Fortress 4

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The Spider and the Scribe flee.

They flee across the Common Room, and then to the beach. The red eye in the sky opens greater still, bathing everything in blinding scarlet. And yet, the Starlit Sea grows black: not a shimmer of reflected light leaves it, and it is deathly still, perhaps more so than before.

The Hare rows by, and the Spider and the Scribe walk onto the boat.

HARE: Thus is indeed my task. I am a champion not, nor a great savior. I doth only narrow flee, and ensure others do as well.

Before long, they arrive at a pair of doors at the side of Folamh Gard. Behind them, a small room, with a small bed, a small desk, and a small candle. Not enough for three, but it will do.

The Spider cries, her sight bereft of any visions from the Sea. Yet, the Scribe is blinded by them: one after another, the many fates of the Starlit Sea weave a story that nears its end.

She writes, she writes ceaselessly under the candlelight. The Hare and Spider feed her dried jerky and saltwater. Hundreds of yellowed pages succeed each other in feverish continuity, inbetween moments of trembling sleep. The Spider encourages her. Gives her hope. Maybe even after the end someone will find the book and read it from end to end. It'd be a great discovery: a message from the Court of Folamh Gard.

She writes of the Dusk-Seed and of the Crimson Sun and its many harbingers. Pale wisps, cracks in the sky and falling stars herald the red light that grows from a Tower turned Seed turned Tree. Last words accompany each sight: good and bad wishes, memories and prayers, and so many names there is a whole chapter for them.

Before too long, it is done: the last white corner of the last page is occupied by the last words of an old man. And so, the book has to be taken to the library.

When they finally leave, it's dark. Red embers cross the sky, providing faint comfort. Even still, they need a candle to see anything before them. That single candle, if half-melted, will surely do.

They enter through the hole in the wall, and the Scribe places the book upon a shelf. The place is littered with other books. She reaches out to one and struggles to read a single word inside it, aided only by the candle that the Spider holds.

Her own handwriting stares back at her. She gasps: the loudest noise she's heard in long. She scours through every other book. They're all written by her hand, even though she doesn't remember writing any of them.

She turns to tell the Spider what she's seeing, but she isn't there. The Shadow stares back, holding a candle in its hand before blowing it out.

Some Notes…
I recognize those names now. I've heard them before.

The Scribe, the King, the Justiciar… They're names of gods from the religions that form in Liminal Spaces. The more backward populations of some Middenground spaces revered a Chained Titan that symbolized their mantra of inaction and isolation from danger. In the Crimson System, there were stories of a Hare — no doubt a corruption of the Hare and the Turtle — that blesses the Commonwealth chowrunners with narrow flight from all danger.

Rolf must've heard Olympus calling from afar, and sought to climb it. Then the Justiciar found himself amidst the Gods' Court, bereft of memory. Were they truly gods, or did they all simply find a distant vision that swallowed them short after?

I walked out into the fog, heeding Olympus calling too. At first I could see nothing else, but soon it started to darken, and the mist pulled away from my sight.

I saw a fortress upon an island, amidst a red sea under a red sky, crowned by a red sun.

I thought that I should go there. The sense of discovery beckoned me to dive into the sea and swim. The same words kept panging in my head:

I am the Lady of Last Words, and last words I shalt seek.

A moment of weakness? Or of enlightenment, maybe. I met fate in the eyes, and I could only run.

I ran for Rolf's house, but I missed it in the fog. I ran down the cliff and tripped, rolling down its rocky height. I didn't break a single bone, somehow. And then I kept running, running away from the Starlit Sea, as far as I could.

I ran for so long I thought there was nothing but rocky plain ahead of me. I thought everything else had vanished and the Threshold eaten me and Rolf's house whole. The Crimson Sun remained in the sky, and it only grew brighter as I ran — but then, a rectangular shadow appeared in the mist.

Was it a monolith? Some alien thing brought from the script? A piece of bone from the Starlit Sea?

No, no it wasn't. It was a bust of Lenin. And behind it, the central plaza of Pyramiden, with every little house and the logo of the town with the arctic bear on top.

I could only laugh, and laugh I did — laughed my ass off for an hour. I hugged Lenin so tightly I must've broken a few of his bones beyond the grave. And before I even realized, the real sun was warming me up. The cold wind welcomed me back, ecstatically whistling past the ghost town. Welcome back home! The stories of the town came back to me, flooding my nostrils with its particular scent of melancholy.

Did I make a mistake? Did I refuse a greater fate that called me?

I can't tell. The Soviet brickwork feels far too real for me to consider that seriously. Maybe I refused my invitation to the Abode of Gods in Heaven, rudely rejecting a blessing that only few can even dream of. The Lenin bust doesn't really judge.

And besides — I don't think I want a home in Heaven. After all, there's no home like sweet home.
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