Fortress 1
THE FORTRESS MUST SURVIVE
TITLE: DROPS IN THE SEA DATE: 07/06/2007
FILE: 2KDD6159F3JAE/AAAAA_oslo/umbreit_letters/4 # 4/8
pyramiden4.jpg

The melancholy is welcoming.
Rolf must've gone into the Threshold. That much is evident. He doesn't seem like the type to throw himself to the sea. Maybe he saw the boat too?

The cavern is just so close to the home, so he must've known it was there for a while at least. I can picture him sliding down into the rock with a can of beans in hand and coming back for dinner after a long day of staring into the Threshold. Surely, a man with a scientific sense of curiosity would care to investigate from afar for weeks, maybe months.

Then… Only loneliness or boredom could've prompted him to enter. I wonder if he found what he wanted.

It clicked in my noggin that I hadn't yet seen any of his writings. They had to be inside the locked chest. Under any other circumstance, I'd be more respectful for other people's property… But special days call for special attitudes, and I just so happen to have a hatchet with me. I feel guilty about it now, but the prospect of getting access to months of notes of observation on a new Threshold, untouched yet by the eyes of even a few men… Anyone else would've, should've done the same.

But I didn't find any notes inside. Well — nothing obviously about the Threshold. Just thousands of pages of handwritten play scripts and a few booklets describing the migration patterns of birds around Svalbard.

The sinking feeling is gripping. What could that man have known that will now evade me forever? I sat on Rolf's chair for what must've been half an hour, thinking about what to do. It's not the first time I discover a new Threshold, but this red sea… It has a sense of ominosity. Like an invisible, imperceptible stench of death warding me off. I didn't have the guts to step inside — nor will I later. So I just took the hand-clipped pages of Rolf's writing and got to reading.

I take a random bundle of clipped pages, parsing over the introductory scene for an elaborate play. Its lines of description are obviously alluding to the Threshold, but in an inspired way rather than descriptive. Surprisingly enough, it's in near-perfect English, which I should've expected from the Oxford Shakespeare books on the shelf.

Then — I'm assaulted by an eerie sense of realization. I pick another script, and read an identical opening scene. Then another, and another after that. The words are almost, almost the same every time. The later pages don't seem to differ that much either, at least not in the way new drafts by perfectionist writers tend to.

Obviously this is important enough to give it a few looks, but the repetition almost guarantees it. Repetition without variation has a certain implicit power to us with open eyes. Not necessarily with a sense of madness, but certainly importance. How can it not, to those that live in infinite planes of repetition?

I'll summarize the script as soon as I'm done reading it. Those will be my letters for the next few days — maybe I'll talk a little about what I learned when I'm done. The sky is still orange, and has been for very long now.

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LOADING . — 17% — ETA 10:22

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THE FORTRESS MUST SURVIVE
TITLE: PART 1: WELCOME TO THE ISLAND FORTRESS DATE: 08/06/2007
FILE: 2KDD6159F3JAE/AAAAA_oslo/umbreit_letters/5 # 5/8
Scene 2 kicks off with the Scribe's entry into the Common Room of Folamh Gard, after an implied cut and brief passage of time. There is a noticeable change in scenery: while the Hall of Candles and the Throne Room are described in a somewhat similar manner to a stereotypical castle, there are great stained windows at each side of the Common Room, in a manner reminiscent of a church.

The Spider guides the Scribe to a dining table, and departs. Around the table are two other characters: the Hare, who has already been introduced, and is toying with a collar without addressing the Scribe. The second, a tall man, is finishing a steak right besides Scribe. She approaches him and asks for his name. The ensuing conversation is nothing short of interesting:

MAN: Names, there art none here: only rumors.

THE SCRIBE: Dost thou verily let gossip name thee? Whom is the source of such repulsive rot, unbefit of the noble folk that here live?

MAN: Those that doth gaze up me and thee, like we dost gaze up to the Crimson Sun aloft. But let us depart from such games of chicanery: none has a name for me yond my visage, and my visage doth name me suitably indeed.

When he turns, his face is split by a long, toothy smile from ear to ear. The script then introduces him as the "Smiling Man": the Scribe recoils, and when the Smiling Man continues to stare, she leaves the room through a different door than the Spider.

She arrives at a sizable library, where the Hare sits with legs crossed in front of a great statue, surrounded by shelves. The statue has the overall form a man, but is bound to the floor by innumerable chains that obscure its shape. Without looking at her, The Hare asks the Scribe about the book she's writing: she is confused, and replies that the book she carries is a personal journal. The Hare nods.

The Scribe then asks for the whereabouts of the Spider, and gets only a disinterested response: that she ask the statue. The Scribe sighs, and turns to her book, exclaiming when she realizes it is empty. None of the pages have been written in. The Hare then interjects, telling her to ask the statue once more.

This time, she asks the statue if it can hear: there is no response. The Hare explains that sometimes, when an answer is needed most, the wind whispers through the chains. The Scribe asks where the Spider is, and hears a booming voice answer from afar — the script refers to it as the "Bound Mass".
~ ~ ~ ~
After an abrupt cut (presumably unfinished part?), the Scribe emerges from a door into the bow of a sailing ship that is protruding from the side of the castle, right under the shadow cast by the red sun. On the foremost point of the bow are the Spider, and a man: the former is waiting on the floor beside the latter, while the latter is standing with both arms in front of his chest.

As the Scribe approaches, the man hunches over, then reaches to the Sea with his right hand. Despite the several dozen meters of distance between him and the Sea, he succeeds in retrieving a singular droplet, carefully carrying it in the fingertip of his left index.

He wraps the droplet in a thin, black string, which is then handed to the Spider. She does the same with a white string, then both turn to meet the Scribe. His torso is open wide, with ribs pulled outward, and his face blindfolded. Black string is wrapped around the ribs and up the right arm.

The Scribe stutters and salutes but is interrupted by the Spider, who asks why she left the Common Room. She has no chance to respond. The man bows and welcomes her to Folamh Gard, and introduces himself as "the Future":

I am the thread that does fate weave, the needle that Skuld's hand guideth.

[Looking to the Spider] By thine hands dost we know hope, and mine dost we know gloom.

Both the Future and the Spider laugh. He asks the Scribe whether by any chance she has stumbled upon them by fleeing from a "grimly blithe snake" — seemingly referring to the Smiling Man. She is surprised, but nods in confirmation. The Spider profusely apologizes, understanding now why she left.

The Scribe begins to ask what they were doing, but stops herself: she realizes that the Future already answered when he first spoke. It becomes obvious that he is an oracle.

I do sign the fate of Worlds Betwixt in black string, and indeed they brandeth me the Lord of Fate.

The Spider adds, cheerfully:

Like they brandeth me the Lady of Hope.

The Scribe asks what the "Worlds Betwixt" are. The Future is handed a droplet of water by the Spider, and reaches out to the Scribe, intending to show her something within it.

She exclaims, being able to see an immense forest endlessly stretching between great castles inside the water. The Future gestures toward the Sea, slipping the droplet within his fingers. The Scribe laughs, and asks how many drops are in the Sea.

THE FUTURE: In this house of Folamh Gard, but eight souls we are: each one a Lord to the Sea ahead, its mournful chants of desire bound to attend. Such is the King's behest: that only Lords may here remain.

Should thou wish to stay, show us thy craft — that which only thee are privy to.

THE SPIDER: So that for thee we may intercede before the King in Blue, and permit thee to here remain.

The Scribe responds that she is a writer, raising her book. He responds with abrupt disinterest, replying that Lordship is not fit for writers, and returns to the Sea. The Spider tries to console the Scribe, assuring her that the Future does not mean ill: she warns that the Scribe may be exiled from the Castle, but that she will try to prevent the Charlatan from casting her to the Sea. The Spider then returns to the Future's side.

She leaves for the Library, seeing that the Hare is no longer there. She begins scribbling on the opening pages of her book, but quickly loses traction and turns to staring at the Bound Mass. She asks:

O, chained titan, I pray thee: help me find what I seek! What shall I brandish, like a shield to fiery storm, when they doth come to cast me upon the cold and dark Sea?

The Bound Mass stays silent, and she repeats the question. As she prepares to depart, an answer finally comes:

The sickly Justicar must thou meet. He who withers afield the Sea's sight and doth mock its call for Lordship.

He is abaft: opposite to the stairs from whence thou camest, East of the Common Room. Walk that way, but do avoid that which thou shan't concern thineself with.

Some Notes…
I don't know what to make of this. It's such a break from the aura of Pyramiden. Not a sense of melancholy, not even loneliness. Not on Russian or Norwegian… It's Elizabethan English, without even a covert allusion to the culture characteristic of this place. It feels like being ripped away from the desolate homey-ness of Svalbard straight into classical England.

It shouldn't surprise me, really. That's most likely what Rolf wanted after just over a few months stranded in this ghost town.

But I just wonder… What relationship does this have with the Threshold? Sans the fortress upon an island, this all seems independently written. I've visited again a few times, but I see nothing new. Maybe he simply found the sight inspiring, and wrote from there?

I don't know. I don't want to think that this is nothing of importance. If it isn't, then I have to enter the Threshold, and I don't even know if I'm a good enough swimmer.

Tried to make heads or tails of some lines on the opening scenes:

* I found it curious that the sun above the island is specifically referred to as the Crimson Sun by its inhabitants. Is there another sun they're aware of? Is that sun not natural?

* The fortress transitions to a ship's bow without explanation. No one even thinks it's weird. Feels like symbolism — as if the Future is navigating the sea? Could be clever wordplay for global warming.

* He also refers to himself as guided by Skuld. That's one of the three Norns — goddesses of fate in Nordic legend. If he weaves fate, but is directed by Skuld's hand, that makes him unaware of the future he's weaving.

* I feel I'm reading too deep for a piece written by someone who isn't aware of liminality, but… The Worlds Betwixt that the Scribe sees in each droplet of water feel like they're talking about Limspace. They could be a regular old fictional multiverse, though. Yeah, I think it's that.

That's it for today. I don't have much to say… The wind's calmed down, I haven't eaten in a while. Maybe it's just me… But I think the sky isn't darkening.

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NEXT: THE STARLIT SEA
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