Wednesday, 5 January 2022

"In the Memories of Stars"

 I write of ruin unbound by the past and the unravelling fates of men for you have recalled to me a dream wherein I saw, in the future of my people, a record of the ruin of your own. A vision, not of tumbling towers or oceans folding over the pennants of Knights but of books, and silence in an empty palace where snow drifts through the halls

There wrote a scholar in a voided land. The armies tipped into the rivers to stain the sea red, the peasants ploughed into under their furrows, starved in their hearths, the nobles withered, twitching from the teeth of gnawing rats.. all tumbled away to nothing like a cup emptied from a towers top, leaving beneath it not a splatter, nor a stain, wine drunk by the howling wind

In my dream, which came strangely like a memory, I knew this place. It was the Solar of Irrilyia, a once-sacred chamber I was taken to as a child, built by a long-fallen Prince as a sad offering to his unmarried mistress so that, though she may never be Queen and her children bastards all, yet she might occupy the topmost place in all the lands of Frost. In time, and as dynasties rolled each upon the other it was abandoned, transferred, preserved first as a power, then memory. 

When I saw the Solar, once and still the highest room of the tallest tower of the most sky-deep city of Frost, I recall it full of sunlight as a jewel is full of shine. Yet in my vision no sun wheeled nor stars shone, only a pale lantern and a guttering fire

In my dream I entered quietly, as a child, yet I was no child and moved as if I knew this place well, had walked it before, not once but many times.

In the Solar one black figure sat, robed in black made darker by the shadow of the lamp. They did not turn to me but stayed, sitting, crouching, hunched across the desk which occupied the centre of this room. All else was shadow and gloom, glimmers of firelight catching on the tumbling flakes of snow which drifted from a fissure in the roof

Near the black scribe was bound an orange flame, one locked in the belly of a stove, an iron tripod of the kind soldiers use, one leg was gone, it was propped, I saw on piled books of ancient make with slate and wooden covers though the topmost charred slowly, pressed against the pig-black iron. All was unsteady, the stove wavered, the chair and table tapped, shifting a little under the pressure of each written line as it crawled towards the parchments edge, and the weight of this black writers outstretched hand tilted the table, and so the scribe put out the other arm to grasp the tables side.

The scratching of the pen, like whispers, followed by a soft "thunk", a wheeze, as of from ancient lungs or cleft lips, then "thunk" the table tipped to rightness as it seemed the writer rode it through the black night like a ship in storm. And with this, a squeal, very small, as the chair tipped and bowed a little at each movement. Ill-made tools for an ill-made man for under all was breathing which seemed sore labour.

The whispering pen, the "thunk-thunk-squeal" and the labouring lungs, all sounds bound like slaves or spirits to the fierce unending flow of the text, unseen to me, a hidden river yet it pushed and rode the writer and commanded every effort of this desolate and fractured place as if a demon, possessing but one vile and ancient servant, unable elsewise to touch at all our material world, stood invisibly and with imperious will, lashed, howled without sound and commanded "Write. Write! Write!!" Such was strangely fearful in this little sight; a  black robed-man writing in a high castle.

I stepped within, or I remember that I had stepped in so, in that old-old story of the Pale Scribe which surely I remembered now. 

Cold was the Solarium, yet not bare. Books were piled against the walls, scrolls tacked and jammed in gaps and between piles. The wind panted outside and pressed fingers against the windows, once clearest glass, now blocked and shuttered, curtained by rags and browned tapestries. Yet still some wind keened and a whispering slip across the darkened floor like a carpet of snakes. Papers and scraps, pages and letters, fragments, skittered like leaves, flowed like embers on the cold air.

Why this word-hoard? Were they relics? Treasures? How? In the whole of Samaris were these charred and misbegotten scraps somehow stolen, or preserved?

"What do you here? What place is this, and when?"  

So I wished to scream and cry out, to ask this grim librarian.

Were they mad this hermit? Or was this all, the last remains of Samaris and Frost? Was there anyone still who knew the story of Illyria, or that this was her room and why it was made? But I remembered, or saw, I had seen somewhere or been told, that in this scene, this story, nothing was spoken or said, for one would not, one could not, and so both were silent.

He sighed then, and the black shape paused, shifted. It writhed I think. The Demon did not want it to be still. The words called, like a black river of ink which if dammed must burst. But I think there was a moment of silence, of recollection, as of an old, sad memory, a stillness of regret. Then again, "scratch-thunk, scratch-thunk-squeal" and the labour of breath. I think if this scribe knew of me, and I felt somehow it did, and yet did not, but that it cared not at all, intent upon his text here at the end of the world.


Was it truly pale?

I did not want to see its face, or to be seen, but I knew that, as dreamers know, that I must read.
That was how the story went and would go, that was the reason for the memory, why it had been passed on. Or the vision... But I must read nonetheless, for to do otherwise were like a joke half-told.

Though I saw and could see nothing of the outside world I imagined a black horizon and red fires burning under stars which swam and melted like ice, like tears.

The wind stirred and in the shadow of its sound I crept. I breathed through open mouth as a child does creeping in a game, and like a child I felt great dread, so much that my thighs itched and quivered as if holding on a climb, for all that my tread was soft.

He stank, though the cold hid it. He stank like a leper. Rags folded him and he was hunched beyond belief.He seemed to be in pain, or past pain, for I think for him no deed or moment lacked it.

I was within the fires red glow, and little heat it gave. I saw the surface of the table.


And the "skree" of the chair as he leaned his bowed body and reached, forcing limbs which seemed to which to curl upon themselves, like ferns, pushing them, his withered self, bowing to force the grey half-bitten quill to the edge of the table, the edge of the page.

The hand.

Was, could this be a mans hand?

So white. White as the moon and vile as a wound.

What had been done to him? What had he done?

A punishment? Burning. Perhaps acid, or feathers and tar. Were those still fingernails or something else?

I looked down, in the vision, in the memory of the tale I remembered that I had done this, down at my own right hand. It was normal, and shared no mark or blemish with that thing. There was no way, it would not, I would not become…

So, unspoken fear assuaged, I stepped, only a little step. The rank beast stink and the pitiful breath. The "scratch-scratch-thunk" resounding now like hammers. I was right behind him. Right behind his shoulder, invisible, unseen and even if he should rise, should turn and see me, I could hurl him down like a dog, withered as it was. This was the secret I was bound to see. The black words crawled across the cracked palimpsest.

It was my tongue, not the one in which I write to you, but that of my birth, in an educated, elongated secretary style. My eyes darted, sections, headings, repeated phrases, amber, the amber court, chrysalis wars, ruin, great working, the names of great nations. 

What dark history was this? Not mine, thank god, but some names I knew. Oderlane, Day and yours, or your title at least.

"The Ruin of the Amber Court"

All this was written in past tense, and grimly, as if too long done, but I saw horror, vague and terrible as if from scripture or nightmare. I read of shapeless legions, of lands I knew yet "turned from any Path and Broken", of rains of corpses, of generations cursed by dark foreknowledge, of lands where the babes were born dead, yet sentient and grieving themselves, of cities tipped into the "Fabric" and make alike unto curses, or worms or dragons of myth; "and Redgaar turned then at the time of Third Turning and broke its Path and the Cord of its Peoples and moved behind the Fabric as a hungry ghost which swims in black water and was cursed". I read of dreams made vampiric, of tilted skies which spilled forth quicksilver men that hated all, of the harrowing of Time and ever and again, repeated; "The Ruin of the Amber Court".

I leaned forwards, puzzling and darting, lost in dark wonder and frustration. What was the Amber Court? For then I had never heard the phrase. 

I leaned and He turned, and saw

Or just remembered. His eyes searching mine, or looking through them. Could he see me at all?

What before I feared in horror I saw now in inexpressible sorrow. A face so altered and unmanned, eroded by tortures and sculpted in pain, yet, regret, regret and yearning unto madness, as if in in a call or heralds cry, his face alone begged me; Do not let this be.

Did our eyes meet?

I woke from my vision, or came from my memory, weeping. So sad, so sad and fearful yet I knew not what for. For a fantasy. I could neither be consoled nor speak of what I had seen. What could I say but that I wept for a dream I could not well recall?

All this lay within me, for how long? A week? A month? Though the memory slowly faded, I wrote notes, made images and verse for, though I could not speak of what I had seen directly, I could freeze instants of it through art, like nails in my soul.

Only weeks I think.

Can you imagine now, or begin to, what flowed through me as I deciphered your letter? (By my own hand, for I would trust no other). Letter by letter, phrase by phrase. Of what slow nightmare, no, for there was no shadow or enchantment to it, but only horrid clarity, like a deadly sentence handed down by a mediocre judge.

Those Self Same Terms

The Exact Words

And the very concept! Not in history, but as a plan! A yet-to-be! Can you understand? I wish I wish I wish that you could see my visions as I saw them, but I know you will doubt, and if not doubt, defy. Such is your nature. You are fearless, and there is a great terror in that. God made fear for a reason, we do not think it is a blessing but it is. You will doubt and see only a warning, and you will plan and devise, thinking to overcome. Such is your way, your nature to the core.

Still I implore you. I beg you, if you have ever respected my talents, as your words would suggest, if you can believe me in any way. Do not do this.

There is still time! Fate is not yet set. Whatever horrors you have seen since Albraneth and the Canticle, whatever winding paths your Seers have put before you, I know you are outraged by these times and their falseness, by the ignorance and hypocrisy, and yes I agree with you that Oderlane is mad and likely a Sorcerer, and his beasts both fanatical and corrupt. Tet still, I beg you, do not do this thing. I have seen it and it is terrible.

I will not join you beneath your mountain.

I wish I knew words to move your soul but I fear none such exist.

Peace to you in all love.


Apocrypha of "In the Memories of Stars". Copy of a document said to have been recovered, year 672, from the ruins of lost Samaris. Transcribed and included in the 732 First-Block-Printed edition. Retained only as Apocryphal as all dates and names either removed or lost and provenance of original impossible to ascertain.


  1. Is this another 'meeting the older self' situation?
    The writing is haunting to me, especially the description of smell.
    "of cities tipped into the "Fabric" and make alike unto curses"
    This is a such interesting idea, the city as a living curse. I wonder if it would work in a way that if the city approaches the sort of idea or aesthetics of the cursecity, the curse will come in effect.
    For example, imagine if Venice, the city of canals, masquerades and, arguably, of blood and romance, became a curse. If any city through the history will approach to be the idea of Venice it will be doomed to fall in the way the initial Venice did.

    1. It might be a reoccurring theme creeping in. I quite like 'reality horror' so we will see if I can come up with anything good. P Wars needs more characters I think.