Parchment I

It is strange to write again.

I stared at the page for some time, my hand on the pen. My hand holding the pen. The pen IN my hand. See, words are strange. Slippery. I think it would be easier if I could write in stone-cast, the language of the Dwarves, my mates. Too bad I can only speak and sing it, but I know less runes than a child would know. Stone-cast is simple. Tie rope here. Put fish there. A storm is coming. The food is ready to eat. Sleep now. Wake now. Pass the ale.

But the words of my own tongue are not so simple. But still I find them. They step out of the shadows, out of memories, as I need them. I don’t like them much.

But it feels like duty. There’s a word I used to hold tight in my fist. The writing, pulling the words they taught me back through my mind and onto this page. It’s part of what the Dawn wants. No, demands. Slippery. The dream was not a request, it was a command.

The angel fell into the dark woods. Its wings snapped like sailcloth in the wind. It hit the black earth and lay still. Then it tried to push itself up but the earth held it. Root and stone like hungry mouths, pulling the angel down. I can see it with my waking eyes. The angel pushed itself up, free for just a moment – its face mad with pain and rage, it choked and then golden blood coughed out of its mouth in a rush. It sank into the earth and there was nothing left, not even a drop of the shining blood.

The Dawn sent me that dream. After ten years I felt His hand on my face and I knew it was a truth. A true command. I woke with tears on my face and a pain in my heart, horrible. Horrible.

It is his will that I carry His light again. That I leave my mates, the ship, and the sea. Tomorrow we land and I will go, I will dig up the trunk we buried, Captain Barak and me. And I will take what sleeps there and I will go.

Where I do not know. The Dawn calls me to follow so I will go east. The sea is ready to forget me. I have business to the east.

The Dawn commands.

I will find the angel’s grave. I will pull him up. And I will burn. No, destroy? End. I will end it.

Ten years, nearly eleven. Why now? Why me?

I do not know.

Three Names

Sing with me, O Muse

for I have no room within,

of the man with three names

sea-cradled, the tempest seeker,

the deserter, breaking the golden sun

across the black earth in despair,

running to the end of the earth

and across the waves, hiding his folly

and shame inside his changeful heart.

One name from blood

one name from glory

one name a jester-story

wrapped around a stone and turning

like the globe and all the waves

crashing down on the shore of Today

blinking seafoam from his eyes

uncertain which name is his

but knowing that the path ahead

may devour them all.

The Dawn always finds you

and its fell companion, Hope

is not far behind.

Sing with me, Muse

for I am so lonely,

sing of the shadowed forest

and the shining wings that fell there

like a comet, like a promise.

Sing of the path ahead, twisting

and turning like a serpent

through the forgotten trees of Night.

I said

this time i said

let me just empty myself out


an outline

a scribble of a man

that way

it can all just pass through me

clean as air

pass through the

space i have prepared

and this time i said

call me a coward

i have paid this bill before

how easy it was

like clearing out a drawer

not much to toss

quick and orderly

and it worked

well enough

but now i am only pencil lines

on the page

empty space bound against empty space

it worked this time i said

it worked i said

it worked

the black cloak

The early morning streets of Sandtown are full of sound – the slap of boot leather on cobblestone, the creak of wagon wheels, and the regular peal of the ghost-bell like a heartbeat. The Sand Quarry extending out into Lost Lake, gobbling workers and slowly, laboriously puking up grist with a slow rumble. The squeak of wheels on wagons as  grist is hauled to the refineries, then to the savage factories where geista reactors are made. The hue and cry of the market as fish is traded for silk is traded for steel is traded for Lokan nuts is traded for Grid-ware. The never-ending crackle as the thousand geista reactor bubbles overlap and feedback their phantasmal resonance into each other. The trumpets of the Temple of West, the flutes of Crimson Way, the never-ending drum in the heads of the people that walk and work and wait in the streets of Sandtown.

But none of this is for you. None of this is your affair, you walk a different path, a secret path. Some would say darker, but that is simple fear speaking – the words of those who lock their doors tightly at night and huddle under their blankets until the dawn sun comes to save them.

You have made a friend of pain, a companion of fear, and a betrothed of death. You have slipped across the roofs of man under no moon, you have made merry murder in the hidden rooms of Night, you have crushed Light under your boot like the eggs of a serpent. You are a villain. By will, by misadventure, by chance or by elder curse – the black cloak is wrapped around your shoulders.

You are a villain – for you nothing is impossible. Nothing except…

The Violet Leaf

Root and branch
sun and shade
this is how
the nine-bread's made.

Left and right
up and down
this is how
you break the crown.

Stone and heart
blade and song
this is how
the gray-lock's wrong.

– Common Children’s Rhyme, Meridian Songs and Tales, Vol. II

The shortest path between two points is a straight line — or at least that is what my colleagues in the mathematics would contest. However, I have found that when attempting to traverse the distance between what is known about our unsavory neighbors and what is supposed about them, that the road is never straight and often ceases to constitute the requirements of being a road or a line. It breaks off into hills and strange foggy moors, it loops around itself like two snakes in rut. It seems to end, but then begin again from the most preposterous of angles and coordinates from the most vexing of vertices. To claim the ability to give a satisfactory summary of the Fey Courts and their vassals, subjects, lords is the claim of a madman. (and let it not go unsaid, that we have discovered many a poor wanderer on the fringes of Riddlewood babbling incoherently with total confidence about all manner of bizarre happenings and features of their time among the Fey)

I am no madman, but this is the task that has been given me. Onward.

I shall begin with a skeleton of historical fact.


  • Princess Amodred Torossian disappears from the environs near Varamere township. Fey involvement is suspected and a rescue mission is assembled and dispatched into Riddlewood to investigate.
  • Rescue mission returns with Princess Amodred accompanied by a ‘Druid’ halfling. The abduction was orchestrated by a Red Wizard, in an attempt to broker an accord with the Fey Court. With the aid of the Druid, the rescue mission successfully convinced the Fey to release the Princess and deny the Red Wizard. Tentative diplomatic channels established between the Kingdom of Toross, using the Druid as an intermediary.


  • The Fey Court dispatches an official ambassador into the mortal world. Clad in pale wooden armor from head to toe, the fey called itself Walker, but the common folk of Meridian swiftly adopted the moniker ‘the White Knight’. This ambassador seemed to have no clear purpose at first, simply wandering from town to town – viewing the goings on of the mortal world from a distance. As a precaution, Princess Amodred and the Druid Gen-Roda accompanied the White Knight across the land.
  • The White Knight’s purpose was revealed to be as something of an arbiter for the continued interaction between the Fey lands and the mortal world. Depending on what the Knight learned on his journeys, the Fey were strongly considering closing their borders forever and retreating beyond the reach of the mortal races.


  • The trio, now known as the Unstoppable Three, defeat the Red Wizard at his keep on the Isle of Windows. The wizard’s plot to gain more arcane power endangered the entire continent, if not the entire globe -but it was brought down by the combined courage and might of the Unstoppable Three.
  • The White Knight returns to the Fey lands within Riddlewood, promising to return soon with his people’s decision.


  • Amodred Torossian is crowned Queen of Toross. She also weds Lilith Gold of Corinth, a diplomatic wedding to strengthen ties between the human city-state and the Elven technocracy that controlled the eastern half of Meridian.


  • Gen-Roda becomes Archdruid of Riddlewood.
  • Simon Torossian is born, Crown Prince of Toross.


  • The White Knight returns. A council is convened in the heart of Riddlewood between all the major powers of Meridian and the Fey -who at last present a single name for their kingdom, ‘The Violet Leaf’. (It is unclear whether this referred to the Fey court itself, their lands beyond, or some even more inscrutable concept.)
  • A treaty forms, though it was never put to paper. The Fey offered safe passage through Riddlewood, allowing swift travel between Toross and the growing port city of Rune. In return, the mortal powers agreed to leave the forest unmolested and the Wilds (as the Fey called the borders of their realm) unviolated. The Archdruid was given responsibility to keep the balance between the mortal world and the Wilds, along with making certain that the terms of the treaty were kept. A further provision, all parties to the treaty (later called the Pinebark Accords) would reconvene once a year in the spring at Third Turn to recommit to the treaty and discuss any issues.


  • The Violet Leaf build a small outpost in Riddlewood, where the Fey could spend time in the mortal world at their whim. The outpost was frustratingly never named – or more accurately, any Fey that was asked the name of the outpost would give a different answer – the enclave was simply referred to as Faetown by mortal travelers.


  • Queen Amodred dies of natural causes, her son Simon is crowned King of Toross.


  • At the yearly meeting on Third Turn, the Archdruid Gen-Roda performs an act of shocking treachery – she brings an iron blade hidden on her person and uses it to take several Fey hostage. She holds out for three days until the leader of the Violet Leaf comes into the mortal realm to hear her demands.
  • The Rupture.*


  • The city-state of Toross falls to the subversion of the cult of The Lonely One. Most scholars agree this was due to being functionally cut-off from the rest of the continent by the collapse of the road through Riddlewood.


  • Current year.

*I am uncertain where this terminology originated, as from the few survivors of the immediate effect that made it beyond the reach of Riddlewood’s branches descriptions it was much more of a deluge or explosion. Suffice to say, where before the borders of the Wilds were difficult to find even for the wise or skilled, they suddenly enveloped almost the entire breadth of Riddlewood. The Fey seem content to stay within this sudden expansion of their lands, but any mortals that journey there through madness or misadventure rarely return – and those that do come back as only shambling husks of their former selves.

These morsels of information, in my estimation, are the only solid ground we have when discussing the Fey. Despite the century of open communication it is frustrating how little we truly know. Perhaps by design, as even the most talkative of Fey seemed more interested in the function of buttons or the purpose of a kiss than anything as concrete as their own history or the true nature of the Wilds. No record exists of the name of the leader of the Violet Leaf. Similarly, the events that precipitated the Rupture were obliterated by the event itself. Obviously the blame can be laid at the feet of the Archdruid – but what motivated this sudden break of faith after decades of trust? And what actually caused the Rupture itself? The vengeful wrath of the Fey is the most likely explanation, but we have no evidence either way. Only the Violet Leaf – or perhaps any druid that survived the flight from Riddlewood? – know the truth.

The truth which may forever be lost among the strange fog of the Wild that permeates the forest – and lost among the fading memories of the past.

The hour grows late. I shall dispatch this first report as requested, then follow with more missives detailing what lore I have gathered about the Violet Leaf and the Fey themselves. Fair warning though, my future letters leave behind the solid earth of history and verified reports – they enter the shifting lands of legend, grandfather limericks, and bard songs reserved only for the most gullible or most intoxicated.

Rectangul Morton, Archivist – Rune – 1307


Boots on the road, packed earth with no echo. The hunter slipped into town. It was night, windows drawn fast, not a drip of light except the moons. His clothes were filthy, hair tied up under his hat. The only clean thing was his staff, three feet of bleached hazel wood. His eyes were dark and the Law burned in his stomach.

Like drops of rain, his feet fell on the path that led him to the man. It was almost always a man. The hunter could see him in front of him in the dark like a ghost, could smell him like sugar burning. The small house with pale blue fence, slats rotten and broken. The door. The hunter’s fingers spread wide on the door, moonlight, the smell. Yes, the man is on the other side of the door. His leg kicked out like a convulsion and the hunter was through and the man was there.

The man had been sitting in a chair, a bottle of fire on the table next to a candle. Smoke fumed from his lips as the branch fell, the man fumbled for his gun. The hunter was already moving, the smell, the ghost smashing into the man’s flesh, the hunter’s hands tight on the staff. The man’s gun went flying. The staff crushed next into the man’s ribs, the man coughed. The hunter sighed with relief. The hunter brought the staff down again on the man’s neck and the man fell to the ground and was still.

The hunter leaned on his staff and looked down at the man. The man was alive, the Law quivered and receded inside the hunter. Rope uncoiled and the hunter carefully bound the man at wrist and ankle.

The hunter felt heavy. He lay down next to the bound man, keeping his hazel staff between them. He pushed his hat down over his eyes and let the sweet earth reach up to hold him, dark hands clutching him tenderly as his muscles eased. The hunter fell into the empty night with no dreams but the road, the moons, and the Law piercing him like a silver spear.


Tell me a new story

But make sure it’s an old story

Give me the three thieves again,

Tell me again about the blade so bright,

Let the lady in white run her blood red fingers down the ash tree


Tell me the old story again

The copper pennies shining in the water

And Penthisilea singing on the walls


Tell me about the empty hat

The black rabbit and his red eyes

Tell me again the secret song

This time I will remember

I promise.

Trip over riddles

and forge the sky blue shield again.

Put the crimson key in my hand

And let me wake in the bow of the ship with salt and air in my teeth.

Tell me a new story but only an old story hiding among the vines.


Climbing up out of a dream, I felt this word in my hand.

It was a word of power there, a ritual, a stone. Here it has no meaning, just memory. Gossamer webbing hanging from it, broken and fading.

There I was on a bus, over and over, day after day. A school bus, but the passengers were older and so was I. They were strangers at first, but slowly we found each other’s eyes, the connections formed, and the center of the web was the word. The word was lotham.

They and I were allies, though the danger was unclear. The word between us beating like a heart. I loved them, I knew them, they were lotham.

When we left the bus each day, we walked together. Hands on weapons, backs together. And every day there were more of us, more of us were lotham.

Dreams like this are echoes of themselves, repeating again and again, the sand shifting but always the word. The word pounding in my head. The word that means don’t let go, hold onto me. Lotham. Lotham. Lotham.

I am suspicious of words that come without cost, that have no blood tax. But it sits in my hand and I have no where to put it but here.

Take it. I brought it for you.

Originally appeared on Substack – reposted here prior to deleting there.

boulevard coyote

to long quiet

wakes up in a riot

boulevard coyote

yipping at the client

harmless and charmless

the dog’s past due

chewing up the architect

and spitting out blue

claw on the glass

knife in its jaws

blackboard and grass

are made for its paws