04 February 2018

Journal in the Wood

The continent is vast, stretching from far north to deep south. It is somewhat lozenge shaped with its extreme ends shrouded in ice and cold. Land rises up from the water to meet the sky in a mountain range that spans from tip to tip. The range undulates from pole to pole, its mountains are sometimes worshipped. They are often feared. They are never ignored. Disrespect of their place in the world leads to potentially dire consequences. It is no coincidence that the thousands of names for the mountains, no matter in what language, translate into "Spine of God".

Along the eastern shore of the continent is a sea. The sea too has many names. Halfway between the equator and the deep south many inhabitants, many human and some other than human, call it a name that translates as "Infinite Riddle". Many have ventured far out on the sea. Some have managed to come back. Of those few, most talk little of what they encountered.

Out in the sea, there is an island. A good wind and gentle following sea could have one ashore in two to three days. The sea follows its own bliss, though, and rarely cooperates. Arriving at the island one finds a week of leisurely sailing circumnavigates it. Doing so will bring the ship around to the mouth of a swift river, itself a maze of islets and rocks that protect a spacious deep water bay. It is here that the anchor can drop. The seabirds are cautious of visitors, but hungry. The other inhabitants of the bay, some call them snakes or eels, others say small whales and sharp finned creatures of toothy maw which have yet to be classified. At rest, one can look up the river to see the mountain or mountains that dominate the center of the island. The peak appears twinned under certain conditions of sun and moon and tide.

The only way to the mountain is by pack animal or on foot. It is a hard journey of seven sunrises. It is not be undertaken by those feeble of nerve or spine. The first part is through a lowland jungle. The jungle hugs the banks of the river with emerald arms, reflected in the black-tea mirror of water. During the day the trees resound with hoots and screeches, its air laced with the streaks of colorful creatures reminiscent of birds and butterflies. Some are pretty. Some are not. Many are often dangerous to the imprudent. At night, the tenor of the sounds changes over punctuated by growls and the glow of odd-shaped eyes along the water's edges. The jungle slowly changes over forest as it creeps up the flanks of the mountain.

A forest it is, redolent of green-smelling needles and sap. Tracks of large pawed creatures can found along with their salt. Those of sharp eye might notice the occasional runestone in the undergrowth. The stones are rough-hewn spears of a dense grey-black stone. Legend has it that the scrawly inscriptions on the stones, if deciphered, could bring wealth and power to the reader. Or death, perhaps. On this the legends are unclear.

In the forest lies a clearing. In the clearing stands a podium made of stone, the same grey-black as the runestones of the forest. It too is carved with runes, along with some hieroglyphs showing fierce, multi-limbed beasts. Tooth and claw are prominent. Humans possessed of a certain knowledge might compare them to the terrestrial cat known as a jaguar, or even smilodons. Humans carrying that knowledge had not been to the island in some centuries. In the side of the podium is a niche, wherein lies an ink pot and a sturdy quill pen. The ink pot is carved from a single gemstone, akin to sapphire, and filled with ink made from rare earths and the blood of shellfish.

On the podium lies a journal. The journal is thick and bound in a nubby leather the color of ox-blood. This leather was made from the skin of a beast whose true name has been forgotten, but is sometimes called 'dragon' in the tongue of the man who carved the podium. the dragons are scarce now, gone into hiding for reasons unknown to most scholars who seek news of such creatures.

In this journal are many rough and heavy pages. Of these pages it can be said they are made of ancient paper. It is known there as 'ironscap'. Ironscap is exceeding difficult to make. Its fibers are derived from a plant that only grows in certain marshes, where the water is brackish and the weather harshly cold in winter, terrifically hot in summer. To harvest the plant requires a pure heart, strong sinews, and tenacity.

The pages, or many of them at any rate, and covered in the scrawl of centuries of handwriting. The languages are varied. Some passages were left behind by beings no one would call 'human'. Some were left by beings whose races went extinct centuries ago. The scrawls range from spidery runic slants to blocky geometric shapes to illuminated texts so beautiful as to make a monk weep with jealousy.

These writings were left by travelers. Seekers. Pilgrims, perhaps. Folklore and myth say that those who make it this far gain the privilege of writing their deepest wish, most secret desires, in the pages of this journal. In doing so, legend says, these wishes will come true. Desires fulfilled. Hopes satisfied. But the pen can only be lifted by those of pure mind, good hearts, and translucent soul. And their are also other, darker legends that say the journal is really a trick played by the darker forces in the multiverse. That there is no guarantee here. This would seem to be confirmed by the saying extant in the lore of many beings that the road to hell is paved with the bones of the good-hearted.

But the warm yellow light of the suns does not lie. The podium, the journal, the pen and ink are all here. All at the ready for those who have braved the mountains and the roaring sea. Trembling and ravaged yet there can be no question that one will take up the pen and write. One simply must not betray one's effort and heart. Take up the iron pen, dip it into the ink, write in this tome of wish and desire. It is the only way to make it back down the mountain to cross the sea, and perhaps be united with that which aches to be united with you.

No comments:

Post a Comment

"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...