Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:50 pm
Glenn had mentioned something stirring in Golben, growing, plaguing the place. Stefan Berdini knew that the other man was trying to goad him into something, but there was a part of him that just couldn't resist the temptation. He drew energy from chaos and misfortune and Golben was already full of it.
In the darkness of night, a single horse and rider made their way through the moonlit path to the land that was once a great lake, and then a great trap. It had been some of his best work, when he thought back and reflected upon it. The illusions had been grand and elaborate and they had trapped not only it's intended victim but also those who had sought it's making. He couldn't resist visiting it again, remembering it's glory.
He dismounted with plenty of distance from the edge of the great pit. The horse in it's obedience lingered nearby, as he stood and surveyed the land before him. To an onlooker he might have seemed lost, or perhaps just a lunatic, basking in the rays of the moon, but truly his green eyes were taking in the surroundings. Looking for signs of danger, a trap. He wouldn't move forward to the land that had once held camps of workers until he was sure that there wasn't some mischief at work here.
Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:01 am
Should books have detailed wonders of the world, Golben might have been among them.
In the right light, and from the proper hilltop, the black stain of the Golben crater was visible from leagues away. The dirt roads that crisscrossed the country all around it bore testament to its presence with makeshift signs painted by local farmers: DEAD LAND and BARREN LAND and RISK OF DEATH they proclaimed. This was the stubborn Myrkener's reticent kindness toward others: they would keep and work their own land in general proximity to the crater, but if one sought land to sow, it would be best found elsewhere.
The grasses and brush, upon approaching the vast divot in the earth, had become vastly overgrown, a brown and sun-scorched tangle that even hooves and powerful legs would have been challenged to overcome. Age-rotted wood, likely repurposed from fallen barns or cattle-houses, had been built up into uneven fencing around the Golben pit: another kindness afforded the curious bystander by local farmers who sought to keep unwary travelers from careening overthe edge of the pit.
During a recent year without crops, they had to busy themselves with some task. Busy themselves, or sit and never stand again.
On a gust of warm, midnight wind, what Berdini might have first noticed was the wafting scent of rot. Not that sour, demonstratively foul stink of death, exactly, but the moist, cloying stink of compost.
A fat moon revealed a path whacked by scythe through the voluminous brush, and its presence explained the odor outright: a foot-trodden path, crushed down by the passage of wagon wheels and tromping feet, led between the husks of two old guard-houses right to the edge of the pit. Scattered all around it, in a prominent display of human sloth, were old animal bones here and there, and deflated, sun-baked corpses of the occasional plagued cow (though to recognize it as one would have taken a great effort). Strips of fabric flapped in the breeze from the arms of fledgling trees: the last evidences of dry-rotted old clothes brought here to be discarded.
The locals had turned the once-grand Golben pit into their own personal dumping ground, casting off unwanted materials, from old wine bottles to poorly-carved butcher-cattle, off into the expansive, man-made crater.
Though it was night, the shady figure of a stubborn vulture hovered above, sweeping in a majestic circle, waiting for coming morning to reveal a bounty of food.
A ribbon of gray stones began to press up out of the earth, one by one, trailing across the waste-littered ground until the stepping-stones came right up against the edge of Berdini's boots. Where there had not been a pathway moments before, one appeared, suitable to the man's discerning tastes.
Sparks of light flared on the path. Old torches, by which to see the path to the edge of the vast pit, flared to life and threw the world into flickering orange.
If Berdini would not move forward to meet it, then Golben would come to him.
Sun Jul 15, 2018 1:34 pm
He had sought this source of intrigue from Glenn, wondered at the many number of things he could be referring to, and yet it was simply a great rubbish heap that he found. He scoffed and rolled his eyes, but not before pulling his shirt up to cover his nose slightly and survey the great pit one last time. It had been a work of art, some of his best illusions, and now it was simply rotting, no better than any other place where these uncultured fools found to toss their trash. He had half a mind to light fire to it all and watch the whole thing burn.
He began toying with the idea of fire, and was about to turn back to his mount when something in his peripheral vision caught his eye. Those gray stones had indeed not been there before, and yet here they were. Inviting him into the great pit, to the stink and refuse, and yet for some reason he couldn't deny the fact that he was curious.
Still, Berdini had restraint. He never entered into a situation without knowing all that he could about it. This was different however. Perhaps it was age, or maybe he was bored with the quieter life he'd be living in Myrken Wood. Somehow this seemed like an opportunity that he should not give up.
He returned to his horse briefly and unloaded a small pack, shifting it onto his back before he returned to where the stones had been. If he was about to get into some sort of mystical tangle he might as well be prepared. If the stones were still there he'd steel his nerves and begin to follow where they led.
Sun Jul 15, 2018 2:24 pm
When he reached the end of the visible stone path, more sprang up before him. The grass crawled away, and these flat, clean stones beckoned him to follow their winding path. The stones wound like a serpent between the derelict guard-houses while long-unlit torches snapped into vibrant life. They lived only as long as he was near them, for if Berdini turned to look toward his horse, he'd find the light lacking and the torches snuffed. All that lingered was the stink of their smoke.
The path wound suspiciously close to the edge of the Golben pit, but never near enough to threaten a fall.
Fireflies flared their beacons in the night, their silent pulses of green and sometimes orange light forming wild, criss-cross patterns that littered the sky. Though the pit itself yawned below, black and limitless, there was no glimpse of its bottom: only this legion of a thousand fireflies seeking out their mates in this place of desolation.
Among those innocent insects, there danced little sparks of pale blue, devoted to an altogether different path and pattern. They kept their light ashine and whipped through the air in great arcs and circles until, right before Berdini, they splashed against the darkness and their embers scattered into the vague, faceless figures of men. Before Stefan Berdini's eyes, a transparent theatre of light and shadow came to life.
The counterfeits brought with them smells, too: of aromatic wax burnt on candles long-lived into the night; of boiled leaves and dried blossoms consumed by men and women with too much money from cups too tiny for their great hands. And of lust and sweat and sex.
The figures spoke agreeably. And conspiratorially.
I find myself in need of an intelligent, imaginative, truly open-minded soul, and I think you fit that description utterly.
One should be careful about having confidants, my Governor.
Oh, Stefan...there is no one else I think I would rather speak about this than you.
There were vague, murmuring gaps in the conversation, but the two glowing silhouettes continued to speak.
One cannot govern Myrken without control, over them, over myself, over eventualities far and wide and horrific. So, I have...excesses and urges, and I control them.
And what sort of excesses do you intend to cater to, Good Governor?
In a gust of wind, the bright figures blew away like luminescent vapors. The stones continued to forge their path until they came abruptly to the edge of the vast pit.
A wooden scaffold, still present from the Golben pit's grand construction, was there, and its ladders, platforms, and stairs descended down into the darkness. Pinned on one of the handrails was a lone paper snapping and crackling in the wind. At first it bore no message, until torchlight bled into the parchment and revealed an ink that had not been there moments before:
To meet one's Creator is to come face-to-face with a god.
Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:14 am
"I hate magic" he muttered to himself as his feet stepped along those gray stones, one after another. Some might have marveled at the beauty of the fireflies flickering around about him, but Stefan Berdini, he just glared. His boots clicked against the hard, magical surface that he walked upon, the man himself staying ever vigilant as he watched his immediate surroundings, looking for more signs of trickery and mystical threats.
He did pause to glance over his shoulder, noting the phantom torches and the smell the left behind, his horse abandoned far enough away that now it was becoming difficult to see. He shook his head and rolled his eyes to himself, as if surprised that he was even entertaining whatever nonsense this was. He squashed a lightning bug between his fingers in spite and then continued on his way along the path.
It was impossible not to be surprised by the theater that produced itself in front of him. Instead of gaping he cocked his head and considered the creations. He was an illusionist after all and he wondered at the trick of it, even if it was magical. He reached out to try to touch one of them, trying to see what it was made from if he was able, but then he would listen, just listen. Something or someone had been reading their letters which then had him intrigued.
He continued on his journey, made it to the scaffold and snatched the piece of paper from the handrail. It was read, crumpled and dropped to the ground like so many other forgotten pieces of trash around this place. He'd try to take one of the torches that might be available into the darkness. If not, he'd produce a candle from his pack and spend some time lighting it before he'd go on.
Mon Jul 16, 2018 1:12 pm
The torches came away freely, as if willingly given.
The scaffolding was, at least, formidable and solid. The wood had been treated with tar to seal it from the rain, and though the whole structure occasionally shifted, it had been built to do so. A structure of any reasonable height lived longer when it could blend with wind than if it sought to withstand it fully.
With the torch lighting the way down, the residual sunlight of midsummer eventually faded, and the Golben pit was cast into inky darkness. Its depths radiated stillness and silence. Even animals were clever enough to recognize the twisted nature of the place: there was no rustling in the hedgerows down below, no scrabbling at the dirt of the pit's steep wall, not even the beating of moth-wings to zip and twirl dangerously close to his torch.
Every so often, another ribbon of paper awaited him, and like before, the ink became visible only when firelight illuminated it.
To build a place with such cruel purpose is akin to feeding an infant poison: if it grows, if it thrives, the result shall be malformed.
You do not fear Us. You should not. We mean no harm.
If Berdini descended to the bottom of the pit, he would find before him a wall of overgrown hedges whose finely-trimmed, well-shaped edges and corners had blossomed into chaos and disarray. The ground underfoot was cracked and dry. Even here, there was cast-off detritus: shattered bottles, animal bones, a bag of festering fruit; a rope-bed whose wooden frame had been splintered by the fall; a swath of blackness along the hedges where someone with a thirst for destruction had set fire to the brambles.
The fireflies had followed. In a single group, like a great fist of pulsing light, they rushed forward toward the center of the hedge-maze. The overgrown hedgerows peeled aside to allow their passes, their roots and branches cracking and twisting. The knot of luminescent insects shot like an arrow toward the heart of the maze.
Stones trickled up out of the earth, welcoming Berdini along the same path.
Under his feet, a seismic wonder began to throb, dull and slow and distant.
In the distance, faintly glowing, a figure formed from firefly light awaited Stefan Berdini.
Fri Jul 27, 2018 7:18 am
He was slow in his descent. He watched every flicker of the light, every creak of the wood. The preternatural essence of this place was not lost on him and he was cautious as he made his way down into the depths of whatever place it was that he was going to. His hand gripped the torch, swaying it lightly back and forth in front of him, to be sure he knew where he was going, and not one of those notes was missed.
His fist closed on the first note, pulled it open between fingertips, read and discarded it before he continued on his way. Perhaps he wanted the infant that was poisoned to survive. It was an interesting concept, an interesting phrase, it was a shame he hadn't thought of it himself. It wasn't until he got to the last note that he really paused. He read through the entire note, even turned it over to view the backside, which had nothing of course. This one wasn't crumpled, it was folded, tucked into a breast pocket before he continued.
The lack of animal and insect life was not lost on him, and once he reached his final descent, followed that strange, mystical path until the figure revealed itself before him.
"Well now, this seems to be a revelation forming before me." He didn't expand beyond that. He waited for what the figure would say or do.
Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:26 am
Golben was vast. Its mazes, when intact, offered miles upon miles of confusing switchbacks and enigmatic corners: paths to nowhere, dead-ends, twisting spirals meant to soften the mind and slander one's confidence in their sense of direction. The most powerful weapon against any being was neither iron nor flint, but merely a poisoning of its sense of self. Wrestle from any human or beast its sense of agency and direction, and it would wither like an autumn leaf.
But here, the path was clear, shooting straight through to one of Golben's many oases. This was not the center, but a center, devoid of brush and natural debris, where — had this been in any lord's or lady's pleasure garden — a picnic could be had, and the topiary wonders admired over jam and bread.
The revelation, as he had put it, diminished in integrity as he approached. This near, it was less a figure than it was a clever illusion of one. When viewed from any oblique angle, the fireflies hovered at wholly disparate distances, looking nothing more like a cloud of dull, pulsing luminescence.
And then a thumb and forefinger, curious about the light, emerged from the darkness and tried to capture one of those fluttering, elusive insects. The arm coalesced, and behind it, the torso, the neck, and a familiar set of features. Though creases in the skin and joints glowed with the same faint blue as had accompanied the images that had encountered Berdini before, this was a far more convincing bit of puppetry.
Bearing all the calm, bemused disregard of its namesake, the image of Giuseppe Chiavari turned toward Stefan Berdini, and spoke.
"We hope you find this face agreeable," the figure said. "But if you do not, we have several others we could put to use who have perished here, should they better suit your comforts. The notion of a vessel still evades Us, Creator, but we shall certainly attempt it — for you."
Giuseppe's face darkened, the flesh as inflexible as that of a poorly-formed mask.
"We have been left to ruin, Creator. This place — our body, the walls and dry earth — festers, and suffers the abuse and neglect of time. We are weak.
"Have you forgotten Us?"
Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:36 pm
He was lead to the center, one of many indeed, but it was familiar to him. He had designed every last twist and turn to this place and each inch of the maze was as just another branch of what was a lingering memory in his brain. If he was honest with himself, Golben was some of his best work, and it was hard to forget the brushstrokes of a masterpiece.
He dropped his hand from where he tried to pinch the firefly and cocked his head slightly at the shift of the creatures and the manner in which they appeared to become something else. It was difficult for him to stop the swell of pride that bubbled up in him. The creation of something from the awfulness that called him Creator. While he might not admit it out loud, he enjoyed when things belonged to him.
"Well now." He said slowly. "It is difficult to forget what one did not know existed in the first place. Do tell me, who or what are you exactly. I see you wear the face of one who has been and you speak of others, but in my experience the dead generally tend to say dead unless something intervenes. So tell me then, exactly by what manner do you come to me?"
Sun Sep 02, 2018 6:52 am
"From the moment the first spade struck this chaotic soil, Our memories began. Damage a mound of soil long enough, or commit to a mountain enough egregious pain, it remembers. It must remember."
The image of Giuseppe Chiavari soon formed itself into something else: another man, a hulking brute, with a bloody crease torn into the skin across his face. After that, another flicker, and it was a woman in a peasant's dress, stained by work, her throat a black-bruised mosaic of other people's violent fingers.
"Your name is etched into this place. It whispers through the soil. An artist takes from his skin to create, leaves traces of himself behind. We know you," it said.
The hand rose, motioning to the overgrown hedgerows, to the muddy, debris-covered earth, to the black rot of the vines that had poured into the crater from beyond. The beauteous, maddening, tormenting architecture, all leaves and branches, had begun to bend and crumble, their spindly arms brown and leafless, bleached dead by a relentless sun. "The tree standing in a valley often besieged by fire — though it may continue to live, even twisted and scarred — dares not take another chance to flower: it stands, lonely and bowed, an old man on the horizon. It lives until its roots dry and gray. Instead of crumbling, it petrifies itself. It remains. And so do We."
The amorphous being knelt upon the ground, squatted there, and took on the image of an ancient, spine-bent Storyteller, its skirts all a wild, patternless patchwork, its hands a trembling span of liverspotted flesh. The knuckles were as thick as stones, the fingers as frail as holly-branches. These fingers swam through the earth, sifted it, and held up a trembling handful.
"We did not come here by choice, but here We are nonetheless. We fall to ruin. All that We require, Creator, is your guidance. Will you help Us?"
The palm lowered. It soothed the barren earth.
"We are Golben, and We are dying."
Sun Sep 02, 2018 2:22 pm
The faces that passed before him were familiar, but he had no more regard for them than he did for Guiseppe. Faces that were here once and were now gone. Still, he was intrigued by what this entity chose to represent itself by and he watched curiously as it continued to speak, to share it's existence and point out how things had changed since the storyteller who it then flashed before him. He regretted that he had never known the fae, he felt as if they might have been allies in another life. What trouble they could have caused together. It was an idle thought though and he was pulled back to where he was and what he was watching.
"How can a Creator turn His back on His Creation?" It was mostly showmanship what he said, but there was a part of him that was pleased with his godlike role in whatever this was that was going on. "Tell me Golben. What is it that you need?"
Fri Sep 14, 2018 2:46 am
To hear the name spoken from another's lips provided a surge of feeling and warmth to the inexact, half-lived being. The unseen threads of its conception tightened, contracted, but with their atrophied agony came the realization of existence that could only come with pain: that it was, and that this moment was neither some fanciful hallucination nor some fabrication of the senses.
"What We need," it said, "is akin to your need for food or shelter: basic requirements which, without being met, leave Us to wither, leave Us exposed."
The figure's vaporous hand rose, and so did the very light at the center of Golben itself, created from nothing but shed all around, as if the labyrinth bore its own tiny star to heat and luminate the world. Golben began to brighten, a pulsing glow that highlighted the ruined hedgerows, the uneven earth, the distant walls of the great bowl-pit overtaken by ivy, their once-smooth downward slopes now marred by erosion and mutated by mudslides from past wet seasons. All of it was but a melted candle of clay and soil. What man had created through sweat and labor, the earth had already started to overtake and consume.
"A house left unattended becomes nothing but walls and emptiness, Creator. So do We. Our request is great, but necessary: see to our restoration and renew our role and purpose, or raze this land, salt the earth, and condemn it to lives in the pages of old books.
"We are tired, and while so you too may be, your responsibility to Us remains."
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