The Fell Gard Codices


So it fell out that they came, all twelve of them, to the Temple of Ynas-Und, that lies upon the tenth court of Fell Gard the Master Dungeon, hoping to learn some knowledge that would aid them in the bitter war that had come upon them all; and there, among the secret books of the Inner Temple, they held council with the hierophant Ivo, master of lore, who knew many secrets of time and the gods.

Now the temples of Ynas-Und, who is the hunter of knowledge and the dreamer of tales, all share a structure. They each and every one have a great outer chamber, with fine Eilynic columns, and with monumental sculpture-work of heroes and wizards, and with other such things as are calculated to instill awe in those predisposed to worship. In the spaces thus shaped are performed the solemn rites of Ynas-Und’s Lesser Worship, which, say the priests, are worship enough for the mass of the people; those rites are centred about the performance of fifty-one complex plays, a different play for each week of the year saving the Week of Silence, and each of them telling tales of violence and magic and kings and weird witch-women.

The true work of the god occurs away from the stage, where the priests maintan their eccentric libraries. It is said by the priests that every library is only a piece of a greater, unperceived library, and that if you wander long enough among books, among the silence of the inks, then in time you will find you are wandering in unknown lands, and have been translated into the ur-library that binds all book-places. Perhaps this is so and perhaps it is not, but it is certain that the priests of Ynas-Und maintain their mazes of tomes not only as their retreat from the tedium of life and death within the Master Dungeon — with its innumerable sagas of violence and magic and kings and weird witch-women — but as a testing-ground, a venue for trial and initiation. For the worship of Ynas-Und, in its true form, is a mystery.

It was to the inner temple they came, those twelve, to speak with the priest Ivo That Hath Watched the Sea; for Ivo had let it be known that he had learned significant matters to do with the new court of Fell Gard. So they came: Sibry the Dream-Wise, who though a mortal was a prophet of the goblin-god Rhehvv; Ioco Iago Iono, fighting-man and lover, with his curious skill in calligraphy and an enchanted broom for a weapon; Talys the Black Dwarf, anthracite-like, with the silver and gold chimes upon which he wrought his art; Lia-as-the-sparks-fly-upward, who was said to be of the blood of dragons, and wore a perfume with the scent of sandalwood; Little Blanch, the hob-goblin hero; Saga Thrice-Dead, wizard of repute; her rival, old Melodia Fable; Nathanael of the Ashen Elves, who carried the Paints of the Vala; Freydis of the Shapes, wizard and were-wolf; Sannoth the Fate-Dwarf, with his glittering flail and his behemoth-hide armour; Lucius Vergilius Felix, trapsmith and forger, who abhorred the colour yellow; and Gullveig-Heith the troll.

All of them were kings or queens or chiefs or legends, and all of them were in alliance with the Temple of Ynas-Und of the tenth court, which is named Silver Athrir. They had a moment’s pause in their great war, that was against the shadows and the scarecrows and the cat-men that go quietly in the dark with green eyes and long cruel swords, and also against the unknown master that was behind them all; and, choosing that moment to come to the Temple, were led by Ivo through the labyrinth of shelves and vaults, past the fluttering ravens which had by long tradition the freedom of the library; past the wards and magic eyes that stared at them all, seeking some hostile magic or false seeming, and finding in the end none; and so came to a long low-ceilinged hall, lined with shelves filled with books bound in the skin of grim beasts; and at the end of that hall was a wide and high hearth in the shape of a basilisk’s mouth, in which a cheerful fire burned. Otherwise that place was lit only by torches flickering with the indigo fires of Ynas-Und, whose light only showed the pages of old books, and was of all lights most pleasing to readers. Therefore the twelve of them, and Ivo That Hath Watched The Sea the thirteenth, cast long shadows as they took their seats in straight-backed wooden chairs around an odd-shaped table that stretched away from the hearth and the basilisk’s stone gullet.

Ivo, in the seat with his back to the fire, a small brass bell on the table before him, said a brief prayer, blessing the council and the war they fought, and, that being done, said to them: “Now you must know that I have learned much, lately, of the twentieth court. I have found its omphalos.”

Melodia Fable cackled at this. “What is the omphalos?” asked Ioco Iago Iono, who was King of the Halls of Glee.

“When a new court is formed,” said Ivo, “mortal men and women, and dwarves and elves also and many other creatures of many kinds, are drawn into Fell Gard from the outer world. Also much that had been lost over the course of years from the dungeon and elsewhere, and that had been sent into the æther, is recovered by the new-shaped halls. Now each court when it is made has a centre to it, a navel, an omphalos. Those things and creatures added to the dungeon, as opposed to those the dungeon creates for itself, are scattered about that omphalos for a distance of a few miles, like ships in a whirlpool; or like sparks, spat from a fire, that for the most part fall close to the flame, and yet sometimes travel farther.”

“Then if you find the omphalos,” said Lucius Vergilius Felix of the Great Guild, “you find the powers brought into Fell Gard.”

“True,” said Ivo, “and there are many powers on this new court, sayeth Ynas-Und to His oracles. The Bottled God; Vocath, Jussion, and Ablatis; The Lenses of Karanduniash; the skeleton of King Winter; Adalberaht’s Bag; The Diadem of Flowers. And yet also more. Books of Sigwarynye, Queen of Bloodstones. And … the Cup and Ruby of Enlilitu.”

“Half of those things are myths,” said Talys.

“Myths lost, myths found,” chanted Melodia Fable. “We of the College Involute know myth cannot be unwound from history.”

“If Enlilitu has returned,” said Lia, “or, worse, the Bottled God … these are grave matters for the future. But can they help us at war now? Do they know who is the master of the cats and shadows? That is the only riddle that signifies.”

“Perhaps,” said Ivo. “And yet I wonder. You see, the new court has brought many riddles of its own. Have we and others not thought these past years that the hands of the demon princes and arch-devils were more often to be seen than had been their wont? I think they have laid their plans in anticipation of this court’s making. And then it is a strange coincidence that the Four Crypts each suffered a theft of bones from their catacombs so shortly before the formation of a new court. Or one might wonder whether the re-emergence of the Brotherhood of the Ninth Utterance is involved with the new court. Or if the whispers that the perytons who caused the fall of the Invicti are active again have some root therein. Also, the strange actions of so many jacks, their seeming unity; what of that?”

“A community of elves on the sixteenth court was destroyed by a frightjack in recent days,” murmured Nathanael. “I would be interested in solving this mystery; though it is not so pressing as the great war.”

“How do you know this about the omphalos, Ivo?” asked Sibry. “How could you learn its location? Rhehvv has not spoken to me of it; or to any of the Silver-in-Blood.” Now the Silver-in-Blood was the name the goblinkin gave to those mortals who threw over all fellowship with their kind to follow the path of goblins; and it was the name proudly taken by Sibry’s followers. They were a young tradition, and youth is a time of growth and arrogance; no less for religions than people. Therefore Sibry demanded: “Do you have one of the Fell Gard Codices, somewhere among all these books?”

“The Fell Gard Codices are a myth,” said Ivo, “as Talys would say.”

“Have you never seen one?” laughed Gullveig-Heith.

“I am sure no more than you ever have,” said Ivo mildly.

“This is not to the point,” said Sannoth of the Fate-Dwarves. “The wars and battles in the Heart of Fell Gard — the various deaths of Hieronymo Phoenix-and-Ashes, of Silent Mathilda, of Galfridus Kingsmith, of Rohesia of the Sun and Stars — do you think they were somehow inspired by the advent of this new court?”

“Death is common,” said Little Blanch. She was a champion among the Thirteenfold Company, that was made up of thirteen heroes of thirteen kinds of speaking creatures; goblinkin, mortals, dwarves, the kith of the elf-folk, and others. A squat figure in her worked plate armour, her eyeless helmet before her on the table, she grinned without malice, baring yellow fangs. “Are the mighty less likely to fall than others, or more so? More, I think.”

“The mighty of the Heart of Fell Gard have more pressing concerns than our war, or than a new court,” said Freydis of the Shapes. “They contend with gods and powers like gods.”

“If the archdevils have taken a hand —” started Gullveig-Heith; but Lia laughed.

“I will tell you all something,” she said. “There is a taste of dragon’s magic that my family remembers.” None of them doubted these words from Lia Queen of Ejieri; for all her family were great artists, many of them capable in wizardry and war, and all, like her, said to be sprung from dragons. They waited. She smiled. “Nil has returned,” she concluded, to a gasp from Saga.

“Has Reprisal come with it?” asked the glossologist of Peaceweaver College.

But Lia answered only: “Who can say?”

“Listen to me,” said Ivo. “All that I have said — you must understand, these powers that have manifested near the omphalos — they have been noticed by others. Some of the magics have been found, by the newcomers to Fell Gard, who themselves are organising. I wonder how many of the kingdoms and clans and colleges we know have sent agents up to the twentieth court? I wonder if the Enemy without a name has sent some ambassador or spy to watch these new folk in the House of Creation. For there are spies in place, among the newcomers. One at least, that I know of, placed by the dwimmerlaiks —”

“The dwimmerlaiks are our allies,” said Nathanael.

“How do you know all this, Ivo?” asked Melodia. “How have you gained all this intelligence?”

Ivo stroked his beard. “Once I found the location of the omphalos,” he said, “and so learned where, among the mazes of the upper court, to turn my gaze — then it was easy enough to discover all this matter.”

“And how did you come to know the site of this omphalos?” asked Saga, steepling her hands before her gaunt face.

Ivo took up the little bell before him, and rang it. The council waited in silence. After some moments there was movement in the shadows beyond the firelight; and stone serpents twice the length of a man came in sight, crawling on their bellies across the stone floor. Between them they drove a full-figured woman with dark curly hair, clad only in a tunic. “I have answered your questions,” she said at once, with a sneer. She surveyed the council before her. “Will you release me, or am I to be your ape, trained to amuse your friends?”

“This vile creature is named Mirabilis,” said Ivo. “She was brought into Fell Gard with the new court, and descended from there to here. A remarkable feat, in many ways. And there is magic in her; so the wards of the Temple have proven.”

“What sort of magic?” asked Saga.

“This we do not know,” said Ivo. “It is buried deep.”

“Why did you come here?” Lia asked Mirabilis; but the other woman only glared at her.

“She seeks Sigwarynye’s books,” said Ivo. “She had heard that this temple housed many kinds of volumes, and thought if any were here, that she might steal them.”

Freydis laughed.

“Laugh if you like,” said Mirabilis. “I will say to you only this: Ager Verbenarum.”  And having spoken so she retched, and vomited up a black pearl.

For a moment none of them moved; and then it was too late. The pearl rolled across the floor to stop right before the fire, casting a long and unnaturally dark shadow against the wall; and through that shadow, through the pearl, came cat-men and scarecrows and nightgaunts and one-eyed giants and even moleks, the bull-headed men called minotaurs.

Then there was battle in the Inner Temple, and the heroes did great work, and the iron broom of Ioco Iago Iono slew many, and Little Blanch once again proved herself a champion; and yet still more of their enemies came through the gate of the black pearl, until finally they were all overwhelmed. Saving one, who had not arisen from the table, but sat placidly.

Mirabilis for her part watched the fight, laughing now and again as a hero fell. When it was done she sat by that last of them, who had not moved. “Well, it’s done, dwimmerlaik,” she said. The semblance of the person beside her changed, and became something other. “Tell me,” said Mirabilis. “When I agreed to be taken as a prisoner, to help you stage this farce, I knew you needed me to carry your black pearl into the Inner Temple, past the magics set to detect any wicked spellcraft. But how did those same wards not sense the magic that changed your shape?”

“I have always been what I seemed,” said the dwimmerlaik. “I have held that identity for … years. I have always come to this Temple in that same form.” The dwimmerlaik shrugged. “The magics sensed only that I was what ever I had been.”

Mirabilis laughed. “This game of deception your folk play pleases me,” she said. “I’ll be of your company, and win your war for you. Of course you’ll help me in return, for there’s a preceptor and a sorine back on the twentieth court I’d find and punish; a House that must be destroyed.”

The dwimmerlaik nodded, and said: “Of course.”

Now this great betrayal later became broadly known, as such things often do. When the scope of it was clear, then it was given the name of the Mummer’s Council; and so it would be known to history, as a great betrayal of many decent creatures. And yet it is true, and being true must be said, that there was some small amount of good that came from it. And that for one soul, at least, it was a liberation.


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4 Responses to “Part 3, Epilogue 1: Beyond the Courts We Know”

  1. Perfidius the Rogue

    Hierophant Ivo’s got me thinking of Professor Ivo, the maker of Amazo. Reckon I’ll have to go watch Justice League with my daughter after reading this!

  2. Perfidius the Rogue

    PS. Oh, and now your ‘all libraries are one’ motif has me thinking of Pratchett!

    Guess I’ll dive into the books.. hey, wait, is this all part of some elaborate plan to keep me busy? 😉

  3. Perfidius the Rogue

    PPS. Darn it! With this cast of the great and mighty you’ve put me in mind of Moorcock’s ‘The Dancers at the End of Time!’

    A conspiracy, I say!

  4. Perfidius the Rogue


    Mirabilis! Thy name is villainy.. heck, I’ll keep reading though. 🙂

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