The Traveler

The air was filled with an acrid stench as the Traveler pulled his heavy chains behind him. His heavy cloak, sodden with ichor from the innards of his subterranean refuge clung to his withering body as it left a slimy trail telling the miles he had traveled. His steps were weary, telling a long journey with each footfall, but they were calculated like that of a trek the immortal pilgrim has practiced through countless ages. Ahead of him still were miles of twisting caverns and corridors. Worn with eons of neglect, their carvings and expanding halls were as scarcely discernible; but with that same practiced familiarity of his pilgrimage, the Travel continued his march unimpeded into the dark. To him at each at corner, on every worn statue, glimpses of former glory would stain over the rotting display like a painting on a glass laid over a barren landscape. As one would see a slanted rock, the traveler would see the relief of creature long since departed from the mortal coil, where one would find gouges near a cross in the winding paths he would see the ancient runes that comprised a language never heard by any ear or spoken by any tongue since the unfathomable times before.

The Vein, the closest translation of this maze of corridors to be understood by our ears and read without over exhaustion by our eyes, was once a thriving thoroughfare into realms unreachable by any other means. Created by hands not unlike those of the Traveler who had sparked the creation of things beyond, it had stood the test of time since the days before man had come and after they had gone from the world. Cities rose and fell, continents shifted and cracked, oceans dried into desert basins, and even mountains had tumbled into fine dust that blew across an barren waste of bones and desert, but still the cavernous expanse remained, worn but intact.

Gnaworms, slithering creatures whose translucent skin revealed the orange phosphorous gleam of their blood which dimly bathed the ancient halls, were the only sign of life the Traveler had encountered since his journey had began. This eased his heart to some degree, now no longer believing that the world might be as empty as the Enchanters had claimed it should be, and renewed in him an incline in energy – a feeling he had not had in many ages.

“The Sleepers and the Fan will have the world emptied, the trees and birds, the water and that which swim in it,” the Traveler recalled one of the Seven Enchanters exclaiming. “Mountains to rubble to sand, that they will take too, and empty the caves and wells and every last hole they are allowed to plunder. The world will be a slate, a void and a hollow, nothing there shall await where your vanity and ill determination drives you, except an expansive tomb open to a blackened sky where only the bones or even our beloved cousin death will greet you.”

The words were bitter in the Traveler’s memory. The terror of the Fan and the Sleepers was ubiquitous to all who have learned their names, but the Enchanters had survived them in the ethereal age before the stars hung in the sky and the universe expanded to life. Never had they witnessed such a menace since those times and perhaps that is what compelled them to seal The Vein from the mortal realm. A compulsion of fear that the Traveler detested since the mighty doors were pulled shut and locked with the seven Calls of the Seven Enchanters from the Seven Corners. Sealing away all life from those who had never known life, sealing away life from those who had helped the Absent Creator in the creation of life.

Acting in the days before the Vein was closed as an arbiter between realms, the Traveler had come to know the life in the mortal realm and love it all. In the lair of the Enchanters there is only 7 and their seven, and always they shall be, even in death; but in the mortal realm there was many, a multitude of life, and their life was quick but in infinitely varied. To the Traveler this was the beauty of the mortal realm, a beauty which his kind had failed to defend against powers unknown. A beauty which was brief, a briefness that only folded its beauty thousands of times upon itself. Original, unique, ever changing. A blink of the seven and something new comes while something old goes, but still it had continued… Until the Sleepers had come, tugging along the Fan with them.

‘The Bellows,’ a nearly vanished marking read above an alcove. The Traveler recalled this place as the midst between the dimensional transition, when the bounds of organic necessities and inorganic nourishment was pushed to its peak. Mortals could hardly survive a trip beyond this point, and the Enchanters could hardly keep from boredom, but here the Enchanters had placed a seal so one could find refuge from the ceaseless twisting path and allowed the mortals to create a habit withing this seal so that mortal travelers and Enchanters alike could rest and indulge in celebration of their trek. In the days before the fall, the Bellows was but a small, though beautiful city carved out of rocks and iron, a jutting hall with a circular end, lined with rooms that the mortals had inhabited, centered by a large fountain that filled with a water of rippling rainbows. The Traveler looked over the emptied ruins and remembered it how it was. He remembered that in this small city there was an inn, “The Heavy Slumber” ran by a small family with stout bodies and thick hair that covered them from head to toe, there was the Smithy and the Store which were both supplied by traveling merchants between realms that was ran by human cousins, which had more of the appearance of husband and wife, though it was hard to tell them apart even by the standards of mortals. Further down the circular path of the hall was a deepened grotto where a heard of bovine and sheep grazed under the dome illuminated cast by the Enchanters that displayed a purple sun during the hours of work and play and a crescent moon and silver stars when sleep was followed by drink and laughter. Against the musk of the rotting cave, the Traveler remembered the smell of the underground city, Always was it lined with fresh flowers and always was there the burning of pipe weed and the aroma of cooking sheep and stew. The air was filled with illusionist sounds as they conjured the sounds of birds danced among the bellow of ale mugs clinking and children laughing, while sorcerers of pleasant nature gathered the dampness of the cave walls into gentle breezes and momentary brisk spring or summer rains to remind those who had traveled such a distance of the mortal realm.

The Traveler let out a heavy sigh as his memory of this once thriving community dissipated into the collapsed halls. No sounds of the illusionists’ birds, no pounding of the Smith’s hammers, and no pungent odor of the pipe weed or ale were to be found; like a far forgotten dream only glimpses of memory remained.

****

-phill

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