Domus Exsulis

Three Forests

House Slippers and a Swerving Corridor

by on Apr.27, 2015, under Camena Draconis, Nemorosum Somnium, Three Forests

(c) Nin Harris 2009 – . All Rights Reserved.

Left of the Librarium, and slanting somewhat northwards the corridor swerves. The floor is covered with a threadbare carpet of maroon with beige swirls, intricate details lost under years of wear and dust. She pays attention to each dip and swerve in the floor as she walks, her fingers trailing the rough surface of the wall, counting each footstep she makes. Ahead, the triumphant cries of dragons. She does not know yet that elsewhere, trees are battling dragons with their fractured arboreal apparitions of dreaming. She does not know that the Great Dreaming of the trees had been interrupted by a well-aimed, albeit somewhat marred projectile. She only knows that it feels like the world is erupting in chaos about her. You will not perhaps know her as a distinct entity from the other female players within this House of Exiles, but perhaps you might be interested in the details, as she is. The details matter more to her than her own name or whether or not she has a character distinct enough for you to take note. The frayed hem of her favourite dusky rose morning gown reaches past her ankles and worry at her favourite pair of house slippers with every step that she takes. The slippers are embroidered with pansies and trailing leaves on a darker green fabric. Her fingers, dark brown, meddle with the peeling paint on the rough wall as she pads on, swerving downwards, ever downwards. She sees herself thus. A pair of hands, a pair of slippered feet, soft, subdued slapping sounds made against the threadbare, somewhat pungent carpet as she navigates herself through the rabbit warren that Domus Exsulis sometimes resembles. Her hair, frizzy and black, escapes her braid in opposing directions, making her look like a disjointed, ill-put together apparition who strolls through corridors at the break of dawn. A pair of eyes to observe. Ears to listen to gossip. A mind to filter. Lips to be pursed, keeping their own counsel.

She is ignored by the house-imps and the djinn wielding a vacuum cleaner. She reaches the steps. She takes them, one at a time, pausing to look through the cracked windowpane at the sun rising above Nemorosum Somnium. There, a host of dragons congregate, and seem to be swooping into the forest. Moments later, a deafening rumbling sound is heard and her vision feels enveloped by shades of green and deep umber, conflicting with one another.

When her vision finally settles, this is what she sees. A violet dragon, flying upwards to meet the host of dragons. Along with her, swirling shapes in iridescent colors mimic the movement of the wind. The host of dragons surrounds the elegant Himalayan dragon on all sides. With an elegant precision, the violet dragon swoops and plunges earthwards once more, evading their closing ranks. They begin to roar. Moments later she barrels into the sky again, this time above them, with her the host of earth spirits and aerial dancers of the forest. She bugles imperiously at them, a strong, draconic voice that reaches the walls and rafters of Domus Exulis. From her window, the woman in dusky rose watches. As the sun rises higher, this is what she sees: one by one, the flanks of the draconic formation step back. Heads are bowed in submission. The violet Queen sings to them a Hymn of Earth and Sky. The swirling shapes of the forest surround her, for this is a dragon who was also a tree. The woman knows this. Everyone on the island knows this. And now there is silence, for the dragons rumble no more. They have found their Queen, and she has accepted them, but has also subdued them.

The woman in dusky rose ponders what this would mean for the rest of the isle, and if this will bring the Wild Hunt out of hiding. When one wild host subsides, another must rise, after all. This is the order of things. There can only be silence, for a little while before one pattern or another will unravel. Chaos and change. The woman smiles to herself at this thought. It is a quiet smile, with a hint of bitterness. She resumes her journey, left of the Librarium, swerving northwards, towards a room found several levels below where her implements await her. This is all she has for now. Details. Knowledge of other lives. That is all she needs for now.

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In which a fortuitous projectile fractures something other than its target

by on Apr.27, 2015, under Camena Draconis, Nemorosum Somnium, Nemus Animae, Silva Atra, Three Forests

(c) Nin Harris. All Rights Reserved.

In Memory of Janet Yanosko Elkins, one of the first and earliest readers of this frenetic, hypertextual web and all souls, friends and loved ones lost along the way, somewhere in the Great Dreaming.

Ackbroll squatted beneath the shadow of a teak tree, watching The Wild Maiden of The Trees as she circled the gradon that dreamt within states. All around them, Nemorosum Somnium moved and rustled. It was a feral force that troubled even the Maiden in all her wildness. It troubled Ackbroll even more so, for he was significantly less untamed. His patron, the antlered one, had warned him of this many moons ago. Now, as the Wild Maiden grew frenetic and urgent, he finally understood. The wind affected even him, the murmuring of the trees bending and shifting his own memories, despite the protection of the antlered one. Ackbroll had been named protector here, even if he could have left, his own sense of responsibility would not let him do so.

The susurration that was the conversation between twigs, the veins of corresponding leaves and the wind created an intricate weave that contained the consciousness of a thousand trees and more. It drowned out the thoughts of humans and animals alike. The susurration had the penunggu in the trees cackling and hooting, half-wild with starvation and a glee born of both deprivation and power. The madness of the forest had kept away the tourists who provided them with fresh blood, and fresher meat, but had given these malicious protectors of the trees something else. A new strength, a new dreaming. This could not bode well, Ackbroll thought. He sucked at his upper lip and made an irritated sound. There was no help for it, he had to act soon. Timing was everything. No time for elaborate plans here. He took his slingshot, and loaded it with a mangosteen fruit. It was firm, but soft. Firm enough to be used as a projectile. Soft enough not to hurt too much if used. He looked up at the elegant teak tree and patted its trunk in a familiar, affectionate gesture.

“This may hurt a little,” he said to both the tree and the forest.

He eyed the gradon, whom he knew to be the queen of dragons, as well as the source of the disturbance within the heart of the forest. He aimed his slingshot. He fired.

Splat!

“OWW!”

It would have been a loud shout of outrage, had it not hit something other than a very diminutive target. Ackbroll dropped his slingshot, squinted and then sighed.

“Broke my wing! My wing! Stupid spear-boy!”

Ackbroll dropped to his knees and peered at the Flitterer.

“Weren’t you banished from Nemus Animae?”

(continue reading…)

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The Arbitrator Speaks of Story-Theft

by on Apr.27, 2015, under Alta Exsilii, Domus Exsulis, Silva Atra

(c) Nin Harris 2009 —

The Arbitrator is in a fuzzy, deep blue bathrobe today, his close-cropped red hair wet as if he has just come out of a bath. He invites me into his home in the South-Eastern Wing of Domus Exsulis, a sturdy retreat built of wood and set atop tall pillars of timber. If I move out of the leadlight adorned doors which open from ceiling to floor, I will be on the hexagonal deck which looks out across the fens to the south, the Mishgalaveri Mountains towards the west. I watch as his eyes widen at how I have changed. I am no longer the voluptuous, dusky-skinned Ferahian scribe and researcher who visited him on odd evenings.

“Yildie, what a pleasant surprise,” he says, a hint of doubt in his voice as he takes my clammy and webbed hands in his big, warm ones.

“More of a surprise than it is pleasant, I am sure,” I say to him, some bitterness and insecurity entering my voice. He laughs, and runs his fingers through my hair, which has grown silky and wild.

“You look like a watermaiden now, my dear, but still you. This is indeed quite amazing. Quite, quite amazing. I have not seen you since the incident with Conrad. Was that his name?”

“Yes, him.”

I shiver and remove my hands from his warmth, my movements abrupt and jerky. I move towards the leadlight sliding doors and look at the grotesque panel-work on them. They make me feel sick tonight with the scenes of bestial debauchery. I push them apart, the disjointed and rusty protest of the sliding mechanism telling me that I have been too violent.

“Yes, do get some fresh air outside, love. I will be with you shortly. Must get decent for you, mustn’t I?”

Outdoors, the balmy breeze from Alta Exsilii caresses my merling cheeks. It is twilight; I lean my head back against the wood of the wall as I listen to the dragons rumbling overhead. They call still for their queen who is lost in the forest of dreaming. I suppose she would have lost her name as well. Names are a manner in which we lose ourselves, our identities. I say as much to The Arbitrator as he joins me with two full pewter goblets of pinot noir. I accept the proffered goblet, carved with ornate detail and studded with blood-red rubies as he sits down beside me, wearing faded corduroys and a thick black sweater, for it is getting cold. I watch his sharp features and his long, smooth-shaved jaw as his lips move.

“Names are one way in which we can have our selves defined and stolen. But I think what is far more important are the stories behind those names. And this is even more true of storytellers. Why, when you think of it, this entire isle is made up of stories. So, story-theft becomes something so deep, so hurtful that even magic suffers.”

“Story-theft? How is that even possible?”

The Arbitrator taps his nose, carefully and swirls the wine in his goblet.

“I have another ‘name’,” he says, as he lifts the goblet to his lips and drinks. I watch the movement of his throat as he drinks, and still wonder why he fascinates me so, when I know that part of what he does involves being merciless.

“Do I want to know this name?” I ask, not even feigning my apprehension, not even joking about it. He smiles at me a little.

“It is harmless enough. I am the Story Wizard, guardian of a rather arcane cult connected to the craft of storytelling.”

“Since when does storytelling require a Wizard?”

“It does when it is the sacred art of storytelling which goes hand in hand with ritual. There are many storytelling wizards, and then there are Story Wizards, who arbitrate.”

“Go slow, you’re confusing me.”

“One of the things a storyteller learns when he starts is that there are no new stories. And yet, there are new tellings, new variations. But because there are no new stories, proving that there is story-theft can be a difficult thing. This is where magic comes in. This is where I come in.”

The Arbitrator says this slowly as he finishes the last of his wine, I lean towards him, intrigued by what he’s telling me but also by the man himself.

“So a Story Wizard performs a form of magical arbitration?”

I wonder what Regya would think of that, remembering her struggles with both Finora’s and the Orphée’s stories. He smile at me, a questioning expression in his face as he says,

“Precisely.”

I shrug at him, knowing he wants to know what is on my mind, but unwilling to share.

Instead, I ask,

”And this goes back to the cost of arbitration that you’ve told me about?”

He smiles a little; I know he can tell that I am hiding things from him. It is not usually the case between us, but things have changed since I lost my hand. Things have changed in the main Manse as well, between Kieran and me. A particularly loud dragon roars a battle roar. The leadlight panes on The Arbitrator’s doors rattle a little.

“Most storytellers would suffer in silence rather than come to me for arbitration. It involves digging deep into the invisible latticework of stories, appropriation atop of appropriation. It may be that the numen called up to judge the stories may decide that our complainant is a story thief himself or herself. He or she could stand to lose not just their reputation, but their lives. Or worse, sometimes, even the ability to make stories.”

“That sounds rather harsh and unfair.”

He strokes my watermaiden hair and whispers in my ear,

“But nothing is ever fair. Didn’t we already establish this?”

Something about him makes me want to push him away today. And then I realize that this is the first time I’ve seen him since I was maimed by Conrad in the woods. Perhaps, something about him reminds me of Conrad. Or perhaps my watermaiden senses are now rendered nauseous by the warm, meaty smell of human male, even if he is several centuries old and magical to boot. I place the pewter goblet carefully on the polished, hardwood floor, and stand.

“I have to go,” I say. He stands up too, visibly displeased.

“Must you?” He takes my hand, and says,

“I have not told you yet about the storyteller who braved the odds because she felt aggrieved enough.”

I stiffen.

“And what did you do to her?”

My sentence is taut with tension, the implication of power behind his stories had never troubled me before. But today, it does.

“What did I do to her? Why I was quite magnanimous, my dear. I let her go! I did not punish her for being so bold.”

“What do you mean, by that? Was there not a cost of arbitration?”

“There always is a cost. But we found that, like in Hamlet, sometimes there are other ways to trap the conscience of an errant king or storyteller.”

I am riveted, despite myself.

“Will you not say more?”

The Arbitrator smiles at me.

“What, can you not guess already?”

Despite myself I allow him to fill my goblet again with pinot noir.

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Of Dreaming Trees with Identity Crises

by on Apr.27, 2015, under Camena Draconis, Nemorosum Somnium

(c) Nin Harris 2009–

You don’t always hear of trees that dream they were once dragons. Still, they may be more frequent in number than dragons that dream they were once trees. Our attention may now focus on a peculiar tree within this dreaming forest of peculiar trees. All trees dream; within a dreaming forest it is hard to tell if a tree is dreaming the dreamer, or if the dreamer is dreaming his or her self into a tree. Our gradon dances between states. She fluctuates; a woman with henna flowers on her bare feet and gold thread lacing her saree. Then, a violet dragon with delicate wings threaded through with lapis lazuli and fine amber light. She has golden eyes that turn to the deep green of the dreaming woods. She has glistening scales that turn into powder-soft mocha skin before resolving into the textured bark of a raintree. Her dreams may carry the draconic roar of a battle-hymn or the voluptuous strains of the South, her thighs shifting and her spine undulating as the ripple of a sitar’s strings accentuate the irregular rhythm of her heart.

Within the dreaming, all things may resolve within a single space.

The gradon isn’t quite sure if she is still a woman, or a dragon, or a tree. She fidgets within this space where she is three things.

Somewhere, just within the perimeters of the forest, a dragon shaped like a man begins to struggle within the captivity of the dreaming. It begins to resolve itself into thorny briars.

Look, we all know this tale, don’t we?

Perhaps it was always about this tale. Perhaps, even now, trees are beginning to dream that they are thorny rose bushes. Perhaps the roaring of the dragons in the sky above may also transfigure. From battle-hymn to the stately pavane of a draconic mating call. It has always been thus. Enclosures must always be penetrated. Dreamers must always be awakened.

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In which Ipede discovers a flaw in his geas

by on Apr.27, 2015, under Mykologosia, Nemus Animae

(c) Nin Harris 2009 —

Ipede Dwinkum looked at his hat. It was a rather battered old thing, but Waterlily had gifted it to him. You do not throw away a faerie gift. You were permitted or sometimes, even encouraged, to forget it, but you do not throw it away. Not that Ipede would, or could. It was one of the things that connected him to her, even if he could never see her or hear her. He could breathe in the scent of her sometimes, know when she was near him by the quality of the air. He knew it the same way he knew when there were pixies around, ruffling his hair, or trying to pinch his bared, dwarven fore-arms. He placed the dark brown hat reverently on his head of tousled ginger and brown, age having softened and darkened its hue, somewhat. Flexing his body, he settled into a relaxed, fighter’s position and tried to push his way into Nemus Animae. This was the same fight he had with the same barriers for more than a decade, mayhap, even a human century. The same force of pressure kept him out. He had never accepted the geas laid upon him by the Faerie Lord, for daring to love, and even more, for trying to wed a member of the fae nobility. He had never accepted the kind of punishment doled upon him for daring to attempt to rise above his station. He lived with it. He lived with being denied the second sight, but he never accepted that it was for an eternity. The good part of the geas was that any form of tactile contact, good or bad, was buffered by it. He could sense, but he could not be directly harmed. In that sense, the Faerie Lord had protected him. In that sense, alone.

Through the birch trees Ipede’s eyes reacquainted itself with a path, lined with flowering shrubs, leading into the heart of the Grove. He knew there were other things to see and experience there; he had been through it more than once. That was how he had met Waterlily, blundering through the forest like the excited mad young wood-dwarf that he was. Mad Ipede, they called him in those days. Mad, even before he had lost his sanity and became the thing the children of the city-state whispered about, as much as they whispered about Jezemiah Irlinus. Mad enough to fall in love with a green faerie lady with star-glistened wings and a glissando on her lips when he made her hum, with a curve to her spine as he made her purr, verdant notes, as lush and as secret as the faerie woods themselves.

Perhaps she was half-mad too, the beloved Waterlily, she of the pastel skin of milk and smooth mosspond green. Perhaps an eldritch insanity was the heat behind her agate eyes, mad enough to accept his rough-as-bark skin into her silken embrace. And thus, he entered the woods and the liquid pastures of the fae dreams, where all things merge into one thing. And thus, he learned to hunger for magic. The sweet perfume of her skin and the musk of fae revelries led him to his profession as a Perfumer, scavenging for ducts and other unseemly things needed to create unguents of potency. His obsession with magic turned him into a Faerie Alchemist. And more. Perhaps too much more. Perhaps he hungered for more than Waterlily’s embrace the night he decided they should be betrothed.

Ipede pushes against the barrier that obstructs him from Nemus Animae, and finds something that causes him to stop. This attempt to access the woods has become, almost a ritual for him. He never expects to win through. But tonight, something seems to have changed. A brief weakness in the pattern that keeps him out. A slight…oversight perhaps? Ipede sets his hat on the ground, followed by the tweed jacket that the Caretaker gifted him with, last Solstice.

He pushes.
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The Gradon Becomes a Fragment of Dreaming

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Camena Draconis, Nemorosum Somnium

(c) Nin Harris 2009

The gradon was not sure what it had been once, it knew it had scings and wales. It knew there were stories or histories or whatever there was before language raveled and spooled and spun around her. Disappearing into the darkness that was green, disappearing into twig and fig and leaf and wince. In every wince she was the forest, in every forest there was the wince of a conscious soul that had eked itself in but could not eke itself out and so language disappeared except. Except for this tiny fragment.

I am rena. A gradon. And I have a small one. A son? A son?

The gradon fades, as consciousness must. Fade. The gradon dreams, and dreams until a shout unfurls it. And the word. Dra-GON. Gone. GONE. Hits her, before she fades again, once more, into the unconscious.

Nemorosum Somnium has her within its maw. It will not let go.

It protects its own.

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Wages for a Spy-in-Residence; a tale of three forests

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Camena Draconis, Mykologosia, Nemorosum Somnium, Nemus Animae, Silva Atra, Three Forests

(c) Nin Harris 2008–

Thick, wide basil leaves hid a small, pointed, malicious face. The antennae on her head whirled busily as she listened. The wolf-maiden Tarme, she of the tawny fur and voluptuous torso had strayed into Nemus Animae. For what purpose, oh, for what purpose? The Flitterer knew not, but information was her especial skill. And it promised to be profitable, once more. The Wild Huntsman was still abroad, and he had noticed her acumen, at last! Time there was when she would have been the Huntsman’s quarry. Had he not chased her away from the Titian One’s court? But what’s done is done, what’s in the past should remain solely in the past, whispered a sycophant elf in her ear. Gold for you, the elf said. Safe egress into the great Faerie beyond, freedom from this isle of exiles, wouldn’t that be a relief? The Flitterer’s antennae whirled; she readied herself to do what she did best.

The furry maiden sat upon an up-ended barrel, her fingers tweaking at petals of the torch ginger blooms in a nearby patch. Her eyes gazed this way and that through the dark of the grove. Who was patrolling the borders of the haunted woods if Tarme was here? The Flitterer inched closer, and closer still, hoping to get a better vantage point for the conversation that was about to occur. Poking her head through the unchecked growth of wild lemongrass, the hard blades poking into her sides, she hoped this would provide her with the information she needed to get away from Yrejveree.

WHACK!

She was dead. She had to be. A great whooshing sound and then, darkness.

Dead. Deader than dead.

Some bad thing had captured her. What? Who?

The Flitterer stared up into Heaven.

Fangs met her eyes, glinting.

“Hello,” the wolf-maiden said.

“Hillo,” she wheezed.

“Welcome to Silva Atra,” Tarme said. A look of wicked amusement passed over her feral features.

The Flitterer got to her feet, and tried to discover if anything had been broken. Nary a thing. Nope. She shook her head, and wiggled her ears. She touched the tip of her pointed nose with a finger. Then two fingers. She pulled the messy fringe that fell over her eyes. Scalp worked. She didn’t feel dead. The Flitterer looked around. She was surrounded by ghostly, white-barked trees; dying leaves were a carpet beneath her feet. Wispy fireflies hovered in swarms. And the hairy maiden looked very pleased with herself. Dreadful smirk that. She hated.

“Kidnapper, ye hairy brigand!”

“I would rather consider it a counter-recruitment, my dear. And I really wouldn’t recommend going back to Nemus Animae, even if you are perfectly welcome to leave, right now.”

“Faerie Lord’ll fix ye!”

“Faerie Lord was going to have your bones ground, my dear. He knows you’re a mole for the Huntsman.”

The Flitterer tried to whirl her antennae, but then discovered they would not work. And she was in Silva Atra, the haunted woods. Maybe, even if her limbs seemed working, she was still dead. Dreadful fear, this. She must ask.

“Am I dead?”

“You may well wish you are. But worry not; your antennae will work again, soon. And then you will be quite aware that you are, indeed, alive!”

“Huntsman’ll need me. Huntsman’ll fix ye.”

Tarme laughed, a short, lupine sound.

“For someone who fancied herself a future position as intelligence officer in the Titian One’s court, you’re not awfully bright, my dear. Huntsman’s done for.”

“Done for?”

“Gone. Kicked out of the isle!”

“No more Wild Hunt?”

“None.”

Oh dear, oh dear. Exciting happenings. She was not privy! Worst than being dead!

“Who kicked the Huntsman out and why?”

“They tried to take over Nemorosum Somnium. The forest spat them back out. And the dragons were waiting. Gone!”

Tarme grinned at the little faerie.

“And now, I have a job for you, my nosy little thing.”

“Job?”

Tarme nodded. The Flitterer’s expression grew cunning.

“Wages?”

“Information on exactly how the Huntsman was vanquished.”

The Flitterer’s eyes gleamed. But no, not to be cheated out of wages! Information was nice, but not enough. Wages must be had. Sweet things too!

“Not enough!”

“Bearing my protection so the irate members of the Faerie Court will not abuse you?”

The Flitterer considered this, but was yet unwilling to concede.

“And there is a nice little house for you of course. Prettily decorated to suit your faerie needs. And a title. How would you like to be Silva Atra’s Spy-in-Residence?”

Well now, this sounded nice. Very, very nice indeed. A house! She had to sleep on branches in the Faerie Lord’s bower, out of everyone’s way so she would not be kicked or cuffed. But still, “Not enough!”

Tarme sighed in exasperation and tossed her something. She caught it.

“Have a honeycake then, you greedy little thing!”

The Flitterer mumbled and munched. Honey was good wages. Sweet honey from bees fed on clover. She licked her lips. Very good wages indeed.

“I accept your offer,” the Flitterer said with all the dignity she could muster.

“Good. You may start right away. Here, wear this.”

Tarme placed a small, elegant amulet hanging from a thin necklace of moleskin leather over the faerie’s neck.

“This bears my mark of protection. You will not be harmed. I require you to enter Nemorosum Somnium to discover something for me.”

“The dreaming forest? One that chased out the Huntsman? One that has gone angry and mad? One that has leafy group-mind?”

“That one. I need for you to find me someone. A dragon. A very important dragon.”

The Flitterer’s antennae came back to life at this very moment, but it made no difference. She slumped. Her iridescent wings drooped.

“Stop dawdling!”

Tarme’s voice was a lupine whip that set her spine ramrod stiff.

“Can I see my house first?”

The Flitterer’s voice lifted hopefully.

“No.”

“More honeycakes, maybe oolong tea too?”

“You have had enough wages, you greedy thing. Get to work, now!”

The Flitterer raised her wings half-heartedly and pushed herself into the sluggish air of Silva Atra. Happened it was a mystery the hairy maiden wanted her to solve. Almost good enough to be killed for. But dreaming forest, please, should not kill her. The Flitterer increased the speed of her wings. She whizzed in between the trees that bordered both forests.

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Chess for the Season and All Things Unresolved

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Camena Draconis, Domus Exsulis, Mykologosia, Nemorosum Somnium

(c) Nin Harris 2007

The Caretaker Speaks:

Late afternoon, and the sky is gradually approaching the color of flax, bright blue merely a memory, for now. Will there be a storm troubling the waves of Alta Exsilli soon? From the big, round window which overlooks the ocean, I can see the clouds. The changing quality of the light shifts the patterns the stained-glass mosaic rim makes on our table. Our hands and the pieces on the chessboard are rendered mysterious. I cannot help but anticipate the further shift in the patterns, when the sky changes robes for the gloaming. I look forward to these minor amusements each day, experiencing each with a bemused sense of unreality, despite the fact that a decade has passed since I first set foot on Yrejveree.

It has been a long time since we’ve taken tea together, Ipede and I. And in the past, the meals we shared would be filled with a less picturesque ambience of gloom. The Librarium possesses a different kind of gloom, a solemn, reassuring kind. The girl, Yildie, pours for us, handling the painted china tea set with skill. I have protested countless times against her performing such services. She is not a servant here. She cannot believe me, yet. Nor can I do anything for what’s haunting her eyes and placing furrows underneath. I know the cause. I’ve lived in Mykologosia myself for a long while; I’ve seen the gashes on the walls. So long as the Wild Hunt roams, it will never end, even if all tales of the Assassin have ceased, for now. She is grateful to me, perhaps too grateful. I will have to learn to live with it. People are either embarrassingly grateful to me or curse my interference these days. Part and parcel of the job description, one might say.

Ipede takes a scone from the plate and butters it.

I ask Yildie to join us, but she shakes her head and retreats to the corner where I’ve placed a desk for her. I have been most grateful to delegate a great chunk of my paperwork as well as secondary research tasks. It frees me up for the rest of my responsibilities. Truth be told, I’m rather envious. She gets to do all the fun stuff now; I, on the other hand have to make all the stupid decisions, the minor and petty ones that the Guardian tackled on a daily basis. I remember how we cursed and carped at her for it. Ruefulness, would be an understatement.

As is our custom, at every Solstice and Equinox, Ipede and I play chess all afternoon, discussing topics of antiquity. We round up this pleasant, gentlemanly ritual with a sumptuous tea. It inevitably ends when he lights up his pipe and descends into a maudlin stupor. I never question too deeply into the contents of the pipe, merely open the windows and step back a little. Things are different, this time around. Yildie is here now, as well as that terrible woman, Deiranetta. They fill the tranquil spaces of this manse. Also, I cannot help but be reminded of All Things Unresolved when I cast my eyes on Ipede, as well as my new friend, the dragon Hrelgar.

Hrelgar is a little too big in dragon-form to curl up before the fire in the library, and so he has been wearing his human form more often. We can do nothing for his melancholy; no one that we have approached knows of a way to release Erna from Nemorosum Somnium.

The dreaming forest has absorbed her and her child. None can find their way either in or out of that forest. And far worst has occurred. I have traced this state of unrest but do not know where it begins. Which came first, Erna’s refusal to be crowned Queen, or the Wild Hunt? Did the angry Dragons agitate the Wild Hunt, or was it the other way around?

More questions than answers, here. And all I really, really want to do is find out the true names of the places of this island.

Ipede makes a half-hearted attempt at checkmate by getting his bishop to take my knight. But my adroit castling maneuver saves my king. We pause. I pop a petit four into my mouth and chew as Ipede complains about his new assistant. He is looking healthier these days. He has branched off into a more obscure branch of alchemy, which, although ponderous, is far safer than the dark arts he sought to practice. Perhaps he is finally resigned to the fact that he will never again see Water Lily. This makes me sad. So many things have yet to be resolved, even if a good decade has passed since things were set in place. Some may never be resolved.

I look outside, and imagine I can see far enough into Silva Atra, where Tarme lives. The last time I met her was when I brought Hrelgar to see her. Nothing much to report there, merely disappointment, and the look of promise in Tarme’s eyes. I wish I could take her up on that unspoken offer, but I have this stupid island to run now. It won’t run itself, and I can’t afford to risk my life canoodling with a wolf-maiden in Silva Atra of all places!

*

An excited squeak interrupts our reverie. It is Yildie, her eyes wild as she waves a book in front of us. Ah, the joys of a researcher. I am envious once again. But, I smile indulgently as she begins to speak. No doubt, some obscure but nonetheless toothsome bit of information from history. Perhaps, it might even be useful in my task of constructing place-names. But wait, her eyes are really big this time, and something in her posture alerts us to the fact that maybe, just maybe, there is Something Big after all.

“I think I may have figured out a way to extract that lady Dragon from the forest of dreaming!”

Hrelgar jumps up from his woebegone posture by the fireplace as she squeaks this out. Ipede merely looks at her with a distracted expression,

“That’s very nice now, dear,” he says, “but I don’t suppose you can find a way for me to see the Faeries again now, could you?”

Yildie’s face falls, but not for long. Hrelgar is clasping her hands now in his and almost screaming questions at her. I follow them to her desk as she begins to lay out a plan of attack. And so, I must leave you now. We have Something Important to Resolve.

Have a Happy Season, every one of you. Do feel free to continue your festivities in Domus Exsulis. There’s a party going on in the Ballroom, and yet another on the moonlit terraces outside. I’ve been told that the rival bogle factions are holding a cricket match out there.

Well, what are you waiting for? Shoo!

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Fireflies in the Wood of Spectres

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Silva Atra, Three Forests

(c) Nin Harris, 2001-2009

Conrad speaks:

Not far from Nemus Animae, there lies a darker, less inviting congregation of trees and wildlife. The undergrowth is sparse, the bark of trees darker. Yet, the fireflies that illuminate the thick-velveted green of Nemorosum Somnium and Nemus Animae also inhabit this darkness. As you barely enter its depths, you wonder what could be so forbidding about this place.

First, a hint. Soft feathers touching your face. Velvet in its tenderness, these are not white feathers, light as air and as forgiving. These are dark feathers which seem to belong to some fallen angel, lost beyond redemption of light and yet unwilling to fall to an even deeper damnation. There are no virtues to be found in this haunted grove. But you will not find the titillating sensations of angst either. A touch of that feather will induce sorrow in you that is thick and hateful. Insiduous and turbulent, it crashes into you and seems to penetrate every light hue in your being.

This then, is the seduction of the darkest of thoughts, whispers the voice in your head.

This then, is Silva Atra, Wood of the Spectres. You may find a darkness here beyond what you are used to; or a richness far too cloying, like a chocolate cake laced with alcohol. It is like an addiction you find close to impossible to kick. There is something dogging your heels here, feeling almost like an obsession.

Darkness and fireflies. This is the first impression any visitor unwise enough to venture here will get. Many specters and were-creatures and the darker of the fae can be found here, for this is a place of banishment. Only ghosts haunt, you say, but you will find more than that here – will find that sometimes the living are far more efficient at hauntings. It is cold; draw your cloak around yourself if you will. Or run, run back to the woods of Nemorosum Somnium or Nemus Animae. Just don’t kid yourself. No place is safe on Yrejveree; but then again, no place is the Wood of the Spectres.

No place more deadly, no place more filled with pain. I love the taste of that pain, it fills my senses, it makes me feel even more alive than when I was really, well. Alive, you know.

Oh no. Have I frightened you? She won’t be much better, you know. Yes, I know the Caretaker has told you about her, that she will protect you from people like me. Do you think she is any safer than the rest of us? Yes, move back, my sweet. I see you have noticed my nice, shiny teeth. Why don’t you let me lead you deeper into the trees? I have plenty of tales to share; I can be quite a scream too; the life of the party, as they say. What, was that too obvious a pun? I can be subtle too, if you want.

Hey now, why are you running away? Tarme? Well she’s busy at the easternmost reaches of this Grove; apparently a lot of new arrivals from that quarter. Banished spirits of the world. I was one of them; once, but I’ve made myself quite at home here. Come now, don’t you want me to show you around? I’m always glad to be of assistance. Always glad.

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Nemus Animae: A Select Dramatis Personae and Spotter’s Guide

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Three Forests

The Faeries of Nemus Animae and Yrejveree have their own distinct personalities, some of which have caused their state of exile. If you are lost at any time, it would be wise to learn who to ask for help, and who to avoid. Do consult this Spotter’s Guide for more information.

Note: The Art is (c) Nin Harris 2001–

 

The Faerie Lord: No one really knows when this self-styled Lord of the Faeries of Yrejveree arrived, but he has a formidable Court, made up of exiled faeries, nymphs, human enchanters and sorcerors, goblins and demigods. They say his secret for success lies in the fact that his rule is casual at best, and because he seems to have the power to keep other, more traditional Faerie bands and kingdoms at bay. He may be capricious and sometimes cruel but the inhabitants of Yrejveree have come to rely on him to keep some kind of order and protection – especially against the Dark Faerie Court of the Wild Hunt and the creatures of the Haunted Grove. He is often found in the company of The Wild Maiden of the Trees in Nemorosum Somnium but not even the Faerie Lord may succeed in capturing the affections of that one.

The Flitterer:

The Flitterer

She may seem like a bashful wallflower, pretty and demure, but let that not fool you. If you look closely at her, you will notice that her ears are larger than usual for a flower faerie. Her eyes have an intelligent, watchful and often malicious glint. Her lips are wide and tend to curve upward in a gloating smile. She was banished from Titania’s court because of her unfortunate propensity of picking up inconvenient tidbits of information as well as passing them on in the worst possible light. She uses these snippets of information to provoke fights or wars, but mostly so she can gain the friendship of other Faeries. Not that it has helped her much.

Damar the Listener: This elemental stays hidden in the hedge, ever listening for the heartbeats of mortals, and the music that ripples through their souls. She will weave her own melody into your heartbeat, and cause a quickening as you walk through the groves of Yrejveree. She listens to your secret dreams, and helps you fan those dying embers into a conflagaration. You will not find her though, for she is swift and often invisible. If she does grace you with her presence, it is hard to predict what she will do.

Manfred the Tomcatting Fey:

Manfred the Tomcating Fey

Always restless, always irresistible to female mortals, he is rarely spotted without the company of humans. You can find him in peace rallies and inciting the masses at revolutions. You can also find him reading poetry aloud at beatnik gatherings. He never stays still at one spot. He joins worthy causes for unworthy reasons and loves a fight for the sake of the fight, which is why he has always been an activist and pseudo-philosopher. He also enjoys escorting female backpackers through Mykologosia. Often drunk, he isn’t very reliable, but when sober, he’ll be a most informative guide, if you’ve got a bag of coins, a kiss or perhaps something more to spare.

Cochin the Existentialist:

Cochin the Existentialist

Manfred’s cousin, Cochin is a lovely, but rather conflicted Purple Faerie, often found roaming the hills of India. She was once beloved of the Indian Prince that Titania kidnapped, and fled the scene of his death with a wounded soul. Though it has been debated that Faeries do not have souls, this introspective Fey often believes that she has one. That is, when she’s not wondering if Faeries exist at all. Her current dilemma first emerged during her mourning period. Manfred, ever malicious, lent her his copy of Peter Pan. “If we only exist if people believe in us,” she muses, “perhaps we don’t exist at all!” She has not outgrown her “What am I?” phase, and perhaps never will. If you are patient enough to listen to her musings and theories, she can be a helpful companion. Be prepared though, to lie on her couch for a psycho-analytical session. She is very curious about the human psyche and can be mercilessly tenacious in her questioning.

Waterlily the Beloved: A Gentle and Intelligent Faerie, Waterlily is the beloved of Ipede Dwinkum, a wood-dwarf. She was told to win the heart of the wood-dwarf so that he would be diverted from the Arcane paths that he was an adept in. Unfortunately, she fell in love with him while tutoring him in the arts of perfumery. Many ballads have been written about the way she and Ipede defied the Faerie Lord and the unfortunate punishment that befell Ipede. The wood-dwarf can never now see the Faerie-folk or his beloved. Waterlily has mysteriously disappeared, though rumours say she still hangs around Mykologosia, and has been spotted bathing with the nixies of Domus Exsulis. Rumours also abound about a child, half-faerie, half-dwarf, but these remain mere gossip, for now.

Aven the Grove Huntress: She used to be a muse for bards and tapestry weavers. After about a century or so, she got restless with being an object of worship and invocation. These days she prowls the woods of Yrejveree for intruders and protects the innocent with relentless zeal. What she hunts is not specified, but if you enter the grove with clear conscience and good intentions, you’re safe from her. Who knows, she might even look out for you.

Art and Descriptions (c) Nin Harris 2001-

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