So I spend time writing one thing and then go off and write another that seems like it is a different thing until I realise that the roots of both of the things are somehow intertwined. I realise that I still have a paracosm and it has grown out of the same mind as the one that has always been there. In this sense, as was the case with Eddison and Tolkien and many others, one’s juvenilia can be utilised as the historical backdrop against which one’s mature work can be seen. [Insert obligatory disavowal of hubristic comparisons here]. The personal rewards of publishing the things I have written are insufficient for me to pursue just yet and the personal reward of pursuing the great interconnected thing beckons enticingly.
'I am that astonishment from which you write in those brief moments when you can write.'
Russell Hoban, The Medusa Frequency
Unburdening myself from the need to make things intelligible to the reality of the game is liberating. Conversely, the realisation that the purple prose is of less use than the poetic resonance of the concept is grounding.
It is possible to become so lost that the home you return to is no longer home. When a magician starts to transcend mortality they realise that the self they were was rooted in that mortality and that the transformation they seek makes a mockery of all the reasons they seek it. The enunciation of the idea changes the idea. Loss is the price of gain.
1. Cornbrash Stratum, erstwhile pupil of Ravelhain the Garganaut, opted, in his quest for immortality, for a kind of irresistible physicality that would daunt time’s vicissitudes with unyielding material toughness. Replacing, over the course of several decades, all that in him was frail with heavier elements he became the embodiment of fortitude, a ferrous thing that wades thighbone-deep through the world and sees through the things he once loved like vapour.
His peculiar obsession is the structure of things, as he replaced all that was within him of whim and passion with structural components devised in such a manner as to stave off decay. He communicates now with humanity only through architectural manipulations of masses of stone. Unable to recognise individual human beings he nonetheless can perceive in architectural style as it shifts from age to age the presence of some kind of agency that is the aggregate of thousands of minds. It is with this aggregate that he now seeks to communicate, at intervals of three or four generations, by enacting reconfigurations of the geometries of their communiques or producing constructions that parody the degradation of abstract mathematical ideals manifest in human structures.
2. Glowbason Kale, the cauldron witch, is attended by her Savoury Characters and by the delectable fragrance of roasted meat. The attendants number seven to ten, range from medium rare to blackening bones and bear her along upon a palanquin brazier trailed by a turnspit dog who gnaws at their ankles and laps at the juices they leave. The witch herself has boiled away for seven hundred years and languishes in her simmering bath of broth. They travel in search of firewood from the Hundred of Onbethankit long abandoned where her toothsome crew have chopped down the spinneys and dug all the peat to keep the fire burning. She requires, for the recipe that ensures her continuity, certain herbs - by moonlight plucked from unhallowed ground - and spices from the far lands.
Her Savouries are variously glazed or garnished or stuffed with writhing young. All are tasty save those who are now, sadly, overcooked.
3. Behold Auld Jack Smelt on his pitchfork, riding backwards through dreams. He can live there, in his phantasmagorical Clud-Haas above Galligantus Peak, somewhat outside a reality he rejects. Upon seeing the exhilarating wildness of his ride through the sky-wrack, one half-expects him to cackle madly, as mad cackling seems so obviously his domain. He does not cackle but weeps, or remains stony-faced and dark of countenance. Sorrows fly with him like hoodie-crows, in his Magonian house they besmirch the golden-whiteness with their purpureal sootiness and incessant dirge. They roost above his empty bed and bespatter all that place with the stinking memory of times before all was lost.
Aspics adorn his gate and writhe upon every floor in poisonous relief. They remind him of the time it happened and of the time before.
4. Manigate Querken: prenticed to Ysgithrog the Metempsychotic in an early saeculum, Querken sought and found a conduit into his own past that he might relive his lost youth over and over. Many times now he has crawled through the Tunnel in the Ivy to capture and murder the precursory self as it skulked under a bridge one day in its fourteenth summer. Querken reinhabits the youth’s life with his sinister foreknowledge and meticulous record of the trammelled paths of his cyclical reality. He bears with him a grimoire of exploitable occurrences and passes through the world each new time with more cunning means of advancing his position and status to enigmatic purposes.
The position of the Tunnel in the Ivy he keeps secret or fortifies with walls of stone and soldiers bought with extraordinary wealth plundered from those thralls of conventional causality and sequence who have the misfortune of falling his prey.
Nobody sees him coming. Nobody knows how many times he has passed backward through the decades or lived forth again along his timeline, his head full of foresight and cunning schemes. He may be the oldest of all.
With him Hobshanks, Querken’s man, formerly a Drungary of the Twelth Assize, now loyal to the death to the master. In which former life Hobshanks was Sir Layloc Theophagus, his current sobriquet arose from his habit of falling to his armoured knees in the presence of the master. He is huge and scarred and his purple cloak is ragged. None may stand before him.
5. The Bearer of Ill-Tidings: In her maidenhood she had fallen victim to catastrophic sorrow and had thrown herself into a chasm. She did not die, her broken body hung pinioned in a thorn tree for six days and nights. On the fifth day a gastrel came and plucked out her eyes. In the darkness of the seventh dawn the Thicketty Man came (whose cowardly habit was ever to avail himself of untoward occurrence) and planted in her a seed of the world’s destruction. It grew in her, this seed, and she grew strong again and stronger still. Now she walks in the world again a witch unbridled, tall as a tree, gaunt and hollow and swollen with century-child burgeoning inside. When she speaks no words come but knives instead, clattering at her feet, etched with glyphs that speak of ruin.
Mostly she dwells beyond the sky in a star of serrated black iron that hangs in the utmost void. Upon the earth she casts a tripartite shadow that tells of forgotten suns, invisible to man. By their light she sees.
6. The Get of Ravelhain: A feral thing, sudden and brutal, furnished with immeasurable potence, squats in the hideous twilight. Its essence is a blazing blackness: furred, simian, and eloquent in all the languages of violence. Upon a long chain an angel of bronze, rearing magnificent in gleaming counterpoint to the black one. The angel is crowned with lightning and sorrow. She is immortal and captive to a thing born of the wicked earth.
He wields her like a flail. She keens her celestial lament for the wickedness of man and he batters mighty citadels to dust and splinters and drags her from world to world in search of empires to trample and cow.
He is his father’s son.