Archaic Secrets and Esoteric Knowledge
What awaits him is a spacious cavern, dank of air and cluttered with curiosities.
The walls are lined with cabinets, some doored with solid wood, some doored with panes of clear glass, some not doored at all. Some hold ancient books, massive leatherbound tomes written in myriads of languages, all unfamiliar to the bloodshot eyes of the Mad Poet, though he is all but certain they contain archaic secrets and esoteric knowledge; others contain glass phials of myriad shapes and sizes plugged with must surely be charmed corks to preserve the potions and elixirs a’froth within; two boast mystic artifacts, skulls of strange animals, crystals and gemstones, effigies and statues with eyes that blink and stare. There are several apothecary workstations scattered throughout the space, most topped with beakers and tubes and spouts from which flames may rise, each composed in intricate and unique ways, no two exactly alike. On the surface of one table is a board of ghostwood upon which white wax candles stand melted; this board is enscripted with shapes and symbols which command Albey’s eyes to look away the moment their gaze fixes upon them. In the center of the room is a pedestal of white stone, a purer, cleaner white than the suit of Gobon the In’Fluence, and above this altar floats an undulating ball of a white whiter yet. Iuqon’s magelight, burning like a flameless spark.
On the surface of the white pedestal is a piece of papyrus similar to Albey’s scroll, but folded rather than rolled. He takes it up and, beneath it, sees a series of seven runes, each at the point of a heptagon carved into the stone, each with a line branching off into the center where there is a hole, a hole in which Albey assumes a certain staff is meant to rest. The folded papyrus is heavy in Albey’s hands; he knows it contains a message, one meant for his eyes only. Why else would Iuqon have left the magelight burning?
Upon the papyrus are many lines of tiny text written uniformly in the same ink which spills from the Poet’s quill, but how can that be? The words Albey scrawls always fade from his papyrus moments after he lays them, what sorcery is this? He chuckles to himself then. The sorcery of Iuqon the great Mage, of course, unmatched master of magicks. A deep sadness wells up inside the Mad Poet, but he shoves it down for now. Tears will only make the ink spread, so first he must read what was written.
If you are finding this note, then my time on your world has run out. This letter is meant to be read by your eyes only and then burned by the heat of the magelight, unless Ram’rl survived the battle as well. I will leave that decision up to him; if he is there with you, please extend my sincerest thanks and gratitude, for as much is owed to him as is owed to you.
First, the obvious: Jericho Tower has fallen, and the Rotting Ents fell with it. While this may seem like a victory, I fear it is only the beginning of a much larger conflict, one you must now fight on your own. You know as well as I that the Ents are a noble race, that they only turned wicked when they began to rot. As you may suspect, there is a cause for their malaise, a terrible sickness which spreads across this land from vessel to vessel, leaving Death and ruin in its wake. I have dubbed this vile scourge the Plague of Decay, for I have been studying it since we first encountered it many braud strates ago. Remember, if you can, the pack of raptors which ambushed us in the tall grass many treks south of The Hillside; their scales were falling off, their skeletons exposed, their innards putrid and dripping in nasty blots. This is the Plague of Decay; it attacks the body and liquefies it from the inside out, drawing all moisture from the skin and reducing the muscles and organs – aside from the brain – into a substance slightly more solid than jelly. The victim then turns psychotic, as it experiences the pain of neverending Death while unable to die unless it goes deaded by another. This causes the reaction we saw in the raptors and in the Rotting Ents: a lust for destruction that can only be quelled by relinquishing them from the mortal coil.
I wish I could tell you this sickness is natural, that it rose from nature just as you and I did, but that simply is not the case. This plague was invented, designed by a madman whose soul is as putrid as those inflicted by his curse; you may choose to not believe me if you so wish, but I swear on my grave I tell the truth: the plague came from Gobon, the ‘man who feigns the mantle of In’Fluence. His true moniker is Gobon the In’Flu-Enz’a, he is as much a sickness to this Plane as the Plague of Decay he created, and he is not to be trusted under any circumstances. I know not that he will come to The Lodge, for its whereabouts are well hidden indeed, but if you encounter him, Albey, you must draw your quill and scroll and write with the speed of lightning, for it may be the only chance of survival not only for you, but for the endless wood of The Hillside Commons itself.
You may not be aware of this – in fact, if I’ve done my job at all then this shall come as a complete surprise – but your quill and scroll are no ordinary scrivener’s instruments. They are enchanted, both of them, by a very powerful form of astral magick; anything written in the ink of the quill – anything you write in ink at all, for the spell has surely been absorbed into your spirit after the many strates we have endured together as The Triad, and how truly grand they were – shall come true, regardless of how impossible it may seem. Reality shall bend to your written words, Poet, so I implore you to write them wisely. The quill itself has a bottomless inkwell and the scroll has the ability to flatten solidly and consume any ink spilled upon it; you know these last statements to be true, I believe; I remind you to highlight the importance of your tools. You musn’t lose the quill and scroll, Albey, for papyrus is a rare commodity to the point where it cannot be bought, only crafted, and those know how are few and far in between. Regrettably I alone know the process of brewing the bottomless black ink, it is a secret art I was never able to teach you, or anybody in the wood. While time itself is infinite like a Grain of Sand, we mortal ‘mans only possess a finite amount, and my own seems to have run out.
Up until now, Albey, I have used my astral magicks to guide your hand every time the quill spilled ink on the scroll, but the incantation passed along with me. The laboratory you now stand in contains all the world’s knowledge, lost, known, and yet to be found, and it now belongs to you. The Lodge – and The Hillside Commons at large – is now yours to protect and yours alone, and though the weight on your shoulders may seem great at first, do not buckle beneath it. You are a good ‘man, Albey the Poet. I shall rest easily knowing my Life’s work – the work of my Life spent here in the endless wood, that is – has been passed on to worthy hands.
I wish I could write more, but I’m afraid there is little else to say. We shall soon be departing for Jericho Tower, and if my hunch is correct, Gobon will find us on the way there; he will feign innocence and try to offer help, and I shall tell you not to accept. If you are reading this letter, and I wholly believe you will be, it means you listened to me, that our bond of friendship is real and true, and that the Rotting Ents have been vanquished.
Say thankya, Albey the Poet. Until we meet again in the clearing at the end of the path. Long days and pleasant nights~
Albey, hands trembling, reads over the letter a second time. Iuqon knew. Even before they left for the battle this morning, he knew… and he let it happen anyway. It had to happen, there was no other way, and now Albey is alone and The Hillside Commons is his to protect.
Everything is as it should be, then. Just like it always was, just like it always shall be.
With a trembling hand Albey folds the note and lifts it up towards the glimmering magelight, then pulls it back. On the reverse side of the bottom flap of the papyrus is a series of sketches which match the seven symbols carved into the pedestal. There is also a postscript which reads:
Mayhap this is not important in the grand scheme of things, mayhap you will burn the letter without seeing this, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try. You will find many books on the shelves in my lab – find one with a blank page (the divine ones know there are many; true knowledge of this strange world is scarce indeed) and tear a sheet out. With a pencil – I implore you to use a pencil, Albey, I know not the consequences of you transcribing this information in ink – copy the runes I’ve detailed below, and their meanings. These are the seven astral runes of Existence, and they each describe a higher truth of reality as mortal ‘mans are able to understand them.
As you know, there are seven cycles of the sun and moon in a single strate. I have named these cycles after the seven runes – today is Saturday, a day of Death, and how disturbingly serendipitous it is. Use them to keep track of time so you are not taken by surprise at the occurrence of a Calla nor a Halla, which always rise on the night of a Friday. The black and white wolves are guided by hunger and little else, and they do not care what flesh fills their bellies.
A lump forms in Albey’s throat. He tries to swallow it, but it does not budge.
He finds a blank sheet of papyrus easily enough – Iuqon did not lie, many of his leatherbound tomes were devoid of any writing at all – but there doesn’t seem to be a single pencil about anywhere in this cavernous laboratory. He knows there are none in The Lodge proper, and to leave this place in search of a merchant with pencils for trade seems to be a risk not worth taking. If what Iuqon wrote is true and these runes describe the seven truths of reality – of Existence, in the words of the Mage – then writing them in ink cannot possibly have any unintended consequences… could it?
“No,” Albey says to himself as he lays both sheets, letter and blank page, down on his scroll, which he unrolled over the white pedestal. “Everything is as it should be; were I not to record this information, I would not have seen it in the first place.”
So Albey copies the seven astral runes of Existence in exquisite detail just as the Mage had done, writing their names above them, the truths they describe beneath them, and the seven days of the strate beneath the truths. He folds his copy and pockets it, then rolls the scroll and returns it to its holster. He then sheathes the quill, reads Iuqon’s final work one final time from beginning to end, and feeds the letter to the burning magelight. Not a single spark falls from the orb of radiance. It sizzles out shortly after the deed is done.
Alone in the dark of a secret basement beneath the house which once felt like a home, Albey the Mad Poet lays down on the cold stone floor and closes his eyes. Stricken by a fit of weeping, he sobs deeply into slumber.
This has been the last subchapter of the Exordium of The Face of Fear, a novel about bigfoot written by the writer in Untitled Bigfoot Project. Here is everything you need to know about it:
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
The Hillside Commons has a Facebook page. Here’s that.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~