Domus Exsulis

Camena Draconis

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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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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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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Entering Camena Draconis

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

(c) Nin Harris 1997–

From the Journals of the Guardian :

If you have crossed here over Alta Exsilii, you would have seen the reddish glow hovering over the center of this island. You would have seen dark shapes rising from that livid light and shapes flying majestically towards it. This is because the Volcano named Camena Draconis is a meeting place for all the dragons of this world and all adjoining ones. If you are brave(or foolhardy) enough to desire entrance into the Volcano and make friends with the dragons, please take necessary precautions. Any mortal fool enough to enter without the protection of a faerie or draconian spell would be charred to a crisp – I do so dislike the smell of burned human flesh. Just ask any of the salamanders in any fireplace and they will give you the directions to the appropriate dragon or faerie magician.

Please ask no one else other than myself, the dragons or the salamanders. The salamanders are fairly reliable because they earn a commission for each customer they send to Feroch, the powerful dragon magician. It used to be that you could ask any fae the way, but they have been angered by some of the mortals who have visited Yrejveree -especially since the coming of the Assassin – and are wont to play unkind tricks on any unsuspecting mortals.

Now, after you have entered the Volcano, you will find yourself on one of a series of ledges of dark rock connected to each other by precarious and winding walkways suspended over huge lakes of lava where groups of frolicking dragons are happily splashing about. Dragons love to take lava baths (it gives their scales a fine glitter) and naturally they tend to overdo things. The last meeting place they had on the island of Krakatoa exploded because forty dragons had an over-boisterous game of lava-polo within its depths. It is not easy being the Guardian of a faerie isle, and it is even less so when there has a huge Volcano at the heart of it. You cannot imagine the sleepless nights I have suffered!

We have dragons flying to Yrejveree every day. Not a single day passes without a shadow falling over my Keep, with a majestic roar shaking the skies, and with trees rustling in the breeze caused by flapping wings. But those are the dragons who live within reach of the mystical pathways that lead into this faerie isle. They love to hang out with their friends at the Volcano, engage in mock battles and the various contests that are really a sort of`one-upmanship’ ritual among dragons. Dragons are notoriously vain creatures, as any island-dweller will tell you.

*

This is the reason for one of my major headaches. The Festival of Songs is due to take place a few days from now. This is when hoardes of dragons from the remotest corners of the universe will congregate to take part in the famed Festival’s `Longest’ and `Most Fearsome’ category. I really do not know what spell goes into their songs, but the echoes made from this festival resounds through the Isle throughout the year. You may be walking along a lone pathway in agreeable silence, or with a faerie band flying about your head when you turn a corner, enter some remote vale, then BOOM! An echo hits you! Do not misunderstand me, for I love dragons – but really! I have nightmares of Yrejveree exploding around my ears some day under the pressure of a million posturing dragons!

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