Night and Day
La Morte de Luz
Darkness, vast and undifferentiated, blankets everything. There’s nothing to explain the change from not aware and aware except the subtle movement – a rocking forward and back, almost rhythmic, but for the occasional staccato jarring movement. After movement, there is fear. Nothing is right in this world, nothing will ever be right again. Every childhood memory screams to keep my eyes shut and the covers pulled fast above my head.
But there are no covers, and my eyes betray me by bolting open as the ground shifts suddenly to the right. My limbs scramble for purchase as I am pulled right by gravity which just a moment ago was content to behave. The wind is knocked out of me as I slam into the bulkhead. A ship! I’m aboard a ship of some sort.
The light is dim, but enough to make out the hold of this vessel. Its wood, an archaic style, as if torn from a faerie tale. I am not alone in this dark place. Others stir and moan. In the dark and constant movement, the shapes don’t look human, it seems a scene from a macabre vignette. As my eyes adjust, I’m certain that they actually are not human anymore. I remember this, and it’s implications about myself are quickly pushed aside.
I turn to the bulkhead, scrambling for a steady hold in front of the small porthole, but the view makes no more sense than do the things inside. Outside, the pale illumination of pre-dawn is filtered by the green of thick foliage passing by within inches of the ship and then reflected up off the brackish water we slide through. I watch captivated for several moments at the wild, but orderly hedge as it slides by. I sense that part of my fear is of that green and thorny wall. I can feel it wanting to flay the skin from my bones, can sense the menace it holds for one such as me.
That is not the only thing to fear, I am sure.
A voice croaks out a harsh sound that after a moment, I realize is a question for me. I stare stupidly at the thing to my left, quite certain I know it, but now not sure why. The creature stands upright like a man, but its skin is a rich reptilian green, scaled and serrated, stretched taut across an emaciated frame of muscle and bone. Its eyes are alien things and I think it is just waiting for me to run. I want to. I want to flee, but I know instinctively that this thing will chase if I do – that it will not be able to help itself. It will leap and tear and I will feel claws at my back. I vaguely remember that it asked me a question – it wanted to know where we are.
“In the Hedge” I say. Its eyes widened a bit and I was aware of the general rustle of concern in the rest of my companions.
I turned slowly and looked at the other occupants, searching for a known face, only the faces I saw were barely human. Nothing made sense, and I felt a little piece of my sanity slip away. I understood that the sanity I’d grasped had been temporary. I knew this as surely as I knew that we were in the Hedge. I knew that I was already insane and this was simply another day of dread and pain.
A thing of ethereal airy beauty tentatively reaches for my arm, a comforting gesture. Fellin. Its name is Fellin. A subtle heat reminiscent of a southern breeze precedes the touch and I feel its warmth a heartbeat before I feel the touch. I see fear on his face as the ship lurches and the sound of the keel dragging on sand is jarring. We both almost loose our feet, but catch each other.
The surreal quiet of the hold breaks and the many and varied things surge around me. I feel it too – something snapped when the ground took hold of us, our mental shackles snapped and we all yearned for free air like we were already underwater. Fellin and I were pushed forward by the crush of people, up and out to the deck of this monstrous ship.
The light of dawn was fire in our eyes, showing the whole world to us. The deck of this hell vehicle was swarmed with fantastical creations, all of them abandoning their posts. The sails swung freely and battered an eight legged thing against the massive mast, slaying it instantly. Fellin and I rushed to the side of the ship and jumped for it as a massive centipede rushed into the space we had just left. I could swear it was screaming at us, but I wasn’t sure.
The swarm of refugees swam to the shallows of the beach, each one dragging itself up by force of will. A feeling swells from behind us, a black and evil thing presses at our backs and everyone is flattened into the sand with mind numbing terror. Against my will, I steal a glance backwards and watch the air shimmer at the bow of the ship. I dimly note the scrollwork in wood declaring the name of the vessel “La Morte de Luz”. A thing lurches forward and towards the prow, roughly the height of a man. An aura of shadow surrounds it, flowing like a coat over its misshapen form. From the skirts of that cloak, metallic legs step carefully and with alien direction. I am fascinated as it lowers its form to the sand via one of the ships many lines. The ground shifts out from under its first steps as earth rejects it.
The Artificer. It is the Artificer, and its appearance sets off an earthquake in my form. It takes no notice of the things scrambling away from it in the sand, and it doesn’t wait for the one that shuffles after it. Together the pair flow up the coast. My last vision of it is of its servant clutching a disheveled package of vile alchemical supplies. I am just like that wretched servant, excepting that I will run for my freedom, I have cast off my loyalty.
The spell breaks and I notice the dawn again. The creature’s darkness fades and Fellin and I move as one towards the line of foliage at the top of the short dunes. Hope starts to enter my world, coloring my thoughts. It is short lived. Cold spreads across my back and I fall to my knees. Fellin looks down and I see my death written on his face. His beauty should never reflect such things.
I want him to say my name. He doesn’t though, he looks behind me at the thing which has attacked and he flees. I want to shout at him to say my name, but he simply runs, saving himself.
I’m dying in the sand of the real world. I’m dying and I don’t even know my name.