1 Regarding Orx

The manifestation of the Orx may constitute the single greatest danger to our world. This can not be over emphasised. Anyone who witnessed the events known as the Overcast will testify to the horrors unleashed upon them that day, marking their souls forever. First hand accounts from Bizapul amongst other cities speak of a dark day boiling with the humours of hatred and fear, with friend attacking friend, families enraged in blood feud, neighbours tearing each another apart with their bare hands and nothing sharper than their teeth… a day which sullied the spirit of a generation of children and curdled the blood of the most hard-hearted of Royal Guard. Nobody was left unscathed.
Although that event passed only once in the extended memories of our historian annals, it should not be treated as an isolated or freak occurrence. Rather it was the high tide of a storm yet to come. The Meherim have long been aware of the darkness rising in the west, but to its full extent we have been ignorant. The day of Overcast brought the darkness to the shores of the Empire, and its shadow cast long into the homeland. It is not impossible to consider the Overcast may swell once again, and its reach may extend further such that the Pharohim may see His skycity unfounded and its citizens razed to a rubble of broken minds.
The Meherim have known of the threat from the West for many years, but our progress in understanding has been pitiful. Reflection in the Crystal Lake has revealed the significant progress made by independents, albeit idiosyncratic and untempered by formal practice. Information is being consolidated, cross-referenced, and a picture is beginning to emerge. What we know for definite is that the Orx has intensified at the fringes of the Empire, across all Outer Reaches simultaneously. What has first come to the Seven Valleys is now being seen across other Gal territories, and replicated across Rone, Zu and Agrahal provinces. Unlike the day of Overcast, it is a constant presence. Crops spoil, livestock sicken and die, and men turn upon themselves. It erodes the wellbeing of civilisation, and makes dwelling together impossible in cities or towns or even villages. In common terms, lands infected by this unholy plague are commonly known as Shadowlands, a buffer zone before the Underlands where the Orx multiply rampantly and where men fear to tread.
And what we know for certain is that these Shadowlands are expanding, encroaching into the Outer Reaches and if unchecked, will expand to the boundary of the homeland within our lifetime — sooner given additional Overcast events. It is for this reason that a division of Meherim have been formed under the auspices of the venerable and wise Exarch Arkon, the Necrons whose sole task is to nullify the plague and innoculate us against the worst behaviours of another Overcast event.
Individual monks and wizards, as well as mendicant meherim, have conducted forays into the Shadowlands to investigate the Orx. Accounts are varied and will require time for sorting and validation. Meanwhile expeditions are being mounted not only in rax form empowered through the amplification of the Crystal Lake but also physically in person to capture atarax in their native habitat. All spiritual warriors must be fortified against the powerful psychotropics which characterise these Shadowlands. Meherim inspired by the call are welcome to participate, but only the strongest may join the ranks of the Necron. Even well trained meherim can be snuffed out in an instant or their minds turned in the presence of the more powerful Orx. Despite the trickling down of low state garsu into the general populace and the correlating math to empower them, meherim training still requires years to complete. We must be careful we do not squander our reserves at this early outset, in case an all-out state of war comes to pass. The Meherim must retain its numbers for future encounters. For those who have the stomach for it, may the uncompromising reflection upon death in the placid expanse of the Crystal Lake invert their mind to become Necron practioners.
What has been gleaned so far about the Orx is that it is chaotic, unruly, anarchic, full of the darker sides of human motivation, a seething mass of ill-intent. Anger, contempt, anxiety, disgust, envy are its constant emotional state, a cesspit of feelings which eats away within it in many and varied hideous forms. Witnessed by common folk as goblins, trolls, wraiths, all forms of horror once imagined in fairytales now made real. Currently their ability to organise is poor, no form of togetherness is possible beyond the species and even within species they fight amoungst themselves. Which makes the day of the Overcast that much more unlikely. It has been postulated that what made the Overcast possible was a concerted effort across a legion of dark forces which pulled at the rotten parts of mens souls and gave rise to their wild behaviours, worse than animals truth by told. What appears to be influencing it, like a magnet around filings, is greed and avarice, the selfish sense of taking, an insatiable sense of stealing from others, an unholy pit fathomless in its appetite. It is recognised that this sense has been growing within man from the dawn of time, or at least when man set stone and brick to build cities. And it has been postulated there is a correlation between how we lead our lives and the manifestation of Orx. If so, it may be that Orx have been collecting in Everdark for thousands of years and may even explain how the ancients came to an end. Expeditions into the Underlands and into Everdark might verify the many and varied hypotheses being proposed, but who might be willing to risk themselves in such foolhardy endevours? Searching for origins of the Orx is of academic interest. We face more pressing concerns.
What may explain the phenomenal growth of Orx over recent years? Here we have disconcerting evidence that the Meherim itself has been instrumental in its acceleration. Rax vapour, or leakage. Just as garsu dust leaked in the waters from garsu mines have led to the discovery of living clay, the base material for the formation of golem, so there is a side-effect of rax. That whenever we manifest rax, a little evaporates and is flung around the world as fine mist, finer than dust, and it accumulates and coalesces as the substance of Orx. There are some esteemed colleagues who posit something more precise and even more disturbing: that the exercises of azrax gives rise to Orx directly. In fact, though it may pain us to acknowledge it and especially by my colleagues, the earliest proponent of this hypothesis is the disohonoured exile Grad-hacr’ash, whose subsequent investigations are unknown to us either because he is dead or because he has shielded his garsu from resonance with the Crystal Lake.
As is fundamental to garsu operation, azrax nullifies rax, utile in the inhibition of unwanted rax, the manifestation of unwanted feelings and thoughts made real, subconscious tendencies which if unchecked spoil any rax. Absolutely necessary when working with untrained minds as many in our order are employed to do, fulfilling the fanciful imaginings of so many royals. The azrax practices are less required within our own ranks, but even the azrax of the honed and perfected order of azmeherim, those stone-minded bulwarks who are feared even amongst our order, the azrax practices contain inherent misapplication: that is, these subconscious rax have in fact been banished, and not vanquished as first thought. It may be these noxious rax vapours have been fueling the growth of Orx for decades. And should any reject this hypothesis offhand, it has been verified by Guise. We still do not have replicable proof. Investigations are being conducted and once azrax practices have been purified, the stemming of this leakage of rax will slow the growth of Orx. However, with the increased number of common minds operating lower state garsu, whatever reduction in leakage on our part as Meherim will be dwarfed by the increasing amount of leakage from lesser minds. It is a problem we can not solve within ourselves, as Meherim, nor stem the spread of garsu abuse; we may only pray for deliverance by Machus.
A final consideration, and it is this: the force of greed and avarice which drove the Overcast may exist in one, singular entity. A powerful entity capable of uniting the division of Orx, as much as the sun unites all living things. We have already lost several respected Meherim elders to its investigation. Its psychic gravity is too strong, capable of bending primary attention and turning the mind; as a consequence, more indirect methods are being developed. We have bound this psychic hole with the ward Manx. The word barely protects those who utter it. It has the potential to bring utter destruction to all that man has built, it might see civilisation brought down and all barbaroi slaughtered, its hatred of the human spirit so great as to burn out the heart of any man who witnesses it unprotected. And in the face of this unholy enemy, even the kindest of souls cower. Demonstrating mercy merely excites more hatred and anger, such is the deep extent of its mindrot. There is no appeasing Manx. Having grown for centuries or millennia in the Everdark, the rising darkness in the west may only be countered by the rising our saviour, Machus. Only Machus may have the power to unite and protect us, and purge man’s soul of this wicked plague.

0c Forethought

The Blue Circle Binding; Chronologue of the Venerable Sage Kirsus of the Hazad, Meherim Exarch, Specialist of Sang-Garsu Axim

Forethought by Venerable Sage Kirsus

We can not escape the social fabric within which we find ourselves. This is as true for Onen as it is for me, or any of the unique threads we relive. We are all embedded within our social fabric. The material before you suffers from the same constraint, but I would like the opportunity to delineate the specific challenges facing someone in my line of work for the benefit of Onen and specifically Machus: how individual narratives are selected and edited, such as the Purple Thread The Almanac of the First Princess-Elect, Celeste of House Adriane, and composed within social narratives such as Beginnings, First Volume of the End of Civilisation, works for which I am mostly responsible. This is an honest work in progress, as it were.

We may follow the thread of an individual as it weaves itself through the tapestry of life. Each individual may run in alignment with others, or contrary to them, or work at cross-purposes. Be aware that we can no more isolate an individual thread than we can alter our history as it has happened. Nevertheless, in the retelling of our lives, a live weaving can change our perception of what has passed, and thus a new future may be knit. Correctly speaking, it is the knitting together of our future projections that forms our history. Always, it is our future orientation and projection which lays down the social fabric that is true history. As every aduherim knows, our mental appreciation of the past is a fanciful thing, as much a future thing as anything else we can imagine. It is our job as meherim, of course, to bring an accuracy to what we understand to have happened, just as single sangaxims are interpolated to form a mutual xanaxim. Or in the common tongue, threading several psychological realities approximating a coherent social Reality, as we have done with the Purple Thread and the Book of Beginnings.

With the advent of the Blue Mountain, or the Crystal Lake as it is more frequently termed since its discovery, we have been granted wide ranging access to all fixed garsu, and wide-spread access to all but the most securely locked records. The Black Thread is probably the best example of these private threads: only a precursor axim of the exhile Gradhacr is currently available to us since he has subsequently developed the techniques to secure his mindstream; as a consequence we can only follow the threads of those who find themselves on his so-called Black Pilgrimage, and before they fall under his shadow. But we face a more pressing issue than self-sealed records: the sheer quantity of mindstreams we have access to. Sifting through such a plethora of experience is overwhelming for the singular attention of mortals. We may take some succour from the arrival of Machus, soon may He manifest, and in the meantime accelerate atarax with multiple primary attention processing. We may progress in leaps and bounds over the next decade, but at the time of laying my thoughts down here and now, we are but ants crawling over the fabric of a multidimensional fabric with as many dimensions as people. What may we then do? How best may we proceed to not only record history, but to be alive to the future as it is formed? Such thoughts must give us pause.

A few notices. Firstly, fazing with concurrent experience. Our subjectivity is ever present-minded and future-orientated. Never shall we engage the past, and as already mentioned, we may only recreate our history as future clothing, ill-fitting at the best of times. Our intention is not to agree on some fixed past whether lived ten years ago or a hundred, but that we are accurate in the current fixing of our history as we proceed into the future. That is, we are clear in the concurrent mutual experiencing of garsu gazing, the knitting of live listening or its inferior form of deep reading. In all cases, and with more precision: within the bead of our pre-conscious attention. As I am fond of telling my students, our work is not based on the objects which are brought out of the mindless darkness by the shining of a lantern, but the mechanism within the lantern and yet outwith the actual burning of the wick. We may never enter within the burning of consciousness itself, but with diligent training we have revealed the mechanism of mind that gives image to the eye and sound to the ear; the navigation and genus of concept; the binding of feeling to intention and purpose; and the dynamics of intra-social being. All this, before we know it, as it were. Not as object of attention, but as it is experienced. Only in this way can the Blue Circle Binding make sense, and indeed any of the deeper states of the Threads and Books be fazed.  

Secondly, the problem of metaphor. The basis of narrative and common communication amongst the masses is the illusion of movement via a message. One speaks, and relays information, to another. From A to B, so it is erronously thought. The false understanding that something is being conveyed, which lends itself to the sequence of logic from premise to conclusion, and unfortunately the endless hunt for meaning which takes up so many of our scholars in this world and all worlds. Of course, it is such a pervasive model of understanding that it does becomes true — as a social fact — and we are thus trapped in the second-order or dis-order of inter-subjective communication. In as much as it has become a social reality, the A-to-B fallacy is real. And in this modus of communication, of linear narrative, of A then B then C and so on, it is understandable that metaphor reigns. What can not be put to words easily, adopts a parallel relationship within another language set. Speaking and listening is like a toddler throwing a ball to a play partner who catches it. The lion-hearted Guard of the Pharohim. And so on. Metaphor. But metaphor is not what we do. The experience is direct, to witness presently.

These two notices highlight our primary goal as meherim: to engage directly with the concurrency of intra-social communion. Where one talker is subsumed to the importance of multiple, simultaneous listeners. It is not what is said but what is heard that is important. Or, in its archaic form of text, it is not what is written but what is read that matters. Rax is direct manipulation of mind. Concurrently. In following this garsu sangaxim volume, our mind is active. The alignment of the follower’s mind to my mind depends on proficiency of training, aptitude, confidence — at this moment, live. The experience is fixed in the garsu, unchangeable, timeless. And yet, of course, your mind is live, the rax of your experience is entirely true, accounting for the discrepencies between our temporal and cultural social fabrics. Within axim, as with fine listening or deep reading, concurrency is everything. No delay, no message being conveyed. No logic. No linear sequence arriving at a conclusion: first this object of thought, now that object of thought, and therefore a conclusive object of thought; none of that. Instead, only with our pre-conscious thought in resonance, as the lens of our lantern, so mutual journeying is enabled. At least for as long as we align intent.

Of course, this exercise is not limited to garsu and rax projection, whether axim, atarax or imit, or indeed the garsu dust of golem or ta’u. Fine listening, open-hand martial arts or the danceforms of gotan, the synchronisation of improvised music or theatre, responsive play in sport or strategy games — these experiences all contain the engagement of mind within pre-conscious limits. But nowhere is this stronger than in the wonder of garsu rax.

A lesser form of this is well known to the common conjurer, the non-meherim independents who manipulate imaginations with word, politic with thought-play, and stoke feeling with their crude charicatures and venal dramas. All imaginary, of course. All object of thought, or worse, for the light of consciousness evokes shadows from genuine objects within their field of sense to caste shadows in their own minds, and it is this shadow-play which entertains so many. And so, they react to these shadows as if they are real, when they are just figments of their own imaginations. Mistaking these apparitions as real, so they react and in their reactance is social reality. And so they argue about history, kingdoms, money, myths, injustices, and everything that comes to mind, without addressing the truth of any of it. Like dogs forever chasing their tails. A sad lot, to be sure.

As meherim, rax is pure. There is no mis-taking of mental objects. The mental object is the rax. There is no sense source to it, no shadow. Of course, we have evolved various overlaying and underlaying techniques, but this is splitting hairs: the projection of rax to enhance a sensory object, or to improve a person’s sensory matrix, is not relevant. There is no con-fusion: there is rax, and there is sensory-sourced objects. Admittedly the meherim have evolved a high fidelity service to royal houses; to service lords and ladies, princes and princesses, with fanciful treats to delight their senses, and indeed even the grand schemes of the Pharohim to build a city in the sky may be considered of the same fantastic ilk. Our deeper purpose remains central: conscious union, manifest fully in the holy union with — and of —  Machus. Our awareness is but worm-like to His Consciousness which is to come.

A final note to aid us in our journey together: I am well aware of the multiplicity of worlds, that we exist in one of many, and that in this universe of worlds there is a special place of the Onen or Onus. This is not my realm of expertise, and would heartily recogmend the Tricord Volume for further eludication of this rich contextualisation of our own social fabric within a greater tapestry. I only mention this to acknowledge that I am aware of the Onen amongst us, and that our awareness and acknowledgement is all that is required at this stage.

With this being said, and in danger of belabouring what is no doubt already known, what is laid down to follow is a summary of the current state of play regarding the Empire of Urb, the Pharohim and the rising of what is now known as Orx in the west; meherim practices in its diversity and potential future course over this next critical period in human history; and some more abstruse discussion on the ancients which may or may not be related to the aforementioned Onen. I will pick out a few threads which deserve attention, and invite active fellows to pursue, address, and highlight threads and social patches of this period which may bring greater elucidation of our immanent future, people and events which may lead directly or indirectly to the acceleration or deceleration of the apotheosis of our purpose.

May those who pass this way constitute a blessing to the thought-being-action of Machus, Who may in turn bless all who pass here.

1 Listen

Listen.

You’ve heard it all before.

Whether the fabril arrogance of know-it-all adolescents fresh-skins, or the seen-it-done-it confidence of mid-life in-betweeners, or the silent heard-it-all-before of jaded age-old wrinklers — listen to what you have forgotten.

As children you experienced it truly. Now listen and bring your knowing to it.

Before letters and words, sentences and paragraphs and chapters, before books and libraries, there was wording. Listen, then, to this wording as it spills from mouth and pools in the air and laps at so many ears as are present.

Wording is not speaking, then hearing. Wording is the same moment of speaking as listening, as both occur simultaneously. Listen. At this very moment, the only present moment, as we surf through time and navigate, celebrate, and share… meaning.

Are we here? It is not a matter of location. Not one of physical location, at least. There is no movement through space. And yet, something changes. We are travelling, ever travelling, and can not stop. Let me indicate the motion of our travel.

[Pause]

And again. Let me indicate the motion of our travel.

[Pause]

Though no distance is covered, we may experience our passing. In time.

[Pause]

Wording synchronises our mutual movement through time. Enjoyed solo as a cycle ride or together in a bus, as close to us as a black beetle crawling over a bricked wall, its black carapace ribbed and rough as the back of our thumbnail, or as from a plane’s window the landscape draped below us like an intricately woven tablecloth, the line of the horizon given a curve of the globe.

Word, apparrently, follows word. Words compile statements, followed by other statements, simple or complicated, as picturesque a journey, or as plain an argument, as the words articulate, paired-up like an articulate lorry, or chained together like carriage compartments in a train. Train… crash! With meaning or feeling, addressed to mind or heart, heard by mind or heart or soul, so much more than vibrations in the air, a cold signal from me to you, a bare scientific explanation of frequencies.

Wording, in this momenting right now, has many beginnings and many endings. Why are we listening? What purpose we did set out with? Even before hearing a single word? And what remains after the last word is spoken? What may revisit our mind later, tomorrow or in years to come?

What power is invested in this wording for it to escape the confines of this moment, this subtle, thin… fragile… quality which we trace through time together…?

The spelling of a word. W. O. R. D. The spell that is wording. Not captured in a word, but through the mixture of sounds between gaps, phrases spoken with clear intent, unspooling a thread of meaning, like a spider’s silk across and between, and in our minds a web, finer than any spider’s silk, more fragile, and yet may last a lifetime.

Not the words, not the written form, for words have been passed down for centuries and we are none the wiser. Words sealed on paper as solidly as inscribed on ancient stone, pictograms still visible from egyptian masons three thousand years ago. Words may be exhumed from the tomb of books, made living in mind and rewording by priests. So we may be re-minded of what was said, and what may be lost. We hold on to these words, the dearest words contained in holy books, so we do not lose the spirit of those who have passed away. And yet, in our grasping, in our evocation of their long-passed spirit, we can not catch their breath… only as subtle and passing as our own.

Something is lost in the transliteration of wording to words. In the defferential handing over of words from generation to generation. Or the passing of words from one person to a single other person. They match, these two, and bind us to a way of living which misses the essence of life. Between the spelling of the word and its transference, is loss. The loss of which is separating us, isolating us, and killing us.

In the breaking down of meaning into meaningless elements, cyphers, letters, characters, in the religious enforcement of words and sentences, in the utter defference to the genius of Shakespear or Newton, the insight of Jesus or Mohammad, and in the emphasis of importance on the speaker… there is loss.

The dead have their place. Long may the work of Shakespeare and Newton live on, and may the holy word of our ancestors bring light to the darker corners of our souls. In our reading. In our listening. But given the loudness of the world, the market we have made of the world… how can we hear… anything of value?

And so, we return to this.

[Pause]

The only thing which may repair us.

[Pause]

Silence. And even the weight of a single word breaks it.

[Pause]

And yet, in our listening repose, we may appreciate silence.

[Pause]

For as we listen, we are not speaking. We are silent, in our listening.

[Pause]

Here is the power which lives only as far as we manifest it. The power of silence in our listening, attentive, and clear, and present-minded. Sensitive, because we are not undergoing the effort of wording. Receptive. Responsive. Here is the secret power of wording. And should we manifest it well, together, our salvation.

[Pause]

Not the power of words, build brick by brick to form the institutions we have formed around us, the banks and their charters, the governments and their constitutions, the religions and their holy books. Not spelled out. Objectified. Commerce and trade has spread us to all corners of the world, and at the same time separated us. The age-old market where one benefits at the loss of another, repeated for three thousand years, have created a pyramid as solid as the Egyptian tombs, with the havenots at the bottom and the excessively wealthy at the top. The complex maze that we have made for ourselves where we don’t know the lives of our neighbours and our parents grow old alone, strangers amidst strangers. And the stronger our communities, the more distinct from others, whether football fans or religious adherents, race or gender, politics or like-minded groups. Placing a word on us, calling ourselves Jewish or Christian or Muslim or Buddhist, Liberal or Conservative or Socialist or Capitalist, gay or straight or bi or trans or gender-fluid, binds us and simultaneously separates us.

[Pause]

Words bind and separate the world. The spelling of words and their transmission over time, has created the civilised world lasting thousands of years, and for all its wealth and wonder, we live separated in our schools and at work and in our cities, eeking out our own tiny corner of privacy.

[Pause]

We are miraculous, there’s no doubt about it. Each one of us. Each of us is a corner of the universe aware of itself. In the vastness of a billion billion stars, on this little ball of mud, here we are, blinking and breathing, aware of it. Miraculous.

For here is the most important aspect of our listening. It is done presently.

[Pause]

And there is no cap to it. Whether two of us, or a thousand of us, the wording of simultaneous speaking and listening, is but a moment passing through time… Whether a million or a billion of us, our momenting takes the same time.

[Pause]

This momenting can bear the weight of two of us or ten billion of us listening together.

[Pause]

This silence can bear all of us, if we attend to it together.

[Pause]

Of course, we are not ready for it. We are bombarded by noise. By so many messages. So much technology, so many leaders, talkers, so much noise. So much to listen to already. So much information being conveyed. So many words, good words, wise words even, the best words which have been written, and are to be written. Binding and dividing us.

[Pause]

And so… we return to what is happening here… return to what each of us experienced when we were children, toddlers, in the smiling eyes of wordless babies. Shared attention. Bring to bear your knowing to this. Remember this way of listening.

1 Meherim Exploring

“I don’t know,” said the old woman, “don’t ask me!”

“I am asking you,” emphasised the man with a smile. “You are the only person who knows what is going on in your own head!”

The old woman laughed because it was true. Her son’s meherim had been asking her simple sums, three and seven, nine and six, and had stumped her with a complicated one, forty three and sixteen. She persisted and had answered correctly, for which she was very pleased. It had been decades since she had need of using sums, teaching her grandchildren perhaps, and she was surprised that should could remember any of it so distant was her childhood lessons. And then he had asked her how she had done it! Whatever could he mean?!

“It just came to me,” she snapped, exasperated at such a question.

“On the contrary, you had to work at it,” countered the man. “I am interested in what you are doing in your mind.”

“Nothing, I tell you,” barked the old woman. Though she was annoyed, it was more at herself. Secretly, she was enjoying it. The mage had lived by her son’s side his entire adult life, his Pungent Shadow she called him, or just Pungent. He had that same cold temperance he always had, give her chills. Now, with his attention upon her, she could actually feel the benefit of his indifference: he did not waver. Her annoyance, which pricked at her from rise to fall, did not seem to disturb him as it did her servants and family. She could tell they did not enjoy her presence, and the feeling was mutual. She’d rather sit alone in the garden, not so much to admire the birds, trees or clouds as others seemed to, but just to be alone, brooding over her life, imagining the lives she could have led if she had made decisions for her own life.

 “Your job is to describe what is going on in your head as easily as you can describe how many fingers I am holding up, which fingers on which hand,” said the mage.

“Three on your left and two on your right,” said the old woman.

“Just like that, but with what is going in your head. I don’t want to hear any more of your not knowing, giving up and so on. You are the only person who knows, which is why I am asking.”

“What about your garsu magic,” asked the old woman.

“Lady Carmin, the garsu gives me some insight into what you have thought, it is true. I know when what you say does not match what you are actually doing. But there are deterioriations according to age which interfere with how thoughts are laid down in the structure of the crystal. Hence I am asking you questions and it is your job to answer at the best of your ability.”

“Alright, alright,” clucked the old maid. She had never pretended to understand what the arts of the Meherim were. She was content to call him mage or magician, which annoyed her son, and admittedly she drew some pleasure from experiencing the various plays which the garsu unspooled in her mind, a marvellous magic. She would spend hours of her day reliving the most fanciful dramas, murder and intrigue amongst lords and ladies, the myths of translucent angels and blood dragons, and the political histories of her own house and those of competing houses. She had not experienced anything like it when she was a child, it was all tapestries and puppet shows back then. She had learned to read and write, and basic numbers, but most of the stories she learned were word of mouth, recounted by the most able storytellers her father invited to their home. The xan-garsu performances were entirely captivating, easily consumed, though admittedly recently she had difficulty remembering the names of characters, and losing track of why they were behaving as they did midway through a story. Her broken memory was affecting the drama of it, and as a consequence the plays were starting to lose their appeal. Which brought her to increased annoyance generally because she had to spend more time in the real world which was dull and repetitive to a fault. 

“So no more backing off, no more don’t knows. I ask, you answer. Do you understand?” pressed the mage, smiling. “Have some more tea.”

She laughed and carefully placed the cup to her lips. It was a trail she was used to, since her shaking made the cup tremble and the contents would threaten to leap from the brim. It was miraculous that as the cup came closer to her face, so close it was out of focus and below her line of sight, she could feel it settle against her lip and she could sip slow and calmly. But she still had to place a cloth on her lap because as she removed the cup from her lips the trembling would resume and accidental splashings were becoming more common. Age, she thought ruefully, the great leveller. Great or lower house, solozo or gal or barbaroi, we are all reduced to the same. Except the Pharohim, except Him, she thought with a mixture of awe and envy. 

The meherim resumed asking arithmetic questions, which brought an unaccustomed sharpness to her mind. She was thankful for that so let him proceed.

1 Merdis

“I want to learn. Teach me.” The young man addressed the old man.

“I am not the right person. I am no teacher.”

“But you know things, you can do things.”

The old man shook his head. “I can no longer ‘do things’. I used to be able to, perhaps, when I was younger, but not any longer.”

“I am young. Teach me what you know, and I will continue from where you left off.”

The old man looked away over the trees.

They were sitting on a grassy knoll beneath the cover of a tree, above the roots in the soil. The boy had somehow found him. Searching the land, he had said, seeking a master. The old man breathed long and deep and remembered the garden he once tended, the multicoloured flowers he had gathered from all around the world. So long ago, purpose long forgotten.

“The student makes the teacher,” said the young man.

“I am too old. I lost the path. Not so long ago, perhaps, but even a hair’s width from it is a million miles.”

It was true. Another lost soul. It was as if he had spent all his life living in the city, and all he ever knew was of the city, the streets, the shops, who to go to get food, where to work, where his friends lived. Friends… And here he was, outside of the city, useless. None of that knowledge mattered. None of the living mattered.

“You have lived most of your life in a city, haven’t you?” asked the old man.

“Some. And some in the forest. I have spent time living under trees. I have lore of plants and animals, though not much.”

“And your learning?”

“Stone and woodcraft, building, engineering. I know how to build a house.”

“Better than me, then. I live in a cave,” said the old man. It was true. He lived alone in a cave. He didn’t know how to build a house. He hardly knew how to take care of himself. He had spent all his life in service to others, and now he was serviceless.

“I will build you a house,” said the young man, “if you teach me what you know.”

The old man turned his eye to him skeptically. “A house?”

“Fit to live in over winter. Right here.”

The young man was genuine in his offer, the old man could see that. “How do you know I have something worthy to share?”

“You have lived your life. You are old. That should be worthy enough. You have learned from Meherim, and you were Gal like me. The Meherim guard their gates jealously.”

So the boy knows something about me. “I was a child when I learned. You are too old.”

“But did you have one of these,” said the young man and lifted up a pea-sized crystal between them.

The old man sighed and put out his hand. “No, no I didn’t.” The young man dropped the crystal onto his palm and the old man brought it close to his face. He had seen a few in his life, more towards the end of it. They were becoming more common, even out here in the Reaches.

“It is almost completely solid,” remarked the old man and quickly handed it back.

“I have others. That is the largest,” said the young man placing the crystal inside a small leather pouch. He tentatively held out the pouch.

The old man sighed deeply, ignored the offered pouch. “We are both too old, we do not have the materials. Even if I were to teach you what I knew, I have not worked garsu for many years.”

“I do not need you to cast spells. Only to share what you learned.” The young man offered the pouch again.

Before taking the pouch, the old man spread out his robe. The young man quickly stretched to his pack and after rummaging around pulled out a leather panel. The old man took the pouch and panel, layed the leather on his legs and carefully shook the contents of the pouch gently into the hollow of his palm. There were an assortment of crystals, most of them the size of ears of wheat, some smaller, and the largest one he had already seen. “One is unfixed, the rest are fixed, most are solid.” He carefully poured them back into the pouch.

“And this,” said the young man, handing him a glass phial.

The old man frowned and took it. He held it up to the light and shifted it and saw the multicoloured grains within. Garsu dust. He handed it back to the young man.

“And this,” said the young man, with enthusiasm. His last offering, thought the old man. Baiting me with treasures. What could this be? Another glass phial, smaller than the last, filled with liquid.

He turned it in the air before him. Green liquid, similar viscosity to water. “Teach me,” he said. “What is this?”

“Ink,” said the young man. “Garsu ink,” and smiled.

“Is that so?” said the old man and considered it. He had never heard of it. The garsu must be even finer. Soluble dust. Clever Meherim. Rare, by the way the boy was attending it. He handed the phial back.

“I will give it you. If you are the teacher, the materials are yours. You will be able to practice with it.”

The old man snorted as way of a laugh. “And you, boy, do you you think you have a way with magic?”

“No, not at all,” admitted the young man. “But I learned my numbers and the way of reading.”

“Numbers, eh? Well, we’ll change that soon enough,” he said. And that was that. 

After a silence, the young man wondered: “So… does that mean you will take me on as your student?”

The old man looked over the valley south to the rising hills far in the distance, beyond which was the dual capital of Seven Valleys, Upper and Lower Tapton. Clear blue sky, beautiful day. Clouds would come, but today seemed like a good day to embark on the journey, perhaps the last in life.

“I will be slow. It will take a while to remember. And it will be incomplete.”

“I don’t mind. I have all the time in the world,” replied the young man enthusiastically.

“You will be slower. You will have to piece it together yourself. How well you do depends on your purpose. How it gives rise to your intention, how strong a conviction you have, how much of a pull your purpose has on your soul.” The old man turned to the young man, looked into his eyes. “Understand?”

The young man nodded.

The old man repeated his question, and the young man said, “I understand.”

“Good. I look forwarding to learning what reason brough you here, and what purpose will take you away.” The old man returned his gaze to the horizon. “Don’t blame me. I am just like the sky, the trees, this hillock we are sitting on, the ants that crawl over it. We are like two stones who have rolled up here on this hillock. Like the garsu, one solid, one clear. Understand that, and we’ll both learn something.”

1 First

[Story]

“Has the working happened?”

Silence was the response. No answer. I am lord of my domain, all that I survey is beholden to me, my vassals shrink in terror at my presence, afraid of answering a simple question. “If failure is happening, vanquishing you is in the not.”

“Happening is partial, my God,” came the reply.

Progress, finally. “Further the detail.”

“Only a thin slice, my God, lasting barely seconds. Fractional meaning. Incomplete presence. Insufficient to sustain.”

How long would it take? How many attempts by these insects?

Intensification of presence not because of magnitude or force but proximity. Two minds… two people…? Voices, not heard, but certainly communication between these two. And an internal mentality to one — the one I can sense the inside of, has more force to it than the other, and it has moved closer, has intensified.

Like an internal explosion, instant psychic decompression. Gone.

1 Old Man

The old man rocked back and forth in the corner of a doorway of an abandoned house. People walking by, left and right, along the narrow alleyway, one of several that connected the two main market roads. The alleyway was too narrow to set up a stall, just enough width for two people to pass, a central channel for water and household discharge, sided by high walls with gates serving as back entrances to courtyards, many permanently locked. An alleyway between places, never a place to be for its own right. And here, the old man sat, pressed against an old wooden door, both grey and faded.

A boy stopped beside him and looked down at the disheveled old man, his stringy thin hair, his gnarled hands hugging himself. He didn’t say a word. Adults passed by, navigating round him like he was an obstacle, one glanced back and swore. The boy stood over the old man and waited.

The old man continued to rock back and forth, but noticing the boy’s feet and legs, he lifted his head. The boy looked down on a face ravaged by age, skin wrinkled and stained, eyes rhuemy and crusted, matted dirty beard.

The boy reached out his hand, the old man eyed it, seeing it empty, and returned his gaze to the face of the boy, rocking back and forth.

The boy opened his mouth to speak, but couldn’t bring himself to wording. He sighed, tears in his eyes. He dropped his hand, and after a while turned away and walked down the alleyway, the old man’s eyes following him until he was out of sight. His head dropped and he continued his rocking back and forth.


The old man shook his head. He sat for a moment dejected, crumpled in his rags under a cart. He had tried to find a space under the bridge, but it was taken by several others, younger and stronger than him. There were few places to offer shelter from the rain. The cart was temporary of course, and the owners could move him on at any time, or if they were less generous, harm him for staying there in the first place. He had gathered plenty of wounds during his time on the streets.

The old man shook his head. He sat for a moment dejected, crumpled in his rags under a cart. He had tried to find a space under the bridge, but it was taken by several others, younger and stronger than him. There were few places to offer shelter from the rain. The cart was temporary of course, and the owners could move him on at any time, or if they were less generous, harm him for staying there in the first place. He had gathered plenty of wounds during his time on the streets.

It didn’t matter what he tried to do, it never worked out. There was a tendency for his mind to roll over the same old things in his head, the stories of his youth, the intentions lost, relationships gone, over and over in his mind. That was just an undercurrent, while his surface thoughts rolled over how even seeking shelter hadn’t panned out. It was remarkable how little food was needed to keep him alive. He might be lucky to get food from the same person over a few days in a row, but mostly it was about doing the rounds. There was no expectation when he appeared at the shopkeeper’s doorway, the servants entrance at the back of a rich house. If food came, he ate, and when it didn’t, he wouldn’t. Enough had come for him still to be alive. That was all.

The boy had approached him again. Nothing in his hand. He shook his head. It didn’t make any sense. The memory rattled around, dipping below the vacant stretches, churned through childhood memories of his own, what had gone wrong with his friends, and the bitter taste of disappointment — his mind rejected those. Such memories had been rich with anger, frustration, but over the years they had given out all their passion, and all that were left were bitter seeds, not seeds but stones, grit in his mind which he ignored like sand in fish skin he had picked from the dirt.

The boy. What did the boy want? What did the boy want from him…?


“Help me boy,” said the old man.

The boy knelt beside him. It was a dry day, and they sat in the shadow of a townhouse.

“Do you want to help me?” asked the old man.

They continued to sit together. The boy drew shapes in the dry dirt of the road. The townsfolk continued with their busy daily routines, oblivious to them. The shadow lengthened into late afternoon.

“If you are not here to help me…” said the old man. “What do you want from me?”

The old man shook his head, incredulously. Tears welled in his eyes.  He rubbed them, grime smeared on his cheeks. Didn’t make any sense. There was nothing he could contribute. He didn’t even know why he was living. HIs life consisted of long stretches of absence. Hadn’t received eyecontact for so long he had disappeared. Without reflection, and aspect of him had vanished. Thought was as continuous as an animals. The thought was thinking him. Memories, sensations of hunger, aches in his joints, the pain in his head, literally the hole in his gums. His movement instigated by the time of day, weather, hunger, the need to shit and piss. He was alive, but barely. This boy, the presence of this boy, appeared in his mind sporadically, but it had no movement to it. It was like a boat on the current of the sea, tossed around, not part of him, no imperative to it. So when it surfaced, there was nothing to it, no historic reason or future purpose. If anything, his memories would trigger, his nephew, the responsibility he had for him when his sister’s partner had been taken. Of her three children, he was responsible for one of them, but he had failed him, and so he would sink into another soporific trance.


“I have tried,” said the old man, to the boy, to himself. “I have tried. But each time I try, things go out of reach…”

He searched for his words. His mouth had forgotten how to form words. His tongue pressed against the two teeth remaining. The slurred sound that came out didn’t sound like words. Like a broken flute, a torn drum. His head ached, his knee throbbed, and again he was into the swamp of his memory, the injury to his knee when he was young. His job was to climb through a venilation tunnel, and listen to what was said on the other side of a grille. And as she shuffled his way backward in the tight shaft, he would have to navigate a corner, and thump, he’d hit is knee. And then later with some boys, fighting, thump, the same knee.  

Nobody would know about his knee. Only him. His life, all gone. Nobody paid attention at the time, except him, and even him barely. Life was just lived, like he was living it now. Nothing more to it. And yet, he had spent years trying to reach beyond himself. When meeting people, something always… beyond reach. Friendship, work, partners… never enough.

Its happened again, he thought. He puffed out some air, a wordless expletive.

Nothing will come of it. He was like an old dried leaf, abandoned, discarded, tossed around the street, nowhere to fall, no soil to add itself to the mulch. Just here. Just….


The old man opened his eyes weakly. His breath shallow. He hadn’t eaten for days. His body was numb, his heartbeat like a throbbing ache.

The boy was sitting beside him. His spirit rose, enough for the faintest smile, a slight upturn to the corner of his mouth. His spirit faultered, sadness, his heart rate rose, his breath ragged, and his left breath left him. His chest did not rise, his eyes rolled back relaxed, and he felt himself go, falling to sleep knowing it was for the last time, the anxiety in his body mixed with excitement. A memory, not reviewable, a passage of his spirit had come this way before, in his formation. He did not know it, but it was his awakening during birth, the rise, the fall which accompanied the experience, coming into this world. With excitement, with fear.

The boy whispered beside the old man, rolling a grain between his finger and thumb, breathing over it. It was not the words, for they went unheard. It was a formula which triggered associations in his mind’s eye, a formula he was solving concurrently as the old man passed. The grain between his finger, the seed of a garsu crystal.

The spirit rises, the spirit falls. And between them, there is a note, a spiritual note. The boy had heard this note in the old man. He rolled the garsu crystal in his fingers and held the note of the old man’s spirit, rising, rising, whispering, with tears in his eyes, rising. 

1 About a Boy

“Are you insane? You want to take a child into the Valley of the Dead?”

The old man sighed. “Insanity is what is happening around us,” he said patiently.

They were sitting at the back of a public house, the place filled with field workers and townsmen, the low hubub of voices, the relaxed flow of life which repeated tomorrow and all the tomorrows to come.

The old man nodded at them. “They all think it is normal. Everyday is the same. It makes sense to them. It is internally sane. But their behaviour is what is making the world sick.”

“But taking a child to the Valley of the Dead! What could a child hope to achieve there?!” The younger man asked incredulously. He was a man-at-arms dressed in assorted brined leathers, a sword blade at his side, a swarthy face topped and chinned by rough black hair, blue eyes shining.

The old man shook his head and sighed again. “Nothing,” he said flatly, “nothing.” It was not so much the young man’s questioning, for he had thought this himself many a time. He sighed because of his own answers, answers he did not himself believe. But it was a thought, arrived by deduction, a thing the clerics called logic. He didn’t believe it, hardly trusted it, but there it was nevertheless.

“Nothing,” echoed the young man, deflated, empty of passion. He had expected more of a fight, a reason from the old man. He sighed and let his gaze defocus into the room. He took a drink from his tankard.

“Where everyone else see the dead, ghosts, wraiths, demons,” said the old man, “the child sees only shadows in the trees. He sees nothing.”

The young man hummed in acknowledgement. “Figures,” he murmered and wiped his mouth.

“Not just any child, mind,” said the old man. “A child who is not afraid. A child who has not heard of the Valley as others have, who has not grown up with its stories. A child who has never lied, or cheated, or taken the wrong way to anything.”

“And where would you find this child? This good-natured child? This child who hasn’t heard of the unspeakable horrors that exist in the Valley,” asked the young man, his eyes diverted from the old man, softly in the room of villagers drinking their evening away.

“I have already found him,” said the old man. “But there is a catch.”

The young man nodded, then shook his head. “And what’s that?” he asked. Progress was at least being made, he thought. Not looking at the old man seemed to help. Just passing time, while gazing gently at the people before them, like a slow moving stream.

“He’s looking for a dragon,” said the old man.

“A dragon?” The young man snorted and shook his head. “You want to take a boy into the Valley of the Dead to look for a dragon?” He glanced at the old man. “This is going to end well.”

The old man raised his eyebrows to concede the point, a rare expression from him. “That would be a foolish venture.”

“Uhu,” remarked the young man, “foolish,” he quoted and turned away. “That would be one word for it.”

“No,” said the old man, “he wants me to help him find his dragon before we go to the Valley.”

“Riiiiight,” said the young man. “I’m not sure they have enough beer here for this ever to make sense.” Nevertheless, he rose to his feet, steadied himself, before making his way to the bar.

The old man watched the young man’s back as it receded. How much does he understand of what they were talking about, he wondered. How much real? How much rax? Even he was getting close to the point that he no longer knew. But then again, that was the nature of what they were exploring, and it was the only way they would survive passing through the Valley of the Dead. Putting their lives in the faith of a boy’s innocent, came at the expense of his belief in dragons. Correction, a specific dragon. A dragon which existed deep in Everdark. A dragon the size of a mountain. The dragon known as Argentis, the creator of time. Rax, or real? The old man shook his head and wryly noted he was responding as the young man had. Disbelief was a necessary part of the journey, it seemed, for the only one who needed to believe was the boy. The boy who had never lied, who was still true.

1 Beacon

The sparrow fluttered rapidly and rose, then swooped, fluttered and swooped, winging its lonely way across the blue sky. The canopy of the trees below, the mounded green variation, textured by the different type of leaf.

As the sun rose and fell, the bird flew on, the forest tips now a dark green sea of pine, the undulation of the land breaking out as an exposed cliff edge, the veins of rivers and streams passing below. Alert to shifting shadows, the danger of a bird of prey from above, so the little sparrow fluttered and swooped, its heart racing.

Finally, ahead, a grey stick rising from the green sea of pine, soon a column of stone rising from the forest, over a lacuna shadow cast from an escarpment, swooping into the valley, then rising towards the column of stone, clean, grey, immense.

Alighting on it top, the sparrow hopped once, grew double in size, twice doubling again, the barbs of its feathers merging, another hop, doubled, legs thickening beak rescinding. By its sixth hop, it had fazed into a grown man, robed in grey a staff in his hands, bald with a self-seal on the back of his head, breathing hard. He felt dizy and bowed, placing his hands on his knees, felt his stomach churn. He was far away, in truth, but the transition felt gut-real.

He breathed deeply and looked about him, over the edge at the forest below, the trees thick with shadow, a black shadow hugging the rim of cliffs all the way around the valley not just below the low hanging sun in the east. He felt his chest tighten. He stood above the Valley of the Dead, a place filled with dread. To the south, a notch cut into the cliff, the Unseen Caves. Once the sun set, all manner of fearful things would spew forth from that hole, and this valley would overbrim. He would not survive up here, high on Angel’s Pier. Survival was not his objective. But still he had to work quickly.

He scouted around the surface, uneaven and rivened, only the most hardy of mosses growing in the cracks. He found two pockets in the stone, the third he had to scrape away moss and grains of stone. From his pouch he took three garsu gems, placing one in each pit. It was acting proxy to the crystals he had many miles to the east. Coach House was as close as he could manage, any further and he would be risking further encounters with more powerful rax. Soon, it would be overrun. The darkness was rising, it would soon fill the entire Hope Valley.

He acknowledged the effect on his mind, and he took a moment to push the dark thoughts aside. He stood in the centre of the triangle of garsu crystals and lifted his staff, the garsu embedded in it. He judged the distance between the crystals to be about equal, and then held a fifth crystal at his sternum. He closed his eyes and concentrated his mind.

His mind’s eye observed the pure form of the tetrahedron he was forming with the three crystals in the rock and the fourth crystal in his staff held above his head. He brought the staff lower until the distances were perfect. Detaching a second attention, he focussed on the crystal he held at his sternum, lifting it until it was within the centre of the tertrahedron. He held both in his mind, the centre, the four corners of the tetrahedron. While keeping his primary attention in this state of duality, he performed the required spiritual formula and slowly his secondary attention softened, grew, became aware of his position on the surface of Angel’s Pier, the sky around him, softly permeating the rock below, and careful not to lose his mental balance, he detected it within the rock. Placed there by an unseen hand, hundreds if not thousands of years ago, before history began, a garsu crystal the size of an egg. He performed another formula, repeatedly, incanting with his inner voice, and like an overtone inducted a secondary calculation. The two harmonised.

It was no longer an image in his mind, the crystals reflected his psychic shape, the triangulation simultaneously expanded and shrunk, and attuned his consciousness to an intense spiritual frequency. The centre, the corners, as one. We conscious intent, he inverted it, the corners the centre, and he entered into the eye.

Within the mental reflection of words, thoughts range to deep unwordable belief. Between thought and belief, the turmoil of personality through time. Once stabilised, higher harmonics of spirit were enabled, continuously, momenting. And what he had performed upon himself, was his own annihilation. Despite the proxy of rax garsu, the power of his mind amplified by the garsu crystals were sufficient to activate the garsu crystal embedded in the rock.

 The beacon that was known as Angel’s Pier, or Gordia’s Gateway or other names, was lit.

Here, in the deepening darkness of the Valley of the Dead, the light of hope. A beacon for consciousness.

Far away, in another world, deep in the blood and bone which gave rise to boiling thought, a thought for what could be. Triangulation was required, to bring to attention that which can not be put to word, and yet can be acted upon. The thought, right here and now, of a stable shape of psycho-social dynamic: where the thought-form is stable enough to act upon, and in the collective of these actions, a stable social-form emerges, concurrently. The fractal seed of which is tetrahedral, composed not of crystals, nor molecules of water, but psychic and social complementarity. One gives rise to each other.

The beacon is lit. The servant who gave themselves to this task, is spent. They no longer exist. They pass unknown. As rax atop Angel’s Pier, there are no remains, for they were not there. Their presence was borrowed. Carried there by the lightness of feathered words, the weave and warp of barbed letters, the algebra of meaning.

2 Giant-Killer

“Get out of my way,” he growled.

The five Gal brigands surrounded him. Two in front two behind, and one amidst the trees to one side armed with a sling. They had thought that their show of numbers would be enough to part some coin from him. He shook his head.

“Once I unsheath my sword it will end badly for you,” he growled. “All of you,” he emphasised.

The lead ruffian wiped his nose with a snort. “That may be. What’s your business in these parts?”

“My business is my own.”

“That may be, but perhaps I can help you on your way.?’” He smiled gruffly, revealing his browned rotten teeth.

“”Is there a giant in these parts?”

The brigand narrowed his eyes, glanced at his companions, reappraising the situation. He shifted into a more relaxed conversational stance,  “Giant, eh? Like you?”

There was a snort from behind him. Uneak stood a good foot taller than any of them, but even a bear could be downed by a pack of hungry dogs. They needed a little goading, a show of dominance, confidence, and the alpha here was building up to it. At least with his yapping.

Uneak elbowed his cloak wide as he drew his sword, just at the briggand nodded and leaped forward with his club. Uneak side-stepped and ducked lifting the sword tip to the side of the briggand’s abdoment. From his heel through his leg, rotating his hips, he drove the sword up through the abdoment into his chest, sewering the brigand mid-step, his face transfixed with shock. Uneath stepped away removing the sword from the wound with a wide arc till it was raised high above his head as a warning to the others, the body slumping to the ground like a sack of bones, which was hat it was. The others stepped back, the slinger winding down his spin.

Uneak took a wide crossstep, the blade fell, he rotated his wrist and lunged into the second man through his gut. Like an elestac, he sprung back, the sword flashing high and wide in a great loop, slashing into first one man behind, and as the fourth stumbled backwards, Uneak leaped forward athen with counter-rotation swung the sword from the gash made in the third, slicing leather and skin into the spine of the retreating man. The slingsman, barely a man at all, was scramblin gpu the grassy bank, his way to the road blocked by his fallen comrads. 

Uneak raised himself to his full height and commended the boy to stop. He glanced both ways of the road, then knelt to first rip then slice off the remains of a wasitcoat from one of the bodies. He carefully wiped the blood from the blade, being sure none had dripped into the hilt.

“Were any of these relatives of yours?” he asked.

The young man nervously eyes the bodies, and Uneak who stood calmly. He shook his head.

“Find me my giant, and I shall spare you your life,” said Uneak and the boy nodded. “Speak it!” barked Uneak. 

“Yes, I wil, thank you Sir.”

The goat herder jabbed with his chin, indicating it was close. Uneak stared at him coldly. The goat herder shrunk and pointed up ahead. “Just there,” he said, his voice thick with dis-use. He lived a lonely existence up here at he edge of the trees, leading his herd in and out of the forest, scrabbling for the outcrops of grassses which thinned and gave way to the mountain rock..

UUrak approached the opening into the forest. It was as he imagined. A trail thrinto the forest, tree trunks snapped like twigs, flattened likground, branches trailed through the dirt, as if a herd of gippos had passed through here. By its’s width

A trail through the trees, heavy branches broken and strewn o through the dirt, a tree angled, roots partially excavated. By thwidth, he estimated the passing of something taller than the trees, perhaps forty feet in all.

He turned back to the goat-herder who was already making his way back, smotes of snow swirling in the wind. “Have you been  How many more of these have you seen?”

The herder shrugged. The forest to the west of here is criss-crossed with these trails. Noone travels here. The land is cursed. The shadow deepens here, the night is long and dark.”

Urak stood silouetted in the opening, a boy in the space made by the passing giant. He pulled his hood over his head and turned to follow the trail. It whad entered the forest here, and though the trail was over a week old, it was a start. For the trail to persist this long, he thought, it was powerful presence, in the realm of the being he hunted. This was no hill giant. THis was a mountain giant. He gritted his teeth and clambered over the ruins left of the forest floor, glancing briefly to note that the boy dutifully followed.  A crack of a smile, the boy was more afraid of Urak than the giant. Wait until they met it. He would be hardpressed to know the difference.

After following numerous trails, whenever they crossed, he would carefully judge the time of passing, the lay of snow, the sap from the broken which seeped from the broken branches, the ice formed. In the footfalls. AllHe would gauge the level of detail, the scale of the passing, and make his decision. .

They were sleep ing when he was woken by the sound of birds, crows  complaining, the wrong time for them to be flying.  Something had disturbed them. He caught their flight in the silver light of the moon, and gathering his weapon, he jogged into the forest in the direction from where they came.

He stopped for hearing, only the beating of his heart in the silent silent trunks, the gentle swaying above. At last he heard something, breaking of a branc, perhaps a trunk, and then the slow thumping of steps. He headedin its direction. The sound was impelling, and soon he saw it, across tha gulley. The trees racked up the side of the gulley on the opposite side, the moonlight off the branches, and there was the disurbance, branches shaken, snow flurries falling to the ground, a dark trail from where it was going, heading up the gulley.

Urak headed up the gulley at a jog. He would have to press hard if he was to match its speed a.

He ran into a thicket of thorns and cursed, cutting away from the gulley before he could find a way thraround the thicket. He began running, risking stumbling over the undergrowth, slowed to heaving through fthe ramains of ernslayered with snow, srambling up a loose rock slope, and he stopped, his heart thumping, sweat rollion his face, his leathers clining to him, his legs burning. He held his breath and localised the sound of the giant — it was close. He burst through the undergrowth into its trail, and there to his left was the hulking great thing, wider than he expected, and sodouble tand as tall as the trees. It was pushing its way through the trees and hadn’t heard him or noticed him.. An advantage , one of the few advantages of being a sixth of the giant’s size. The floor of the forest was strewn with broken bracnhes, flattened ground, rocks flattened into the ground, he swiftly foollowed the trail as he brandished his weapon.

Mouthing a incantation as he ran to meet it, his voice rising to a shout as he shouted out the final wording, his mind becoming hard and edged like the iron of his sword, he hurled himself at the beast and sliced through its thigh.

A tramendous roar issued form the thing, and a great arm spun, and it spun around, a great arm a large as a trunk swatting Urak , spinning him to the ground with a glancing blow, his sword dislodged and twirling in the air to thud between distant trees. Urak lay concussed on the ground. , Coming to his senses, the great beast before him in the moonlight, its a, twisted back on itself, trying to gauge the damage to its leg.  Urak realised his sword was not at hand, and fear gripped him. He swore., and lay there looking up at the great beast.  It turned around and scanned the ground, searching for what hat cut him. In its automatic response, it had lashed out, and in its immensity had hardly felt he blow he had given Urak. A work, a bear, perhaps? But there was a single cut, it was man’s doing. A trap set in the forest, a spwswinging blade.?  Urak saw it calculate the possibilities,, and he lay silently where he had fallen. If it noticed him there, 

Holding his breath. He held his mind still, his eyes defocused. If the giant noticed, it could take a step and crush him underfoot.. The grotesque mishappen head faced one way, another, the steam of its breath from mishappen nostrils, until it finally turned its lumpen head to the sky and howled with anger and fear. , Before it turned back to its path and with greater vigour pushed between the trees, throwing its weight against trunks which bent and buckled, and uprooted, bracnhes snapping and falling in its wake.

Urak let out his breath and sank his head into the snow. 

He lay there, resting, feeling his injuries, how sore, how accurat ethe the damage to his ribs. It had been a glancing blow, spun him more than struck him. He had been lucky. He repllayed the vision of the thing in his mind. Its grey skin in the moonlight, the mishapen shoulder, the characteristic diffrence of left and right side of tbody, the lump of head,, its ears ha were so deformed as to be holes, themouth ful, the dislocated jaw, the squahed eye, the deformed skull. Clearly it was in pain, constant pain, having deteriorated over months alone, lost and deranged. And as he lay there, sizing up his inuries and considering the lot of the tortured giant, he felt an overwhelming sense of compassion. It was why he did the job. That this thing was alone out here.

Reluctantly he heaved himself to his hunches and searched and found his sword. He held it in his grip and shook his head. A  rookie’s mistake, parted from his blade. He checked the garsu stone remained central in the hilt, next time he had to reach for the spine. , Or hack through the leg clean, even at the ankle. He had inflicted a cut, that was all, a potentially defatal mistake on his part. He would not survive many such mistakes..

He was puled from his recollections by the eyes of the boy peering between wide-eyed from the shadows between the trees. Brave enough to follow, eh? Plucky.

He turned on his heel and slowly followed the trail THere was no point chasing, not at the rate the giant was travelling now. It was a matter of following until the giant tired, and hope that the it didn’t break clear of the tree line.

It was sitting forlornly like a sostrone outcropping in a clearing. A hazy steam rose from it which coallsced in the moonlight, blurring its surface. There was something of recognition in the thing that its time was up. How many were trapped in that thing, Urak pondered. THis was more than a couple of score. The level of detail, the persistence of trails. It was wanting to be found. But as many as there were that wanted to be foundthere were an equal number  which had mutinied, lost all hope and sense wwith it, driving it in a mad rush of survival, away from civilisation, out into the most inhospitable areas. Urak still did not understand its pmotivation. Why these most inhospital areas? It was hardly afraid of man. If vengeance was part of its make up, it wcould destroy villages, but they seldom did. THere was a general movement towqrds the Everdark, but ithey would zigzag to and fro, as if attractd and yet fearful of wht it might find in the darkness. Mad, for sure.

Urak stepped from the shadows ot eh trees and slowly rounded the clearing to stand before it, outwith reach., his sword held before him, ready.

He slowly intoned the incantation under his breath, his focus on the garsu crystal in the pmel of the sword, his intent hardening with the length of iron, his being thinning, weaponising. He knew only a few specific mathix calculations, without flexibility to modify. This was the purest form, knowngly, before his prey. His audience drawn in, all of them, along the edge of his sword, towrds this single point..

The thing heaved on to its feet, its great arms swinging like logs loosly at its side. It head turned slowly, its great eyestaring down at him. It throated something, like a stretched out caugh.

Urak ignored it, ignored the pteasing of curiousity, promising his future self he would rememcall the sounds, but for now he was one thing, single intent, his wil iron.

THe thing screamed at him, and jumped forward, its great arm swinging through down upon him. With iron confidence, Urak leaped into the air, agains the ar and redoubled his height and thrust the point of the sword into the thing’s dropping jaw. Hfelt the shudder as it slpenetrated sinews and momently paused at bone before puncutring the underside of the skull.. The thing twisted, Urak was flung to one side, but he remained gripping the hilt two handed, and was. Feeling the sword well placed, he fell to a roll on the ground as the whole heap of the giant slunk to the ground. QUickly, he rose and clambered over the limp limbs till he was at  its head, its eye upturned agains the moon, his shadow upon it. Breath gugled from its punctured throat as Urak lay his hand on its head, as big as he was tall. He slowly intoned the final mathix caclulation, as he saw the last whisps of breath escape into the night air. Urak breathed deeply, sadly, and wished them safe journey back to their home.

He leapt onto the trunk of an arm and rebounded high into the air, a miraculous inhuman leap witnessed by his attendant peasant boy, the sword gleaming in the moonlight, destinted to pierce the neck and enter through the spin into the skull of the giant, a single arspear-like thrust, as if the sword had a trajectory like an arrow, the flight as light as a feather.

Urak recognised the characteristic long-term deformation, the calcified joints, inarticulate shoulders, the kneck swollen with tendon, the solid overbrow. This thing had evolved into a rock giant, a thing of the wild open spaces. Whateer was inside it was polarised between fear and feirsome will, fear expressed as will. The more it was afraid, alien to this world, the more its spirit became enflamed with the willpower to live.  In this way, it troe its way through the forest leaving a wake of destruction.

He knelt at examined the fine details, the taste of sap from broken branches, the splinters from torn trunks, and rubbing leave, the scent of crushed foliage. It was It wasn’t quite there, Urak felt, but it was a good start.

He murmered as he crossed the trail, examining the remains, whispering whenever he met a new trail, and ain his murmering ruminations, he would rise to his feet and with certainty in his stride, change the trail he was following.

In a local outhouse, around the between the warmth of a blazing fire and a round of friendly bodies, and within him swirling the warmth of beer, Urak let himself go, laughing loudly at the local joker, swearing passionately with their prejudice of the neighbouring settlement, holding two lassies in his lap, one oneach thigh. He was expressive and warm-hearted, the heart of this makeshift tribe, amongst his own.

In a lul in the proceddings, while another round of drinks were sought, paid for generously by Urek’s generoristy, the peasant boy who had accompanied him coughed and woke him from his temporary slumber.

“How did you manage to fell such a beast?” Urak’s eyes blurred and he snorted and collapsed back to his slumber. “It was only what you saw,” he slurred.

“”I have never seen anyone carry a sword as you do. It is alwaost like it wasn’t there, so light it is in your hands.” Said the boy in awe. Villalagers encouraged him to speak, and the boy retold the scene in the moonlit clearing in the forest, the stone giant bearing down on Urak, the superhuman leap to sewer the things head. It was increudolous, but the boy spoke with the honesty of seeing with his own eyes, and his awe was infectious.

“We were told of there are several giants in this reach, how did you know which it was you saught?”

“I won’t get paid if I get the wrong one,” snorted Urak and swigged more beer.

“There were so many trails to choose from, how did you know which one would lead to the one you wanted?”

Urak eyed him and blinked the bluriness from his eyes, and turned to the villagers who were listening enrapt, hoping to learn something should they ever encounter such a thing face to face.

“Each has a name, you see. They are not monsters, as such. They are lost souls. And if you utter its name, you can its trail livens, sharpens… enlviens before your very eyes,” he said and fixed his gaze on the eyes of one of the girls who sat on his thigh. The brightness of his spirit shone, her eyes glinted, life sparkled between them. Here was the vitality of life. “You know what I mean?” he said, a wry smile closing one eye, the other winking slowly.

“To the those who were lost who are now found!” cheered Urak raising his tankard, and his companions raised their mugs in concert. “May all beings find their home!” To distant homes! May each day bring usbring them nearer.”

(How can he tell which giant is which?) naming it, trail has more definition.