail thumped against the ground. When she turned to look at Desmon, her grin was gone. “What do I look like to you? A coward?”

 

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Regards of Great Forgotten Things – Day 5

READ ME:

The Great Conflict, and the world, has ended. Magic is forbidden so that the world can heal. I believe it’s stolen your memories, too. Which is why you and I are keeping this journal. You, reading this tomorrow, and me, writing this today.

Remember this if you can:

Your name is Carth. You are a warrior, aged boy. You are in the service to the Warlord’s clan in his mission to restore order to the Realm. Ask daily for your payments. For an index of items, places, people and locations, refer to the scrolls next to this one.

* * *

You’ll never guess what you did all day! You marched. Shocking, I know.

The Warlord’s army camps, split into groups in accordance with their tribes; all of them huddled by separate cookfires, devouring their rations. Others spoke of gods, their speech littered with curses.

It’s utterly baffling. These people cursed lightning lords! Masters and creators of storms and stones! For such powerful things, you wondered what good it does curse them.

And would they be saying such things during a thunderstorm?

You tried to ask Desmon why you want to fight the monstrous warband that the Warlord has sent you in pursuit of. Desmon answered by thrusting a scrap of meat in your face, red juice dribbling between his fingers. “Eat,” he said.

You snatched up that strip of meat and tore at its stringy tendons. When you finished it you wiped your mouth with the back of your hand and half-growled, “More.”

“You’re hungry,” Desmon said. “That’s good. You must keep eating, boy. Keep up your strength.”

He gave you more just like you asked. Strips of meat thick as tree bark with patches of crisp burn. It tasted like horse. You’ve probably still got some stuck between your teeth if you’re curious.

Then you slinked off to write this letter to yourself. A man was about to put out his cookfire when you caught his arm. “I need to write,” you told him and he seemed to nod his assent.

Maybe he knew you—not that you’ll know.

You huddled up and scratched out a note. Aos had chided you for leaving your berries uneaten, but you’ve got to get ink from somewhere. A thin stick and some berries is enough to give yourself this message.

You heard men in the distance tell their legends of half-gods and heroes. I’ve written a few of them down for you in your index. My favorite is the one where a lightning lord must attend a wedding dressed as a bride in order to retrieve his magic sword.

Desmon and Aos had asked you for own legend. They wanted to know if you could remember anything, or if you could recall enough to event one. So You sewed together scraps of memory, mixed with other legends you heard tonight and gave them the legend of Tinker Taker—he was the first to claim Grayfell (I cannot say if you fully invented this name) as the First Holding of some long-forgotten empire.

He was a reaver before that and had spent six days on stormy seas. On the seventh, he spied the timbered fortifications of Grayfell rising up like an obscene gesture along the coastline. “If there’s a meal on the table and a fire in the hearth,” said Tinker Taker, “I won’t be setting foot in a longship for the rest of my life.”

And there was. And he didn’t.

You’ll notice how the legend doesn’t tell you what happened to those who made the meal and lit the fire. We’re going to do the same—understand me, Carth? There are some things that are best left forgotten.

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Regards of Great Forgotten Things – Day 4

READ ME:

The Great Conflict, and the world, has ended. Magic is forbidden so that the world can heal. I believe it’s stolen your memories, too. Which is why you and I are keeping this journal. You, reading this tomorrow, and me, writing this today.

Remember this if you can: your name is Carth. You are a warrior, aged boy. You are in the service to the Warlord’s clan in his mission to restore order to the Realm. Ask daily for your payments. For an index of items, places, people and locations, refer to the scrolls next to this one.

* * *

You’ll never guess what you did all day! You marched. Shocking, I know.

The Warlord’s army camps, split into groups in accordance with their tribes; all of them huddled by separate cookfires, devouring their rations. Others spoke of gods, their speech littered with curses.

It’s utterly baffling. These people cursed lightning lords! Masters and creators of storms and stones! For such powerful things, you wondered what good it does curse them.

And would they be saying such things during a thunderstorm?

You tried to ask Desmon why you want to fight the monstrous warband that the Warlord has sent you in pursuit of. Desmon answered by thrusting a scrap of meat in your face, red juice dribbling between his fingers. “Eat,” he said.

You snatched up that strip of meat and tore at its stringy tendons. When you finished it you wiped your mouth with the back of your hand and half-growled, “More.”

“You’re hungry,” Desmon said. “That’s good. You must keep eating, boy. Keep up your strength.”

He gave you more just like you asked. Strips of meat thick as tree bark with patches of crisp burn. It tasted like horse. You’ve probably still got some stuck between your teeth if you’re curious.

Then you slinked off to write this letter to yourself. A man was about to put out his cookfire when you caught his arm. “I need to write,” you told him and he seemed to nod his assent.

Maybe he knew you—not that you’ll know.

You huddled up and scratched out a note. Aos had chided you for leaving your berries uneaten, but you’ve got to get ink from somewhere. A thin stick and some berries is enough to give yourself this message.

You heard men in the distance tell their legends of half-gods and heroes. I’ve written a few of them down for you in your index. My favorite is the one where a lightning lord must attend a wedding dressed as a bride in order to retrieve his magic sword.

Desmon and Aos had asked you for own legend. They wanted to know if you could remember anything, or if you could recall enough to event one. So You sewed together scraps of memory, mixed with other legends you heard tonight and gave them the legend of Tinker Taker—he was the first to claim Grayfell (I cannot say if you fully invented this name) as the First Holding of some long-forgotten empire.

He was a reaver before that and had spent six days on stormy seas. On the seventh, he spied the timbered fortifications of Grayfell rising up like an obscene gesture along the coastline. “If there’s a meal on the table and a fire in the hearth,” said Tinker Taker, “I won’t be setting foot in a longship for the rest of my life.”

And there was. And he didn’t.

You’ll notice how the legend doesn’t tell you what happened to those who made the meal and lit the fire. We’re going to do the same—understand me, Carth? There are some things that are best left forgotten.

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