Hidden behind the shadows of the occult, lies the truth of all earthly magicks. Broken into thousands of pieces, during a time long forgotten, as to protect all earthly beings from its power. The pieces were distributed over centuries, across the globe. Settling into the disguise of falsities so that none would be able to fully claim them. Although each piece does lend an ounce of truth to the practice it inhabits, the rest are simply lies. Some fabrications of power seekers; others misinterpretations of innocent, ignorant, and naive truth seekers. Though it should be noted that there have been some, over the past few millennia, that have uncovered more pieces than most. These individuals have both reaped the rewards of their discoveries as well as endured the immense consequences. So be warned, if after reading this you decide to embark on a journey towards magickal truth. Not all that is broken should be mended before its time. Your triumph could just so happen to bring about the end of all truths as you know them. Beware.
The role of the Lantern Keeper has existed since the worlds were divided into realms that could no longer commune at will. However, the job belongs to an ancient bloodline that does not lay claim to any one realm. Therefore, the clan is responsible for guiding souls and spirits to and from worlds, especially when the veil between living and dead is at its thinnest. During this time, the next member of Keepers is initiated and must stand watch over the comings and goings of all who choose to cross, and ensure their safe return. Not all who wield this initial lantern ultimately decide to stay, though most typically do. Regardless, all members must stand watch at least once before their final decision can be made. Unfortunately, the current Lantern Keeper in training, nor her lantern, can be found at this time. The veil is quickly thinning.
Far outside the forgotten city sits the rotting remains of a moment not so long ago. The first of her kind now reduced to bones and spirits. In the beginning, she stood as a symbol of innovation, a totem of modern medicine; only for time to reveal her true nature. In her prime she fed on the flesh and blood of her tenants, thrived in the wails of sorrowful souls. However, the secrets that flowed beneath the foundation were what kept her going. It was merely the morals of a new generation that led to her demise. Those who survived moved on without a word, while the rest stayed silent under the untended lawn, remembered by numbers and stones. Though her memory has faded, she still casts a heavy shadow strewn with the image of those she devoured. And her name… is Eloise.
Bodies strewn across the floor, drained of blood that soaks the carpet and stains the walls. They are fresh for the flies had not yet come. The thing still breaths behind her. She can do nothing but shut her eyes and scream. When she opens them again, they look at her. The entire shop full. Mothers clutch whimpering children to their sides while strange men take cautious steps back. Alas, it has been but another illusion. So she wipes tears from her eyes and walks out the door. Still, they look.
The Garden Sea
Night had long since fallen. A dense, gray slab hung heavy in the sky, but that did not stop the snow from glowing. Shimmering flakes floated down from above. They huddled in close, giggling as they welcomed every newcomer with open arms. It had been a long journey and they needed to recount it all for they did not know when the cycle might begin again.
All the while, a girl from a world not our own watched, huddled in the window nook of a small, gray-stoned cottage, alone. A cup of brewed elders cradled in her hands grew cold with every forgotten sip. Let it be cold, she thought, let everything be cold.
The flames in the hearth dwindled as wisps of silvery breath escaped her lips. Fresh crystals accumulated in the corners of the latticed window pains, but she could not make sense of their whispers between the warped glass. No matter, for a chill crept through the house to finish off the dying beast behind her, as sleep slithered up her spine.
Slowly she numbed. But before being enveloped, the girl in the window allowed her eyes to rest out onto the Garden Sea, now blanketed beneath a thick quilt of ice and snow. Lying dormant in the grips of the season, awaiting the call of It’s mistress. How lucky it must be, the girl pondered, to know what it is you’re meant to be. And so the hands of sleep took hold, and pulled her from the world into somewhere far beyond.
Though her journey would be short lived. For a terrible POP! rang out from the depths of the night. Ripped from sleep’s grasp, the girl jolted forward, dumping the frosted remains of her cup across her lap. As she wiped the slush away, breath heavy in her lungs, she peered out the now ice-rippled window across the snow-crested garden.
It no longer glowed, but rather radiated in the presence of a Goddess. A Goddess for whom shown abnormally bright despite her waning crescent.
It was then that, bathed in the light of the divine, the girl realized what had made the awful sound that tore her from her slumber. The Garden Sea, having heard its mistress’s call, shattered its icy cover and now bubbled furiously at the edges.
Steam rose as blankets of ice and snow melted into the fury below. The flakes that had gathered along the pool’s edge scrambled over one another to escape being devoured by the water’s wrath, thrashing against the rocky shore. The Sea had been awoken long before its time and demanded answers. However, the Mistress was in no mood to explain in the midst of her servant’s tantrum. And so the little ocean spit and spewed so high and far, icicles formed midair, threatening to impale any and all who dare near the forest clearing.
The girl, who still watched from her nook, ducked as projectiles smashed against the house. She had never witnessed a landlocked sea behave in such a manner and questioned what in all the lands the Goddess’s reason for waking it could have been, when all went still.
The water paused, a hush fell over the quivering snow. The girl peeked out the window once more, though now from the safety of the floor. The Goddess never wavered.
In an instant, the sea collapsed.
With a mighty rush and a shake of the earth, it was as if the Sea’s bottom simply fell out and swallowed itself whole. Not a soul moved, for they knew never to slight a sentient sea. They watched and waited. Because as the old saying says, what goes in, must come out. And out it did indeed.
Just as sudden as it had collapsed, the Garden Sea welled up from deep below its gaping crater and expelled its contents tree-top high in one magnificent gush. Turtles and toads who napped with the Sea were sent flying. Thankfully, the fishes had gone for the season.
Standing now, nose pressed flat against the frigid window, the girl’s mouth dropped as a dark creature, with four long limbs, came spiralling up through the air, enshrouded in the bowels of the Sea.
It landed with a remarkable THUMP! a few feet off the muddy banks in a plume of squealing snow who attempted to break its fall, causing the girl and seaweed-adorned trees to flinch upon impact. The creature no longer moved.
Now satisfied with the absence of its parasite, the Garden Sea settled and collected itself once more, pulling a thin sheet of ice up over its shoulders, content with the work it had done. However, its mistress was not as easily pleased and remained above, encircled by a curtain of clouds, gazing over the regurgitated thing.
It will surely freeze if left out all night, the girl thought, and then what is to be done? The Mother Moon had overseen its journey and delivered the creature personally. Whatever the purpose, although much to her discontent, she couldn’t let it die. So the girl turned away from her window, abandoning her empty cup, and stepped into the home where she fed the last withering flame a few logs.
As the beast regained its strength and took up battle with the smothering chill, she wrapped herself in a thick, mycelium parka lined with moss, slipped on matching boots, and snagged a pair of red-knit mittens before heading out into the bitter night.
Not wanting to be trampled, the snow parted ahead of the girl from the window as she made her way along the banks of the sleepy Garden Sea. Dazed water dwellers slowly made their way back to their host, while the surrounding trees tossed ocean weeds back down below.
The creature was shivering when the girl reached it, but not inherently conscious. And upon closer inspection, the thing so rudely expelled from the backyard pond, was nothing more than human. Not from her world, of course, judging by his unseasonable choice of dress, but human just as she.
Crystals formed along his eyelashes and embedded themselves in his dark, wiry curls. He was freezing, she had no choice but to take him in. For although they meant well, the snow had a habit of forgetting themselves and tended to cause more harm than good, despite their best efforts.
She bent down to the gangly stranger, and awkwardly hoisted him up onto her shoulder. Only for the abrupt movement to cause him to vomit sea water across her shoes and send the snow scattering. With a sigh, she stole a glance at the Mother above who did no more than look back.
So she struggled to balance the entirety of the boy’s weight against hers, thanking Goddess he was not any larger, and eventually managed to drag his limp body back along the path to her home. As she stumbled forth the snow filled in at her heels, hoping she might drop the newcomer and leave him for their enjoyment after all. She did not.
By the time the two returned to the little stone cottage the fire in the hearth danced a majestic jig to announce its victory against the lingering chill. Thanking the flames, the girl placed the stranger on the weed-woven rug at their base before shutting the remainder of the night away.
After putting the kettle on, she stripped the stranger of his crisp clothes and hung them to dry. They were threaded of a rather perverse material that seemed would serve little purpose in her world. From where had he travelled, she wondered, And why?
She layered him in knitted blankets and placed a straw-stuffed pillow under his head so he might rest comfortably. The natural pink had replaced the violet-blue in his lips and his shivers had almost ceased. Though now he began to mutter odd things in his sleep that the girl could barely make out. Something about grandmothers and bottomless puddles.
Strange, didn’t everyone know not to step into water they couldn’t see the bottom of? He must not have, considering how he got here. Although she doubted it was much of an accident, as the Moon would never have taken him so far.
The boy’s mumbling went on for some time and not knowing when he would wake, the girl brewed herself another cup of elders and took up position in her window nook to wait.
Outside the flakes began to fall again, settling along the window’s edge to get a better view, still hoping the thawed creature may by some chance return to them.
And having seen the boy’s safe-enough delivery, the Goddess turned her attention to matters elsewhere, allowing the curtain to fall and darkness to swaddle the night once more.
All the while, the Sea slept.
As a child I had a frequent, recurring dream in which a woman with long, slender hands and talon-like nails would poke and prod at the small of my back as I attempted to escape. Only to wind up cornered, choking on tears, and unable to scream.
The identity of the woman tended to change from time to time. Sometimes appearing as my mother or grandmother, aunt or teacher; always a female I trusted as only a young child could. Her voice would draw me out to greet her as if she had just arrived for a visit or chat, but upon seeing her I knew she was not who she claimed to be. Taller than usual and gaunt, with elongated limbs. Faintly resembling Cruella de Vil and the Other Mother (despite having yet to be introduced) as one.
So I would turn and run. Thinking maybe if I were fast enough, or clever enough, or pleaded enough that this time the imposter woman might spare me and my poor, innocent back.
She never did of course and I would wake up in a cold sweat, contorted at odd angles, while hearing echoes of her scolds.
From here I would occasionally call out to my actual mother for comfort, but was often too frightened to take the chance and resorted to sitting up in bed determined not to fall back to sleep until morning. An endeavour I failed miserably, causing me to wake again, many hours later, without the slightest recollection as to why I was so sore. Only to remember much later that a terrible woman-thing had been tickling my spine.
This dream continued throughout the majority of my childhood, but gradually phased itself out as I became of age. That is until a few months ago when I found myself called by a familiar voice, and I have to say, we were both rather surprised to see each other. I haven’t stopped thinking about her since.
Throughout all my living years, I have yet to come across a soul who can grow roses quite like my mother.
Always in bloom her roses were, no matter the weather. Scattered across the garden dressed in various shades of whites and pinks, purples and oranges. As a child I preferred the yellow ones as they were sweeter and had much less of an attitude than the others.
However, my mother favored the brazen reds over all and kept them close to the house for safety. For whose that is I still do not know.
She had a way with them unlike any other. She spoke to them, and they listened. She gave herself to them monthly, and they happily obliged.
In return for her services the plants themselves surrendered. Retracting their thorns and volunteering to be pruned from the lot once their cycles were drawing to a close. Sacrifices to which my mother meticulously displayed around the home.
They lived for each other it seemed, for when she died they did too. I attempted to rear them after she passed, as much for my sake as her memory. But the stubborn things refused to cooperate and in turn withered away despite my best efforts. In the end it was evident that I was not my mother, although I was never accused of being so. Still, no one could grow roses quite like she.
There are few in this world with the ability to work with smoke, but those who do are extremely good at it.
They belong to a rare, yet ancient faction that possesses a particular power to which smoke is drawn to them. No more than a couple of hundred smoke workers have inhabited the earth since man first learned to tame fire. All were chosen by the spirit they work, an agreement made between smoke and hand.
A skill not taught, but rather developed. A secret never to be spoken of by the workers themselves, although the occasional witness is not unwelcome. The substance is silky-soft in its delicacy with a tendency to finick, but when woven correctly, has an essence that will last an eternity.
No two smoke workers are alike, completely unique in practice. However none have ever ignored the spirit’s offer nor have any risked misuse or mistrust of it’s graceful submission; for smoke does not lend itself lightly.
Many believe themselves to be the only ones of their kind, most of whom are correct at least for their times.
The criteria for which workers are selected is uncertain, seemingly impossible to predict as the spirit has no inclination towards clan, class, or color. The only thing that can be known for sure though is that those who work smoke, never falter.