Fortress 2

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FILE: 2KDD6159F3JAE/AAAAA_oslo/umbreit_letters/6 # 6/8
The Scribe leaves the fortress from a door on the side of the Common Room: she is blinded by the brightness of the Crimson Sun at first, not noticing that the Hare is sitting by the shore until she is right beside. When she does, she asks whether the field of bones is indeed in that direction, or if she is somehow confused.

The Hare answers that she is right, but that the red mist makes it far too difficult to see in any direction. However, the field of bones is so far that even if the mist was not there it would be far too difficult to see, as it is very far South.

Intimidated, the Scribe walks to the shore and dips her feet on the red Sea: it is completely still, only disturbed by the ripples her feet have caused. Watching the horizon, she sighs and begins to walk. When the water reaches her chest, she begins swimming, struggling to keep her head afloat. Faced with shortness of breath, she tries to return, but panics when she realizes that the island isn't visible anywhere.

She shouts, but there is no response: she stops swimming in any direction, instead trying to remain afloat. As she is starting to sink, a boat slowly approaches. The Hare, standing upright on its front side, is rowing forward. The Scribe shouts once more and receives no response until the Hare passes right by, crouching and extending the right hand.

The Scribe climbs onto the boat and thanks the Hare. She then asks where they are going, or if they are returning to the island, but the Hare only continues rowing: both remain silent thereafter.

After a while, they enter the field of bones. Giant pieces rise from the Sea, reaching toward the sky far above the boat. Some are so tall that they get lost in the red mist. They are all unrecognizable, save for a few that resemble ribs.

SCRIBE: From the carcass of what beast, what colossal brute doth these towering remains come? Boundless they unfold before mine eyes, as our very hearthstone doth to the tiniest insects!

HARE: The King once chronicled the most agonizing end of this titan, in yore when he could walk upright still.

The beast, neither noble nor ignoble, he called a Dragon, even so it was not, for no other creature he had witnessed could match its immense measure. Once, from the great Sea it emerged, afore the Fortress rose above the isle, betwixt its clutches an Egg: small as a youngling no older than six.

Unto the isle the Dragon crawled, and in its heart the Egg forsook. Then away, and anon it became still: first in deepest slumber, red blood from great injuries still flowing, in cadaverous stillness after.

Ere thine arrival, many more bones indeed rose from the Sea, but its billows plunged them.

SCRIBE: 'Tis Sea the very same we rise above from? It waves not!

The Hare does not answer. The Scribe then notices that the sky is slowly changing colors: purple, then dark blue are beginning to take hold. The Crimson Sun seems to vanish, leaving only a night sky dotted by countless stars. The bones, barely visible through the mist, are now fully seen. They reflect the white starlight and illuminate the Sea around them. In the distance, there are great cliffs extending as far as the eye can see.

Calm waves softly shake the boat, and a soft wind makes the Scribe quiver, still drenched in water. She nevertheless comments on the beauty of the Starlit Sea.

HARE: It waves not, thou saidst. But doth the Sea not wave before you indeed?

SCRIBE: Ah! But afore, it did not…! Perchance, doth the Crimson Sun, vanished now, preclude it so?

HARE: Astute indeed, thou seemest. Of clear eyes and canny mind thou'rt still, verily unlike the Lords of Folamh Gard, for they knoweth not of what nigh lies. The authentic Starlit Sea wondrous and vibrant thou'rt seeing, and not the corpse beneath the Crimson Sun.

Forgat this sight not, sweet lass.

The Scribe reaches for the Sea: the water sinks and rises as if grabbed and held by a hand, a motion that the Scribe soon imitates. She then gasps:

SCRIBE: Havest thou sawest this? The Sea mov'd afore I touched it! Hath it foreseen my movement, as doth birds foresee the tempest impending?

The Hare does not answer but instead throws the oar in front of the boat, where it remains floating. Ignoring the Scribe's complaints, the Hare steps onto the oar and stays afloat too, barely sinking one half and raising the other. The Hare walks forward, extending both arms to the side as if balancing on the oar, then begins dancing: it is like ballet, but far more free.

Each hand periodically reaches to the Sea, raising a single droplet of water to the sky. The Hare does so in such a way that the light of a star shines through the droplet every time this is done, bathing the Scribe in it: she recognizes silhouettes within the light, different for every drop.

As the dance continues, the silhouettes grow clearer and brighter, slowly becoming full images. These images become visible not only within the drops that the Hare raises, but also in every drop that is touched by starlight, then those that are not. She is overwhelmed by it:

SCRIBE: Light! Light beyond measure! I am blinded, but it is so beautiful indeed! Forests, seas, bastions and things unknown still! What do I see?! Ruins of men not! Rabbit's warrens in water submerging! Fathomless castles of glass and iron, reaching to the sky! What are these things I behold?

A man! I spot a man! Amidst the zeniths of ruined towers, against the black abyss! But oh, he is wounded and moribund… And he speaks to me! To that fading voice, hardly can I harken, yet indeed I know, I know!

The Scribe scribbles wildly in her book, struggling to see her own handwriting. She soon loses consciousness: she wakes up on the shore of Folamh Gard. She gasps when she opens her eyes, blinded again by the sights of the Sea. Slowly, she grows accustomed to them, and begins to trudge up the rock beach to the Common Room.
~ ~ ~ ~
The door to the Common Room opens, and the Scribe enters: the tables are set for a frugal meal of cooked meat and lettuce. The Charlatan, the Spider, the Smiling Man, and the Hare are sitting around the King, who is at the head of the table. Only the Hare and King are sitting properly: the Charlatan is holding his right hand to his cheek, elbow to the table, while the Smiling Man has his hands behind his head and the Spider sits almost a meter away from the table. There is a full set of plates, silvers and a cup beside an empty chair.

The King struggles to stand up and raises a cup of wine:

KING: To th' masked visitor, one glass and one plate afore thy departure. Wellaway! Delight in a Lord's aliments, and anon accost fate with full belly and fuller heart.

The Scribe bows as the others raise their cups and drink, then sits in the chair left for her. Seeing that everyone else has finished or is close to finishing their meal, she speaks to the King:

SCRIBE: O King, may your castle remain ever-resplendent amidst the quiet Starlit Sea. So wondrous indeed hath my visit felt, in something akin dream-glee enswathed, that in mine own heart of hearts I discover'd a deep longing: but the desire to abide as visitor, but to name myself your kin.

I'faith vile and selfish would such a desire be, to sup upon the fruits of thy hospitality and nothing provide in return, like mistletoe feasting with no regard for the laws of kinship. Instead, I proffer, that I may my services of sight extend.

She nods to the Hare, who does not show any sign of noticing. The Charlatan responds instead of the King:

CHARLATAN: And what may such a service of sight be? A gift or craft thine own, I daresay? I warn thee, no use we have for those who misdirect with tricks of vision, or dominion over substances claim. In good sooth, I hope that thy service is fandangle not!

SCRIBE: I do know not yet what its nature is…

She is briefly interrupted by snickering: it appears to come from the Smiling Man. The Spider sighs, covering her face.

SCRIBE: But I do trust that its function thou wilt intuit, for what I will now speak are but figments from the Starlit Sea!

She then reads from her book:

I saw a man, by fathomless abysm surround'd. He rest'd on the cusp of a spire ruined, which was by many more environed. His skin by Death's touch clenched, his eyes of flame drained, but his mouth and tongue were unsullied still: he did speak, and in moribund whispers even, his voice I did hear.

"Scribe, Scribe! To thee I entrust, for none remain to heed mine words. To the abysmal maw I ventur'd, and the Dusk-Seed I beheld blossoming. But ah! Too perilous, too fickle the returning path for one like I… And my kin a buried failure doth envisage me, oblivious to the dark that for them cometh!"

"I pray thee, what I discover'd be heard! Anon, anon…"

The Charlatan suddenly rises from his seat, both hands on the table.

CHARLATAN: Od's me! Dear King, silence this herald of deceit at once! Dost you now embrace the puffery of haruspexes and crystal-readers as soothful wisdom? What malady of the mind hath afflicted our hearth?

SPIDER: It is thou whose foul mouth shall silenced be! I know troth when mine ears hear it, and the words of our dear visitor are naught but sights from the Sea arisen. I vouchsafe: every sign indeed insureth so.

The Charlatan and Spider continue discussing. The former claims that it is obvious that what the Scribe has written is quickly-written fiction that does not resembl e true prophecy, while the latter assures otherwise. The Hare continues eating and does not intervene. The Smiling Man is as irritated as the Charlatan, but remains silent.

KING: No more! Once more mine hand is forced to stop thy ceaseless bellicosity, and before a kind visitor, for sooth! I harken'd both, yet I will choose none: the Future, my fine lad, shalt in my stead decide, for his sharp wit I better trust.

Go, Spider! Our visitor's words impart upon him.

The Spider hurriedly leaves. The King orders that everyone but the Charlatan leave, and that the Smiling Man escorts the Scribe to the library. Once there, he threatens the Scribe: do avoid that which thou shan't concern thineself with. He takes a throwing knife from his pocket, and grazes her chin with the flat side of its blade before leaving.

She waits inside the Library for a long while before the Spider finally arrives and urges her to follow. They return to the bow of the ship, where the Future is waiting with his arms open. He praises the Scribe, apologizing for his earlier dismissal. The Scribe tries to warn them of what she heard from the Charlatan and Smiling Man earlier, but the Future responds, shaking his head:

FUTURE: Verily peculiar things doth the Charlatan believe sooth, all strange words of conceit from old books prieth. Many a poor soul hath to deceitful doctrine fallen, the wise and sharp amidst them, and mineself even. But reality is much alike a fair gammer: unvarnish'd and simple, yet beauty gleaming indeed. Fear not, for troth within thy reach is.

Patting her back, he takes her to the front of the bow and asks her what she can see and hear. The sights of the Sea blind her again, and she struggles to respond. Slowly, they become more focused and coherent.

SCRIBE: I- I only narrowly do parse these visions… A great man in the throes of Death whispering. A handmaiden amidst a brine of sand howling. Wise men, good men, wild men and grave men from life's embrace parteth, and their final words unto me lay. Lone and wounded, one and every, they do fail to good home return.

The Spider exclaims: the specificity of the visions surely means that the Starlit Sea calls to the Scribe to fulfill a specific task. The Future nods, and caresses her mask.

FUTURE: Now and ever, o noble visitor, entask'd thou art. The Sea demands and thou must harken. Thine only bourne this shall be, as fisherfolk seeketh fish, and mousers seeketh pests. Naught may from this task divert thee, as without wind the ship can not sail, and without horse the carriage can not move.

I dub thee the Lady of Last Words, and last words thou shalt seek.

Some Notes…
Those visions in the Starlit Sea. The Scribe's. They have to be Limspace, right? That place she talks about, the abyss with the towers… I think I know that place. Read about it, rather. But the piece I read talked about a distant Moon lighting the place. Is it gone now?

If the Sea is Limspace, then the Hare describing it as a "corpse" under the Crimson Sun has to be a bad omen. Now that I think about it… The Scribe doesn't even feel cold until she's at the field of bones. There's no wind anywhere else either. It's as if every other place is in complete stasis.

And what does the segment where she reaches to the Sea and it moves on its own mean? Maybe she missed her cue and it moved as it would have if she had arrived on time? The Smiling Man says the same warning the Bound Mass did to the Scribe earlier on as well… Are they the same?

And the cliffs… The cliffs! Are they the cliffs of Pyramiden? Is the Hare's boat the boat I saw?

I don't know. I'm definitely reading too deep into it. I know for damn certain now that the script won't tell me anything new about Rolf. For all I care, he's dead. But I can't help but wonder if he learned something important as well.

There's just… Something familiar about all of this. The Crimson Sun. The names of the characters. I can't put my finger on it. There's so much to learn here, and I was thinking of goddamned global warming allegories. I'm already reading a few pages ahead and there seems to be a large time-jump.

I think I'm just letting it get to me. The sky's so damn red now, it scares me a little. I don't know if I should look outside.

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