Glyphical Jan 24th, 2019 (edited) 76 Never
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- Every place has a story.
- Nestled in the deep woods just to the east of the Worldseam, I visited the small town of Emnar, safely tucked into rolling hills and dotted with lanterns whose faintly unnatural glow seemed to ward away the interest of animals, predators and opportunists in particular. The residents were quiet, all but to a fault; perhaps it was just the winter chill that had frozen the words in their throats and their gaze to the ground, or perhaps it was something greater. At night, the light of those magic lanterns danced across the snowflakes and I swear I stood there in the midnight cold for twenty damned minutes just staring at one.
- The innkeeper served me one of the greatest drinks I’d had in some time, but he had little time to chat with me among the other travelers and patrons at the bar, and perhaps it was my loss that I did not press him for info. After all, what better position for reconnaissance than a bartender? As I settled in for bed and blew out the last of my candles, I noticed the sound of a hammer pounding away at metal in the distance. Even in the dead of a freezing winter night, there was work to be done here.
- In the morning, I visited the town hall. A time-worn building for sure; a single main room and an office just behind it that served as both a place of worship for a small collection of gods, and as the town’s meeting place for official business. It was meticulously up-kept by the de-facto leader of the town, a woman by the name of Mary. She was reserved and stoic, but still relayed a passionate concern for the safety of the people she oversaw. We pored over the town’s documentation and considered potential suspects, but she was loathe to mark any single inhabitant of her town with the crime in question.
- In due time, I realized the story of the town. I traipsed their cobblestone paths in silence, so as not to disturb the solitude they’d worked so hard to cultivate, and went about my work in as respectful a fashion as I could. I kept my questioning brief and I minded my own business otherwise. After the first week settling into the town, a man noticed my rifle and made a comment on its craftsmanship; I smiled and regaled him with the tale of the eccentric gunsmith I’d purchased it from, and the way it had saved my hide so many times, and we began to speak. He showed me his own craft: rudimentary, but excellently sturdy firearms, wrought from only the highest quality steel purchased off of caravans that passed through frequently from far-off lands. A lot of caravans passed through this particular town, I’d begun to notice, carrying lots of materials.
- His son, a stocky man just reaching adulthood, had long worked as an apprentice under his father. He hadn’t quite been touched by that same focused silence as the rest of the town, and so he had a bit more mind to spare for me. We spoke in the warm glow of a campfire, and he told me stories about the town; about all the strange travelers coming from far away. He had seen everything from Ghazka to Vos, most of them either other craftsmen, sellswords or law enforcement from far afield who sought the countenance of this town.
- Those stories aren’t always the most interesting. They aren’t always epics, or tales of horrors carried in hushed tones. But for the one whose killer I hunted, I found no bodies in this town’s proverbial cellar; the majority had little to hide.
- Instead, at the strike of my bell, I saw a gorgeous sight. Blossoming into my awareness were tens of spirit oaks, towering far above the trees of the mortal plane, their roots gnarled and clutching dearly to well-aged but well-loved homes. All these brilliant plants fostered by the hard work and love of this community, though some tainted by the slick, oily black tendrils of misery and hatred as with any place, but the majority colorful and vibrant.
- One morning, I ventured to visit the graveyard a few minutes outside of town. All along the path I chimed the bell gently, and I watched as sprawls of little bushes and flowers spattered the winter-worn, frozen soil between the cobbles. In the graveyard itself, some of the most gorgeous and storied graveroots I’d ever seen, flourishing in so many colors and so thoroughly. A few lone graves had only sprouts or nothing at all, and so I stopped to give them, too, the brief silence and reverence they deserved.
- At the town hall, I’d seen not one or two, but three spirit oaks intersecting with each other, a knarred monument to the town’s history, each seemingly born from the cultural changes that had dominated the town over the years. Where one had dead, but preserved, branches, the next was on its way out, and the last was beginning to flourish in full.
- On the other hand, among all these beautiful plants whose sheer lifeblood was story, I saw the Embers as well. Pillars of faintly humanoid shape, whose blaring white eyes looked at nothing at all, staring ever out into the distance. Hundreds of them, all about the town. The remnants of the truly forgotten and the restless.
- What, then, was this town’s story? A lot of busy people, lineages of master smiths, artisans and craftspeople, with little time to spare talking outside of the context of a sale. Their silence was not a sorrow, but admirable focus. That much was evident. What really struck me, as I sifted through this town’s inhabitants and sought the face of a murderer among the rest, were all the stories that I could only gather bits and pieces of. The townspeople I spoke to told me what they knew and what they could remember, of their family, of apocryphal and conflicting stories passed from generation to generation about the town’s founding, of tragedies and blessings that had befallen the town over the years. I question how much information was lost to this solitary focus, though; how many legacies and legends the silence claimed, unwitting endlings in the minds of hermits and introverts.
- It’s not something you often think about. Everyone has their own history, their own little bubble they inhabit. I ride often through towns that have supported a thousand bygone lives, and I don’t really notice it.
- That evening, as the town settled into a lull, I spoke with Mary in the town hall about my findings.
- In the deep blue haze of a cloudless winter dusk, as the last of the color drained into the horizon, I shot a man dead in the forest. The blood that sept into the snow beneath him carried into the unreachable firmament countless stories, experiences, emotions, an entire life and possibly the remains of many others. I rode back into town, my gaze fixed on the glittering white at my feet and a grim feeling hanging on my shoulders. I exchanged a few words with Mary, confirming that justice had been served, and rode off into the night with my earnings in hand.
- I wondered what tales reflected in the tangled graveroots, etched inside the skulls of the dead whose caskets they so snugly held. I resolved to learn as many more as I could, and to record as many of my own as I could, before they too slept in the caskets of the few who would remember.
- I will die someday too, and so too, likely, will the memories that I cling to. But even the common man deserves a legacy.
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