“It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.” Gandalf.
Extract from diaries of the lonely author…
“This month has seen dramatic changes from normality to lock down owing to the global Corvid 19 pandemic. It has left me struggling to process my writing. Namely because some time ago I wrote “The God Strain.” This was about ground zero of a new virus written deliberately to cause global devastation. A later dream gave me the progenitor for this virus in a dystopian short story. This was called I Am Corona. A futuristic A.I. deeming humans were a scourge. It wrote the virus construct and sent it back in time.
It has now dawned on me that it is possible my words create the future. Stephen Kings Dark Half lives. If you read these words take heed. Be prepared. Worry not about what is beyond your control, rally to what you can…”
Ok, that was a morbid preamble. The stories are real. You can follow the hyperlinks to them. The God Strain appears in The Crux Anthology courtesy of Rachael Ritchey. I Am Corona featured as a BlogBattle short story. An unfortunate prompt which might now stimulate better posts.
The diary extract is not real. At least I hope not! Just in case I’m off to visit the world of the Amanuensis.
Perhaps I could start a “Corona” prompt tag whereby each person tagged must contribute a positive post on mindfulness or well being. Something that addresses good news for I feel the media is doing a fine job with the bad. Again comment if you might be interested in this.
Stay safe in these trouble times fellow writers. Let’s face it we, at least, can fill time in isolation with reading or writing. Book recommendations welcome in comments too.
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The Castle Weeps
“Ynshael Faeroris of the elves, witch and learned scholar of the elder mages.
Yish heard the words crawl round her mind. She glanced at Naz. A covert look to see if he was aware. Judging by his trademark beard stroking she guessed not.
“You feeling alright?”
Naz unloaded his axe and tested it in both hands. Not to check it still worked, more a nervous reaction to the voice that had just dripped through his own head. He didn’t need reminding his folk had dug a little too deep in the mountains. Gods of old raised them to hide things best left hidden. Gold and precious metals layered above acting as both temptation and warning. Avarice never takes heed of the latter.
Yish had guessed wrong. “You heard it too then?”
“Aye, Nahir of the dwarves, betrayers of the elder mages.” He spat on the ground. “Something doesn’t like dwarves here.”
Both looked at the ruin. Part backed into cliff and part absorbed by forest.
“What do you see Naz?”
“Darkness,” he replied.
“Not gut feeling, just describe what you see.”
He inhaled deeply as his eyes scanned, first the rock face and then residual walls. “It’s wrong.” He paused waiting for her to reply.
“The walls of this fortress are not hewn from the rock face outwards. It makes no sense to build such here as the cliff is scalable. It is vulnerable from above. Yet the structure has machicolations ringing the outer wall. Why craft murder holes when from above there is a natural one?”
She nodded, a wry smile noting his knowledge of rocks was superior to hers. Judging by his reluctance to say more, there was in fact much more to say.
Naz slung his axe shaft onto his shoulder.
“This Castle is not forged from the rock out. The rock came later. This mountain has moved around the keep. The walls go into the rock face and that has grown round them in the same way the forest consumed the outer ward.”
“Are you saying the rock lives and grows like the trees?”
“You’re the sorceress Yish. Normally rock is there. Immutable, fixed. Broken by picks and graft. This has been placed, grown and…” he trailed off as a new thought appeared. “No, I was wrong, the outer ward is defensive only to make accessing the gate harder. Most of this fortress rests inside the mountain. It has been grown around the citadel. It’s hiding something.”
“How can you be sure?”
“How did you know the Cromlech was elder magic?”
Witch and scholar of the elder mages. The words tumbled through her head once more. “I know sorcery, you know rocks.”
Naz laughed. “Aye, you’re infinitely wise and I know about earth and stones.” The humour died as swift as it appeared. “This is your domain, not mine.”
Yish closed her eyes. Let her mind touch the outer walls now lying either broken or clothed in ivy and fern. How would he read it?
Remote surveillance is about stretching your essence. Let it feel the elements. Earth, air, fire and water. Each draws a particular line of power that permits the seeker to explore. To travel without moving.
“You’re thinking about him again Yish.”
He’ll be Amanuensis by now. Naz remembered those words from the chronomantic elder portal. Another Keep, no… The Keep…lost in some future time where chaos ruled, the old ways lay dead and the Amanuensis was locked in a conjurers bubble. Did she know this?
“You miss him yes?”
A word of warning dear Yish, if the trail breaks then you risk losing the path back to your corporeal self. He’d kissed her then and brushed hair from her face. Don’t worry, I’ll always be there to fetch you back though.
Except things had changed. She let herself join with the forest.
Earth. From there she moved forwards to touch the outer ward. Here there was residual thaumaturgical energy. Old, but definitely there. She touched it.
Water. Rising, she traced moss covered walls. The energy line ran vertically upwards. High and above the point where old crenellations would have topped battlements. These she saw in her mind.
Air. Then she was back on the forest floor, through the outer gates, long rotted out, and at the rock face. Naz was right. Where keep joined the rock, it continued into the cliff. There was a door too. Hidden and indistinguishable from the mountain side. She touched it.
Fire. Inside it was scorched, charred, smoke filled passageways and aisles. There was death. Long ago there was death. Thaumic discord. Enough to grow a living mountain to hide…contain…what lay within.
Do not enter Ynshael Faeroris of the elves. A warning from within.
Yish, steer away now. If you cross the threshold the link will break. I can’t fetch you back. Him again, stringing words through time.
“You,”she whispered to no one. “Where are you?”
Lost in my future. Leave that place now. This is dark elder magic.
Naz watched her brow furrow. Tears were streaming down her face. Gut instinct told him something was amiss.
“It’s crying Naz.”
“The castle…the castle weeps.”
Another excellent story, (sorry I’m really struggling at the moment to concentrate on anything. First worried about COVID 19 and tomorrow we are being tested for it.. My head feels very woolley right now. )
Nice to read more about Yish and Naz.
Hope you are well!
Thanks Marian. I really appreciate your comment given the circumstances you are experiencing right now. It’s very kind to take time away from that to read this. Like I said in a response to your post I do hope your tests were negative and if not then your symptoms are mild. Very unpleasant place to be.
Hopefully Yish and Naz will draw out a few more characters from the cast soon.
All good here at present so fingers crossed that continues!
A lovely piece of writing, Gary! It was very relaxing to read, in such turbulent times. Escaping to worlds of fantasy soothes the disquieted mind.
I love the interaction between Yish and Naz — finally meeting these two at last! There’s a sense of a deep connection between these two, forged throughout the years. An intrinsic understanding of one another, and acceptance of who the other is, flaws and all. Reminds me of our discussion regarding characters being built from observations — this friendship feels very real and organic.
The mental image conjured at the thought of rock growing and moving as easily as the forest was simultaneously magical and slightly unnerving. I wonder, why was the mountain moved, and by whom? What secrets does the castle keep?
I’m very much looking forward to reading the next part of this story, whenever you continue this particular thread! The castle weeps… I wonder: for what reason does it weep?
I also really liked the guiding words of the Amanuensis. Can he see all and communicate with all, locked in his conjurer’s prison?
Beautiful writing, as always. It was very nice to be transported to somewhere else, even if only briefly. 🙂
Too generous Joshua. Have to admit to just streaming this out quickly too. Might sound harder, but these two are old friends now. I’m still amazed you’ve not seen them before! Although looking back some were written Linda Hills SOCS.
So pleased you felt their interaction was flowing too. I’m trying to get organic interactions based on our previous discussions about people watching. I’m trying hard to give each their own voice and mannerisms. Not just replicate my voice through them in dialogue.
The mountain bit drew off previous explorations. Yish is, in this time zone, ascending through the ranks in her Guild. A thaumaturgical archaeologist if you like. The concept fits with (dare I say it) civilisation collapses. Relics from a former time whose uses are lost over centuries. Dragon Stones being an example. The places her Guild has sent her to explore all hold vestiges of the elder mages. The mountain is wrapped in their sorcery too. It makes the archaeology tricky as it’s full of old wards and…well….spoilers…
No idea why it weeps yet either…time will out there. Remember I plan nothing!!
Re the Amanuensis. Yes. He is capable of reaching out through time and connecting with almost anyone due to his roll in the Keep. The conjurers bubble permits it because it was triggered by one of his close allies as The Keep itself fell and sealed the Vault. The only flaw was concealing all his memories. In his time frame he’s not really sure what he is.
Mind you, I did write a piece called Tea Thaumaturge which is one of my own favourite short encounters 😊
Well, it worked brilliantly. Sometimes the words just bleed from our fingertips in a moment of maniacal creativity! They certainly each had a distinct voice — I very much liked how their respective “energies” bounced off one another. Really feels like a genuine friendship — I could read their interactions even during downtime, and not when questing for ancient castles! I enjoyed spending time with them 😀
This is a really cool story, Gary! I loved your horror pieces, but I also really love this, too. I hope to find out why the castle weeps soon, as I really enjoyed this piece, would like to know where it goes from here! I’m also interested in reading the older Yish and Naz pieces, when I can!
Ah, I see! I learn something new about this universe with every story! I had it in my mind that the Amanuensis had been trapped in a bubble by a foe, it never occurred to me that it was done by an ally for protection! I feel a bit silly now 😂 Again, brilliant concept, Gary. Such richly detailed worlds and backstories! Marvellous.
Thanks Joshua, I’m proper feeling this story now. That said I’m also enjoying running scenes with them. It’s like going out with old friends. Last weekend I read the file where I’ve compiled all the short stories relating to this and it kind of blew my mind a bit. It’s heavy in world build, place names, guilds, hierarchy. I never realised quite how much detail I’d already done. Definitely prequel short story compilation material.
This months is earlier in the time stream for Yish and Naz. I said earlier you might get Part 3. It’s very deliberate and aimed at both you and I! I mentioned you in the preamble for that reason!
It stuck me there’s a few part 2 bits missing in the older stuff too. A case of exploring, thinking it works and moving on to the next scene. Enter amnesia, possibly age or idea overflow… and I forget to go back. Bit like the gothic story. I actually want to return to that.
The prison thing I’ve actually mused in words. Tracked it to where Yish tells him how to unlock it, had him in Groundhog Day going through doors that loop him back into the study. Had him with no recollection of what was before waking there and using his communing skills to try and work it out. Even had him wondering if he was actually the antagonist and it is a prison proper. It’s actually Yish that corrects that view…with a twist on why she left the Keep before it was sacked…found that again last weekend 🤔
I’ve said it before, I think it’s quite telling of your skill as a worldbuilder and a storyteller that you can make something so rich and forget bits and pieces of it. I’m looking forward to reading broach and flute from you, I’m very glad to be revisiting these two soon. 😀
That’s a very cool thought — amnesia followed by the “Am I the antagonist?” question. I suppose we all like to think we’re the heroes, but if we were to forget everything, we truly would question if that were so!
I didn’t make the name connection at the beginning. Glad you got your entry in! My household is doing well and hope the same for yours!
It might have swept past too quick being the opening sentence. Easily done. Great to hear you’re doing well though, all things considered. Fingers crossed things stay that way.
All ok here too at present. New prompt imminent too so hopefully I’ll get on that a bit quicker this time!
There’s a very ancient and traditional feel to this story. I liked the description of Yish using her sorcery to get a feel for the keep. I figure Naz is a dwarf, but I wasn’t sure if she was a dwarf who knows sorcery, or another race. The ending gives the feeling there’s more to follow!
Bit late with this one Abe! Almost missed it. Yes, Yish is a high elf sorceress. Very first line uses her full name…hence everyone calls her Yish!
You are indeed right too. This is part of an ever increasing back story. I might follow it up next time. In fact last months entry also featured this particular world build too.
Thanks for the comment and I hope you’re keeping safe in these strange times