The Fell Gard Codices


Come along, come along. This way. Yes. We are heading west. The way is straight. There is nothing on the floor. Yes. Keep going.

Ah, we have come to a large chamber. I would say ten yards or more to one side, by which we have entered, and twenty long. It is filled with shelves. Wooden ones higher than your head. Here, touch. Yes, the shelves are filled with … I don’t know. Tools, I think. I don’t know what they all do. Well, you mortals are known for your tools.

The others are all examining the tools now. Not the elf-lady. She is as lost among them as I am. The singer, William, is explaining them to her. Can you hear him? Billhooks and hand-barrows, scruppets and strickles, dung-forks and eel-spears. They all seem to say here are so many kinds of toil, and this is what we mortals are. Anyway I think they are for working the earth, and I hate the earth. Earth is my enemy, for I am a lady of the air. If you could see you would note how I do not walk on the ground but fly. I wish you could see my wings. They are very beautiful, and do not have the fiery glare of the caladrius.

Well, they have finished examining those tools. We are moving north again. This way.

There is a room … there seem to be a number of rooms, opening one into another. The sorine said to wait — you heard her? Well, then.

… Well, they seem to have finished looking through the rooms, now. We go on. The rooms are empty stone. No, there is a flawed crystal ball that has rolled into a corner. Foul stuff, crystal. It breaks light, you know. Oh, here’s the dwimmerlaik who joined with my slave, the poor fool.

“We’re going back to the cervidwen, Ulric. There’s nothing in these rooms. Now, to the north we found a kettle and a pile of ash; maybe the cervidwen made a fire there. And Ulixa found a small silver sceptre topped with an onyx. My point is that a little further east was a wall covered in ivy, flowers, and raspberry cane. So there’s more fruit here. If Gryselde really is determined to settle in this place, and may her Gods help her if so, then at least there’ll be a varied diet. My hope is that we don’t become part of a varied diet. Ah, we’re setting off again.”

Yes, this way. Why don’t you speak? You weren’t struck dumb, were you? No, but you only shake your head. You’re a strange man, you with your overlarge shield and that bird that you cradle, you who can hardly walk but cannot fly at all.

Shh. We’re in the cervidwen’s chamber. The elf just bowed to him, and he looked away. Rude creature. Very earthy.

Onward, then.

Oh, here we have come to another forest-chamber. Yes, you can smell it, can’t you?

“This was where he was blinded. He knows it too well.”

That was the dark-skinned woman. Ulixa. You mortals; it sometimes seems like every one of you has your own name. Here, this way, we’re going on to the west. Yes; further on; this is a long hall.

Wait, there is a door, and the woman Ulixa is studying it. Ah, she has opened it. We are near now to the breathing creature my sisters and I once noticed. We can’t always tell such things, you know. Only, over time, we can sense … wait, the hall turns here. Northward. And it grows wider. Where was I? Oh, yes. We can’t always tell who is around us, but we are alive to the air. And also the air itself is alive. Oh, I wish you could see it. But even if you were to see as other mortals can, you would not see the air as a sylph would. And of course you cannot fully experience beauty until you do.

The wide hall ends at a pair of double doors. They’re bound in bronze. The woman Ulixa is studying them. She has opened them.

Why, that’s strange.

There’s a room beyond the doors. Come, this way. Your hand is very large, and your fingers are rough. Well, though it’s impolite to say it, you mortals do have some earth in you. The room beyond the doors is, oh, ten yards long, and half-a-dozen or so wide. There is a hallway in the north-west corner that leads away somewhere. The walls are very high, and shaped so that they seem to rise through tiers of arches. It’s a relief carving, I think you say. Anyway they’re also hung with black cloth. What is strange in this room is that it is empty but for a — coffin, do you call it? No. Bed. A bed with four posts and a canopy; the canopy and bedclothes are black. There is an old man in the bed. He is not moving. No, wait, now he’s moving a little. The mortals are giving me strange looks. I’m sorry about not remembering ‘bed’ but I do not sleep.

Why, thank you, William. I rather think my voice is attractive and bell-like myself. Yes, it carries well in the air.

They are making a circle around the bed. The old man is sitting up. He has no hair and his skin is sagging on him and spotted.

“Who, who are you? Where is it? What — what has happened?”

He’s staring at his hands. I don’t know what he is thinking.

“Why do I feel so …”

That noise was him trying to sing. He was singing to the elf. Hmm, she has taken a step back. Oh, that is her singing now. She is very good, isn’t she? Sound is carried by air. Did you know that? I am very sensitive to music of all kinds.

“Yes. Yes, yes I am. Or I was.”

That was the old man again. He has put his head into his hands. He is making water with his eyes. The others seem affected, but I don’t know why. Water is nowhere near as bad as earth.

“He is an elf.”

“What? How do you know?”

“He sang to me. Or tried to. In our language.”

“But he is mortal. Isn’t he?”

“You’re all mortal. Except her … You, tell me, how long shall I live?” That was the old man. He asked the question of the sorine. She’s staring at the old man now.

“Without violence, or disease? I think it will be … ten years until the Graf Vaka-bane comes for you. More, maybe, or a little less.”

“Ten years …”

Hmm, the dwimmerlaik seems upset. “How do you know that?”

“It’s who she is. Her god is a god of death.” That was Ulixa.

“She knows when I’m going to die? When all of us will die?”

“I do not. I know how long you might live.”

“This seems a distinction without a difference.”

Oh, the old man sprang from the bed, and almost fell over. Enheduanna caught him. He’s dressed in fine elven robes, I see.

“Ten years!” I do not like that laugh. Laughter should be either happy or sad, but not both. “Oh, what shall I do? Whatever shall I do, with all that time? Sing to me. Sing me your name.”

She is a good singer, isn’t she? Oh, the old man is standing on his own now.

“My name is Atrahasis. Have you — ah, it is so difficult to think. Have you seen other elves? Or have you passed a statue, like a mortal man, but horned and twisted, gargoyle, is your word. At the end of a hall, with runes before it?”

I do not like the dwimmerlaik’s laughter either.

“We have found cursed and magical gargoyles. But none with runes.”

“I see. And you came into this room by which way? That one? Which way — I can’t feel north, that’s what’s strange. And my throat is so … tight? Ah, I’ve lost much. I can’t see the æther. Well. Come along, then.”

“Wait. Where are you going?”

“To find a powerful magic, Sorine. That is why I came to Fell Gard in the first place.”

“Seeking power?”

“Seeking to destroy power, I suppose. It is a magic prison for a soul, that I must return to the magicians of my people, so that they can ensure the soul is freed. I and my warriors had found it … now I must find it, and them, again.”

“I must follow him.”

“Enheduanna —” Oh, the mortal singer is not as good as her. “Later, teach me your language, and I will study till I can sing like an elf.”

“If you like. I love your singing as a mortal man.”

Come, come along. We are following the old man. Or elf, as he may be. The hall is in this direction. Oh, I see, it goes back at an angle, toward the south-west.

There’s a door at the end of the hall. The old man opened it, and now the sorine is explaining to him that he should wait for the woman Ulixa to examine it first. I don’t see why. A surer way to find a trap would be to have him open it, and see what happens to him. If he dies, then my liege can choose another one of her followers to open the next door, and so on. I presume I would be the last picked for that chore, after everyone else had died. I also expect the dwimmerlaik with the mask elemental would be first, as that would only make sense. — Yes, dwimmerlaik, I know you can hear me. Is that significant?

At any rate, they’re moving on.

The room behind the door is perhaps twenty feet to a side. There’s a locked door to the north and a hall leading west. We’re going down the hall, now. This way.

Oh; there is an opening on the south side of the hall, and stairs leading down quite far. And a door to the west.

The door has opened to a large room. There is an empty lamp in the room. The singer has fit it into his pack. There’s another door, a little to the south of the one by which we entered, and on the same wall. The woman Ulixa is examining it. There is a hall beyond it, running back eastward. Come along; it’s this way. The floor is smooth.

There is a door on the south wall a little way ahead. It is open. The hall runs on. Oh, the old man is shouting.

“Ahead, there, you see it? Go no closer! Those runes say ‘Dream is the shaper of form.’ I saw its eyes alight, and … I was in a dream, caves, rooms, halls, spinning off in every direction … around me were … creatures … and I was changing, elf, dwarf, dragon, thurse … mortal man. As you see. The dream changes you! Go no closer!”

Well, now it seems we’re going through the door to the south. Come along.

Ah! Look out!


Oh …

Disgusting! I was touching stone! Oh, I am well. Now. The skrythe froze me. You heard it, I think. That shriek. Yes, you felt it. You don’t want to say so, but you did. You could feel it freezing you, too, almost. Did it not wake the caladrius? It must have healed you of great wounds, to be so very tired. Do you know what a skrythe is? It is a bird, a great bird like a crow, and their cry can … as you heard. I couldn’t fly, and the ugly horrible stone pulled me down. Anyway, the skrythe’s dead now. The lady elf caught it with an arrow. Good for her. Now, why is the sorine taking its body — oh, I see, of course, you must eat dead flesh to live. I expect that is the earth in you calling to earth.

They seem to be going on. Come, this way.

Wait; there is a crossroads here. The hall we have come by, and then four other halls, each running off to a diagonal. The old man, or elf, is urging them to go to the north-east. That seems to be the way we’re going. Turn here. Yes, like that. Forward. Go on; the way is straight.

Stop. The hall has ended at a strangely-shaped room, which is not square. The walls to either side angle inward, so it’s much like a triangle with the top corner cut off. There is a sort of mosaic on the far wall. Oh! They are the stars and moons! It is so beautiful!


Also, there’re elves in this room. That’s who the old man’s speaking to, one of the elves. They don’t seem to recognise him, which I suppose is why they are pointing arrows at us.

“It is I, Atrahasis! I have been changed!”

“If you are Atrahasis … you are changed indeed.”

“Still I am faithful to the charge, Entemena. The freedom of the spirit, and the longed-for return. I remember the oath we swore, when we knelt in the mushroom ring, under the budding ash-tree, among the early-blossoming violets.” Oh, they have lowered their bows. “The others — where are they?”

“We have found a chamber, at the far end of the hall.”

“There are other elves, here?”

“Yes, lady. Who are you?”

Oh, that is her singing. “— who these mortals call Enheduanna of the Gloaming Wood. What is your people?”

“We are of the —” Can they all sing like that?

“Excuse me. But you must see that there is blood on the floor. — I had not noticed it before, in the torchlight. But, look.”

“Ulixa’s right. It leads to this chamber. Or away from it.”

“There were two humans in this room when we woke here, Entemena. Where are they?”

“When we returned … one of them had gone. The other is at the end of the trail. I will show you, if you like.”

We’re walking again. This way. Back down the hall. The blood they were talking about is on the floor. I imagine if I saw by fire-light I would not have noticed it either. It is off to the side. I expect whoever was bleeding had to lean against the wall. Sad, I should think. You have so many kinds of water in you. Oh, we are turning here, to the south-west. Turn further. Yes. Now ahead.

That’s interesting.

Oh, it’s a dead woman, but the sight of her seems to have affected my liege considerably. My liege takes something out of her. A wicked piece of earth, it looks like. But then that’s what the dead woman is, also; really, that’s what you all come to, I’m afraid. Only earth.

Well, they’re all discussing who she is and what could have happened to her. Shall I show you something more interesting?

Come. This way. No, come along, it won’t take long.

I have to say that it has been very long since … well. Well! You’ll find out. Oh, the scent of it makes me happy. I will bring it to my liege, and she will be pleased with me. And then she will have the dwimmerlaik killed, and I shall serve her all the days there are.

Turn here. South and east. Yes. Like that. Forward, now.

Can you catch the scent?

Oh, you are too much of earth. Go forward more.

Now? A little?

Is it not wonderful?

Stop. We’ve entered a room, oh, twenty feet or so to a side. There are many kinds of earth around here. Metals, mostly, cut into circles. Oh, and there is a big ugly red crystal. There’s no light here, of course. But I can feel the air. Breathe. Breathe deeply. Feel the air. The air.

Those are magic beans. They arose out of the earth. That is what redeems you living things, the ways you can change. These beans were earth, once, and now they smell beautiful. Don’t they? Smell them. Breathe their air. I have them right under your nose. Can you not … taste them? Oh … oh, your language is so poor in words for smell! How do you survive? You cannot even speak of the most important things in the world. Of smell, and of memory, and —

Well, some of the others are coming. The elf-mortal’s shouting. He wants me to be careful. Oh, the others are shouting now, too.

No, I will not set them down! I will take what I want, to please my liege!

No, singer! I have found the beans, and I will give them to my liege!

Ah, you wretch! You gnome!

Well, go fetch them, then!

The nerve of him! He threw earth at me! At me! Some… metal discs!

“Let them be, William! There should be no magic in the beans, or whatever they were.”

“But, Atrahasis, you said —”

“The curse is in the ruby alone. The rest is … as you see, gold, spices, and such. It is the gem you must be wary of.”


“She doesn’t seem to have touched it.”

“Quite so. We would know if she had, I promise. It — eh?”

Ah, where did that wind come from?

“William! Watch —”

Ha! Ha! He’s caught it!

Oh, that’s very strange. I wonder why he’s laughing.

I don’t like that laugh at all.


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