Thursday, November 29, 2007

To my beloved son:

This story's very, very much unfinished. I'll update it as I make progress. Any comments welcome! I'm especially interested in if you think the first two paragraphs are necessary.
Too long has it been since I saw you last, my beloved son. Perhaps you no longer remember my name, though you must remember my face, and the feeling of my arms around you near the fire, and the sound of my voice. I write you now by the grace of the old gods, who watch over us still (though you know them not), and I write you for this cause: I would not die with the lies of the elders of our folk still in your ears. I am no traitor, no murderer. It is they who have betrayed our people, they who have driven us into the depths of black madness. If you trust nothing more of this letter, trust this at least: it was not I who killed your mother, though it was I who slit her throat.

But before I tell you of our folk, and of our gods, and of your mother's death, I must tell you of how it has come to pass that you are reading my words now for the first time in all these long years, how it has come to pass that I now have the courage that I had lacked for so long.

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I hurt myself yesterday, in the Weald. I drew blood in that place for the first time since a night long before your mother was taken, long before you were born. As I fled the now-red leaf that had cut me I prayed to the gods whom our people once worshiped, before they were fooled by the false men: to the hanging god, beloved of ravens, to the blind god, kinslayer, to the forgotten god, one-handed, who is closer to me now than to any other.

And the gods heard me as they have heard me all my life, I who am perhaps their last remaining servant. A mighty wind forced aside the grasping branches and cast the wood's veil of leaves into a swirling tempest (but none touched my flesh). The breath of the hanging god drove away the mist that clings ever to that accursed place, and between the waving crowns of the trees I saw that night had fallen and the moon had risen. A thunderbolt lanced the heavens and illuminated the only path remaining in all the Weald, and I followed it – it lead not out to the shore, but in towards the firedale. I ran with the wind at my back, and at last I came to the great oak that is the only one left of its kind on all the island, and I saw that from its bare branches hung things that had once been men. I climbed into its bole and there I took shelter with the bones of my father.

A hand on my head roused me from the world of sleep to the world of dreams. I bowed before our lord (for he is yours as well, no matter what the elders have told you), and kissed his feet until he bid me stand. His spear is the color of the moon, and his neck is scarred beneath his beard. His left eye blazes red, but his right is dark. On either of his shoulders is perched a raven - they whisper to him, for they know all that passes through the minds of men.

“Look about you, child,” he said, and I did. The great oak's boughs were bare no longer, rather they bore leaves and acorns in abundance, and the things that hung from them were men once more, their tongues blue and protruding, their eyes weeping blood onto the green earth. I saw my father among them, and I wept with pride. Through the branches of the oak I could see that it was still night and that the moon was high, but this did not give me cause for fear, for there were no other trees within view: the oak stood in the center of a great clearing, as it had during the childhood of my father's father.

“Meager grows my might, for men give themselves to me no more,” said the hanging god, and his voice was the rustling of the branches. “Nevermore shall I breathe air untainted by the father of the deep wood. Nevermore shall I drink water unspoilt by the mother of the deep earth. My tongue is stiff, I sing the songs of the skies no more. My eye grows dim - I am as blind as my son now, or soon shall I be.” I responded, but my words were meaningless, so I shall not write them here.

“Your folk withers and diminishes as does mine. As your wife was taken, so was mine. As I have forgotten my son's name, so has your son yours, and so have your people mine. They have cast you out for serving me, and for that their doom is to become as the false men are. But they were my children once, and for that I cannot forsake them. Write to your son, and tell him the truth. Perhaps he will believe you, and perhaps they will believe him. Trust the letter to my brother, who is still strong and hale - the false men do not navigate the seas.”


Ankit said...

Looking forward to seeing this finished :) I'll post better comments when I have time to read this more thoroughly.