Falling Night

These days, Lumeria’s light is lazy, may the Lord Apparent excuse such blasphemy. It drifts down in languorous umber motes, and I find myself writing by the light of twilight even now, though the dægmæle tells me Lumia should not wane for seven more minutes. One hears tell that our Lord’s light reaches some places not at all. On my return from convocation only a week ago, as I performed my daily walk of contemplation, a street wretch drew me from my abstraction and begged for blessing. This individual, though pathetic to the utmost extremity, seemed a penitent enough soul, and the Lord’s Law demands charity where due. I bestowed the customary blessing and offered him a meal from the rectory besides. As my guard and I escorted him there, he told me his tale, and it weighs heavy upon my soul.

The beggar began his story by telling of his bondage as agflota on the Reaving craft Perfidy, captained by that great rogue, Argyll. When he spoke these words, the captain of my guard, ever zealous Angstrom, drew steel and opined that the head of a man who had served under Argyll would make a fine adornment for Chapel Gate, slave or no. I reminded dear Angstrom that not all men can be as pure as he, and bade the wretch to continue his tale, surfeited with fear though he now was. Voice trembling, the pathetic creature continued. Argyll had tired of the slim pickings that were to be had in his usual hunting grounds, and so it was decided that he and his crew would venture down among the lower ostrovs in search of untouched spoils. He spoke of twisted vistas and dark among the orange and red ostrovs, and how, at journey’s end, they stumbled upon the rooms of ruin that lay like forests trailing their roots through the Nether.

This man spoke, in a hushed voice, of the great fyndels that whirr and creak under that dark sky, though they lay dust-covered amid carpets of their own rust. He spoke of how the ship’s steorere could not tell sky from Nether, and how the men huddled around the deck lamps in hope that they would once again see the light of Lumeria. This man told of how the crew feared to sleep, for each hand claimed be plagued by whispers in their dreams. He spoke of first hunger, then of thirst, but mostly of the terror that their dwindling store of lamp oil struck into the hearts of all the crew.

In desperation, Argyll led an armed party ashore in search of stores, leaving his mate behind to command the remnants of his Reavers. The group left the ship and entered the ruins of a vast temple they had sighted from the deck earlier that day. There, said the beggar, his wrinkled old face twisted in remembered terror, they were set upon. The first sign of trouble, he said, was when the party’s torches snuffed out, all in the same instant, so that the only light was the distant glow cast by the fire the crew had built on the Perfidy’s deck. In that lurid half light, Argyll’s career came to a grisly end. Out of the darkness, some invisible power began to seize each agflota in turn and tear them limb from limb. The beggar himself only survived the butchery by covering himself in the remains of his comrades and affecting the attitude of one of the slain. Only Argyll was spared this fate, though one much worse was reserved for him. Out of the darkness of the temple strolled a horrible, withered, twisted form, its jaw ripped open to swing against its own papery neck. The thing seized Argyll, who was struck motionless by the monster’s power, and carried him up the steps of the déofolscín and away into the bowels of the temple. The beggar trembled as he remembered his master’s hoarse screams of helpless terror.

Coward that he was, the beggar remained motionless for nigh on an hour, then had fled back to the ship with all haste. The Perfidy disembarked immediately and fled for her home port, ignoring the many members of her crew who succumbed to starvation and for want of water. The crew voted to maroon the beggar for his cowardice in the face of danger, but they were not without mercy, and only did so when the ship had reached green ostrovs.

I listened to this tale in skeptical silence, my hands folded into the belt of my habit, as is my wont. When we reached the fæsten, I bade the beggar purity in the eyes of the Lord Apparent, and dismissed his story as the ravings of a madman. However, the more I think of it, the more the tale troubles me. I have seen strange things that are nowhere in the church records I studied as a boy, which cover nearly ten generations of history. Strangely, I have found the wisdom of nomads to be revelatory on this subject. Many dismiss the gitanos as thieves and vagabonds, but I have found them to be devout followers of the Lord Apparent, and the gitanos have a saying: “Night follows light”. I fear that the light of mother church and ostrovicum is fading, and I worry at the things that lurk in the scædu of night.

--The diary of Legate Aeldmar