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Author Topic: The Eye of Skanris Keep - A Ghost Story (finished)  (Read 10584 times)
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Alysse the Likely
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« Reply #15 on: 18 February 2008, 06:50:37 »

My comments in  orange

Right after Sunblaze my host guided me outside the keep. I accompanied him down the gravel road which we had traveled up on his cart the other day. It was cold, windy and the air was damp, as is common in this region during Fallen Leaf, but I enjoyed the stroll nevertheless.

It was the first time that I actually had the chance to enjoy the Manthrian landscape without having to worry that I might have ended up where I didn’t belong. To the north I had a good view on Skulje, which lay a few strals away from the foot of the hill on which Skanris Keep was built.  That little village which had endowed me with such frustration upon arriving, still evoked a sense of uneasiness in me, that I could hardly shake off. The hills surrounding the village rolled out in all directions, a pleasant sight to the eye, and in the distance one could even spot the Yanth river. Far to the west the murky waters of the Fens of Yanthai were hard to miss, and despite the fact that it was midday, the fog seemed to have crept from the Fens all the way toSkulje and the crashing sea below the keep. Only a few rays of Injèrá managed to penetrate the grey sky, but I was thankful for each of them.

„Here we are, Fjorek,“ Jovdur said, and stopped.

I looked around. We still stood very high up the gravel road, a good distance away from the keep’s entrance. Only a few peds further from the road, the hill ended, abruptly forming a cliff when it met the seaside far below. I took a step closer to the cliff and looked downwards, noticing that the height was at least a dizzying fifty peds.  Below the sea was full of large protruding rocks.

„Here, Fjorek!“ Jovdur called me to the other side of the road and pointed to a pile of rocks that had been accumulated there. A slate of stone was placed behind it wtih an engraving of (or "statue of", I wasn't quite sure which you intended here) a raven on top of it. Then Jovdur began to recount the tale:

„It was the seventh day of Rising Sun, by now 27 years ago. I know it so well, because it was the Lord’s birthday, the Jorn Margeir Kjorskum’s great feast. And as was the case each year, a simple feast wasn’t enough to celebrate the Jorn, no, only the best was good enough for him. Only the wealthiest merchants and most beautiful ladies were allowed to join the grand festival, this great show of vanity for all those who deemed vanity a virtue themselves.

On that very day the Jorn returned to the keep in his carriage from business he had in Ciosa, eager to observe the final preparations for the feast. But as the carriage pulled up the hill, he saw someone sitting there on the side of the road in rugged clothes, with a raven perched on the shoulder. The figure looked up desperately as the coach approached. Instantly the Jorn ordered the coachman to halt the horses and got out of the carriage.

By the nine-tailed cat of Minich! How dare you to be here, you miserable scum?’ he shouted, infuriated. ‚Isn’t there enough room anymore in Marcogg for the likes of you? And must you be here just on the day when all my guests are arriving for the feast? You did that on purpose now, didn’t you, you pitiful creature! But do you think that all the wealthy people I have invited care a damn about you? – Away!’

He grabbed the beggar by the arm and pulled him up. The raven that was sitting on the shoulder croaked agitatedly and flew off.

‚Irkar! The time has come... Don’t leave me alone now!’ a light voice called to the bird.
‚What time are you speaking of, beggar? And you think your feathery companion can help you? Wake up, fool!’ the Jorn sneered and shook the beggar to bring him to his senses.

The hood that had covered the stranger’s face fell back, revealing to Jorn Margeir the terrified eyes of a young woman. Long hair streamed down around her face and she was trembling at every word the Jorn uttered, as each was vile and violent.

‚Let me go, please let me go!’ the woman gasped, but the grip of the Jorn grew even stronger.

‚Wait...’ he suddenly snarled. ‚Don’t I know you?’ He looked at her again. ‚Yes, it must be – even that Coór-ridden raven is with you! Say, aren’t you the one that the villagers call the ‚Gifted’, the one who can see things that haven’t happened yet, and thus know about people’s deaths by just looking them in the eye? – Now have you found out by now whether it was Seyella or the Thirteenth himself who gave you that gift? Or might I say curse...’ He snorted with laughter. ‚Aren’t you that Gifted One?’

‚Yes, I am gifted,’ the trembling woman replied, still trying to elude the grip of Jorn Kjorskum.

‚Well, what a coincidence then, my dear!’ the Jorn said, his mood changing to amusement. Then your visit surely was for a reason. As it is my birthing day, why don’t you exert your gift as a present, and tell me something about my death? An appropriate "gift" (this makes a nice sarcastic taunt and avoids the repetition of the word "present"), don’t you think? Tell now, when is it my turn to die, and how will it happen, oh Gifted One?’ he said in a mocking tone.

‚I... I...’ the woman stammered. ‚I cannot. I... have seen... that I will... die... today... if I’ll... look into your eye.’ Utter fear suddenly took hold of the woman, she could barely speak and averted her eyes from his.

‚Is that so, my dear? Well, the Goddess of the Scythe harvests every one of us one day, I’ve heard. But I guess you’ve misunderstood what I tried to imply: When I order you to look me in the eye and give me an answer, you must obey me."  With that Jorn Kjorskum grabbed her with both hands and stared into the woman’s eyes... ‚Now I dare you: Tell me!’

The woman helplessly stared back into the menacing eyes that held her prisoner. For a long moment everything was quiet. Only the wind howled, loud and fierce. And with its whine of melancholy it brought the certainty of death. A raven could be heard croaking twice in the distance.

‚Soon...’ the woman whispered. She was quiet all of a sudden. ‚Soon you will die... Very soon. And you will die because it will be me who will give you your gift of death.’ She was calm now.

‚You fool and wretched macanti! May the Netherworlds devour you!’ Jorn Kjorskum snapped at her, enraged. ‚What do you wish to achieve by lying in my face? You beg in front of my castle and then you are trying to scare me with such a taunting prophecy? – Away, I say, you demon!’

The woman quickly picked up the things (what things?  A staff, maybe a bag?  I think you should be specific here) she had dropped and moved away from the Jorn now that he had released her.  ‚Forgive me, Jorn, she said, but I can only tell you what I see.’

‚The truth you say, you lying wench?’ the Jorn exclaimed, even more furious by her insistence. ‚Then may this truth be your very last one!’ And with that he threw himself against the woman with all his might. (Perhaps "shoved" or "pushed" her?  or "thrust her away from him, over the cliffs?"  If he threw his body against hers, he might fall too.)

The wind carried her last chilling scream far, far away when she fell down that cliff. For a brief moment it was as if it had turned into an otherworldly sigh before it vanished altogether. . And with her death her first prophecy was fulfilled.

Yet the day was not over, and the Jorn went on to celebrate.“

As Jovdur finished his narration I squatted down to read what was written on the slate he had shown me before. The letters were barely recognizable, but as I removed the dust with my hand it read:

In Memory of The Eye,
Truth in Her Heart

„How do you know how all this happened in such detail, Jovdur?“ I asked.

The old man took a step closer. „I was the Jorn’s coachman at that time, Fjorek.“ His face showed bitterness and self-hatred. „I didn’t help that woman. For a long time I didn’t dare to tell anybody what had happened. I was a coward, obeying my Lord despite I knew about his wrongdoings.“ He shook his head. „So I am guilty as well, and it has gnawed on me ever since. Once the time comes when I will meet the Armourlord, I know that he needs to do justice.“
I looked at Jovdur again and saw the deep sorrow reflecting in his eyes, and in the midst of his helplessness a glint of wrath against the past that he couldn’t change anymore. At the moment he mentioned the Armourlord I remembered where I first had met him the other day in the village – at the shrine of Armeros, where he had tended the flowers. Suddenly I saw the old man in another light and felt sympathy for him. He must have had a heavy load to carry all those years.

„But this is only half of the story, Fjorek,“ Jovdur said.

I got up. „Yes, I thought so. What about the curse? And how did your Lord meet his fate?“

„We had best return to the keep for that part,“ Jovdur said. „I sense a storm nearing, and I’d like to show you the ball room, where many of us became witnesses of unexpected revenge from the grave, the same day the Jorn had murdered that woman.“

I looked at him with a mixture of fascination and repulsion, as for a brief instance I felt as if what he was going to tell me in the ball room would change my life forever. Everything Jovdur had told me so far seemed so real, as if I could grab it with my own hands – he had all experienced it himself and had  related it to me so vividly. But I quickly discarded my thoughts and followed the caretaker inside. The sky was indeed getting darker, and on the horizon I could see first lightnings flaring up.

*****************
 
„Here the birthday banquet was held,“ Jovdur explained leading me in a vast hall, filled with pompous chandeliers, oil paintings and statues set into the numerous alcoves in the walls. Today most of it was covered with sheets though, as in other rooms of the abandoned keep. „The hall was also used for dancing and amusement," the old man continued.  „While the guests had their meals,  performers presented their shows for the enjoyment of the visitors. There were jugglers, jesters, and dancers here that day.

The musicians played, everybody was merry and the fat nobility devoured course after course as if there were no tomorrow. Most of the men were seriously drunk by now and the jokes that they cracked became more obscene every minute. The young girls that danced to entertain the crowd fled already during their performance as the lustful eyes ("and grasping hands" ?) demanded more. There was a lot of shouting when a maid bumped into an escaping dancer who was chased by a groping hand. A tray went down. Dishes smashed on the floor. A lot of commotion was going on. And then...

As if out of nowhere, there was someone standing in the middle of the room. A light, inhuman voice could be heard: „I, too, have a gift for the Jorn." (use of "gift" here makes a nice irony, don't you think?)

The rowdy strains of music died away and with them the noise from the tables. Everyone stared at the strange figure that was waiting like a statue in the middle of the room, completely unmoving, apparently watching the Jorn. The figure wore a wide grey cloak, the face concealed by a hood. As it stood there, bent slightly forward, the long shiny hair fell nearly to the ground. A staff was resting in one of the bony hands, and on top of it one could see the depiction of a wide open eye.

„I have a gift for the Jorn,“ the soft voice repeated calmly as the hall went completely quiet.


„Well, then let’s see it!“ someone shouted to break the awkwardness. The rest of the guests joined the request heatedly, and soon the whole room was aflame with shouts.

But three knocks with the staff were enough to silence the unruly crowd. Each knock felt like a shovel full of earth thrown on a coffin that already rested in its grave. It was as quiet as in a tomb again. The Jorn stared with open eyes at the new visitor, unable to move.

I took the long voyage back to fulfill my promise to you, Margeir Kjorskum“, the hooded figure said. The voice echoed strangely from the walls, repeating every single word again and again, emphasizing them in a disturbingly irritating way. Then the figure lifted the staff and pointed its end to the Jorn. „Now, you shall receive the Eye!“
A sharp gust of wind suddenly blew out of nowhere. The figure’s cloak could briefly be seen bulging menacingly, then the chandeliers and the candles on the tables were extinguished altogether. Only the eye on the end of the staff could be seen, pulsating one last time before it vanished also into nothingness. Darkness reigned.

Cursed art thou, Margeir Kjorskum!“ the voice rose again in an earth shattering tone. „Cursed art thou, thee and all thy progeny! Cursed be Skanris Keep until it has taken all of thee. And mayst thou live in fear by seeing through the eye of thine own death, until thou shalt end thine own life! Thus I curse thee!“ ( I'm unsure just what you mean by "seeing through the eye of thine own death", you may want to rephrase that somehow.)

Then it was as if the figure’s robe was taken by the wind and with it the figure itself, as if it had never existed. All that could be seen was something that burst through the windows and the full moon outside briefly revealed the cloak flying off into the night, carried by the wind. Then the sound of heavy wings could be heard and a raven’s repeated croaking. The visitor from beyond the grave had departed.


Most of my "corrections" are not made because something was especially wrong, , but you occasionally used terms or expressions that sounded too modern to me.  I tried to formalize the tone slightly for clarity and to give it a more medieval Santharian flavour.

That said; "WHY DID YOU HAVE TO STOP THERE?!"

Sorry for shouting, but really, Art, you have a Hitchcockian sense of suspense.  Please hurry to bring us the next installment...please, please.... (makes big puppy-dog eyes)


« Last Edit: 18 February 2008, 07:30:58 by Alysse the Likely » Logged

Alysse the Likely
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« Reply #16 on: 19 February 2008, 03:52:49 »

lol Well, someone asked for getting the Insects Trivia up, so... ;) No, just kidding - I'm a pretty slow writer, plus I also need to think how to progress best with the story and how to write what when and why. But I enjoy writing from cliffhanger to cliffhanger a bit in the meantime...

Anyway, thanks for the corrections and the encouragement, Alysse - I don't know how long it will take until I can finish this up, but there are definitely a bunch of more pages to write, we stand at 10 pages at the moment and there are still some important things that need to be done here before I can conclude it... shocked I hope the story will deliver eventually on the promise though.

Well, I will see to make the corrections and then work on some more of the story... Sorry for taking so long (and taking some more time), but yeah, sometimes I hope the effort is worth it.
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« Reply #17 on: 19 February 2008, 05:59:55 »

Ok, I've now integrated all your comments and updated the text here posted on the Forum, Alysse - thanks again for the invaluable help to make various passages much, much more effective with the use of proper language. Even the Santharian sayings or the ambiguous usage of "gift" you added fit in nicely and really add to the story, so many thanks once again for taking the time to help me getting it right!  thumbup

The curse paragraph I had to expand a bit further - this is the only passage that was changed more extensively, hope it is now clearer and still is proper ancient English. It is still a bit unclear perhaps, but hopefully will be explained when the story progresses a bit further. So you just have to wait and see. Here's the updated passage:

Quote
„Cursed art thou, Margeir Kjorskum!“ the voice rose again in an earth shattering tone. „Cursed art thou, thee and all thy progeny! And cursed be Skanris Keep until it has taken all of thee. Mayst the Eye summon thee and thy own again and again, haunt and entice thee to follow its unrelenting promise, nevermore to let thee go! Mayst thy life be fear and fear once more, until that day thou shalt end thine own life! Thus I curse thee!“

Don't know of "Mayst the Eye" is correct for example, but maybe you can confirm or correct that...

P.S. The "nevermore" just had to be in there... lol
« Last Edit: 19 February 2008, 06:03:44 by Artimidor Federkiel » Logged



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« Reply #18 on: 19 February 2008, 07:15:22 »

Well, of course the "nevermore" had to be in there--you already had the raven, right? lol

I'm happy to offer any help I can, and I do have some facility with archaic expressions and old-fashioned English After all, I grew up reading the King James Bible, studying Shakespeare's plays and sonnets, even some Chaucer--and I personally defy anyone to come up with better sourcebooks for such language. 

 So, my modest abilities are at your service, good Sage. (tries unsuccessfully to look meek and humble and fails completely for lack of practice)   And perhaps if the Bard shows up--I haven't seen much of her lately, she's probably very busy getting back into the swing of things overseas--she can do a "judy-check" as well.

I shall look forward to the next chapter with avid interest.


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« Reply #19 on: 20 February 2008, 07:17:55 »

Another update here... 2 1/2 pages were added leading you deeper and deeper into the mystery...

It continues after the line "The visitor from beyond the grave had departed" - so just search for that if you have read that far. - Hope you enjoy, still more to come... *wipes sweat from the brow* - Comments as always welcome!

P.S. A small passage in the previous text was changed to:

Quote
"But four knocks with the staff were enough to silence the unruly crowd. One, two, three, four...  "

Maybe you get an idea why that is so. Or at least a suspicion. Or get confused about it... At any rate it's all for better effect... lol
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« Reply #20 on: 21 February 2008, 10:24:11 »

All right, comments in orange as usual.



Heavy thunder rolled outside when Jovdur fell silent.

My heart was beating, unnerved by the images the old man had called into my head. My mind, however, rebelled against everything I had heard, pushed it back, far, far away into a dark corner where I wanted it to have it hidden from my awareness. Yet as soon as I thought the threat forgotten, suddenly it was there again, right beside me, here in this room: an unexplainable presence that breathed calmly, but deeply, a scant step from me – on that very spot where the apparition  had stood, watching the Jorn... (I think this sentence ran away from you, Art--chop it up a bit!) I tried to gather myself and say something, and then...

Lightning struck.

Shutters banged... once, twice... like a knock from an unknown force... glass splintered... three... four... Curtains blew angrily in the room as if finally freed from their endless role of waiting. The wind howled furiously, screeching like an enraged dragon, leaping rampantly in every corner of the room, savagely tearing covers from the furniture. The sheets that veiled the paintings and statues bulged as if alive, possessed by the unknown. Heavy rain pounded mercilessly into the room.

Surprised by the gust,  I couldn’t help but to stagger back, feeling lightheaded and helpless all of a sudden, torn by the uncontrolled elemental rage. Lightning struck again and again, revealing windswept trees in the keep’s gardens, and, it seemed...a figure or perchance I only thought it to be one. It vanished with the lightning, leaving me aghast and horrified. I gasped.

„Udvig, quick!“ I heard a shout, and I could see Jovdur’s wife rushing to the window, closing the shutters.  She seized a nearby plank and  hastily barricaded them.

„I...“ I wanted to say something, to offer my aid, but my knees grew weak and I sunk down, stricken.

„Fjorek Snimradskun!“ I heard Jovdur’s familar lisping voice, first very near, then again, but further away. „Fjorek Snimradskun...“ Then it was gone, and I was engulfed by the eternity of darkness.
 
*************************

When I awoke, I found myself lying in my bed up in one of the keep’s towers. The full moon was shining through the window and a single candle burned on the nightstand, with a bowl next to it. Outside, I noticed, it was quiet again and the storm was now over. Still dizzy, I lifted my head and looked around when I heard something creaking nearby. A face appeared from out of nowhere.

„Fjorek Snimradskun!“ a quiet voice repeated twice, like an echo of the last words I remembered hearing before everything had turned black.

„Udvig...“ I saw the face of Jorduk’s wife and smiled faintly. She was sitting in a rocking chair, and, seeing that I was awake, took my hand.

„For a moment we thought that you were gone...“ she said. „You were covered with the veil of the Kiivosh awhile, but the storm blew it away again. You are a fortunate man, Fjorek. – Do you remember at all what happened?“

„I... I...“ I tried to collect my thoughts. „I don’t know. I saw the window smashing and then I felt something, something odd I have never felt before.“ I paused. I hated to admit it that I might have seen something I did not believe existed, so instead I asked the woman, hoping she could help me with answers. „Udvig, have you ever seen a ghost here in Skanris Keep?“

But Udvig just dropped my hand and stood up as if she hadn’t heard my question. „Fjorek Snimradskun, you are still feverish and you need some rest. I advise you to drink the herb soup I’ve put on your nightstand, this will help you to get well again.  Sleep now, Fjorek, perhaps your host will arrive tomorrow already. Then you must be well!“ She turned and walked towards the door.

„Udvig...“ I didn’t want to let her go, I had to know. Too near, too strongly I had sensed a presence, it seemed real in an unexplainable shocking way. „Have you? Have you ever seen a ghost here in Skanris Keep?“ I asked with a hoarse voice.

„No, Fjorek!“ she replied. „No, I have seen  no ghost in Skanris Keep.  Not since the Jorn’s birthday, and neither has my husband.“ With that she disappeared and left me alone.

I still felt very weak and delirious and didn’t know what to make of Udvig’s answer. So she had seen a ghost on the Jorn’s birthday, she believed in it. Yet, if the place was haunted, why did she say that she hadn’t seen a ghost ever since?  But my head started to hurt and I thought that she was right in this measure at least: I needed a good night’s sleep. So I ate Udivg’s soup and then blew out the candle. Little did I know that the night wasn’t meant to be over yet for me.

*************************
 
It must have been close to midnight (surely it would be past midnight, with all that has occured so far?) when I  was startled from my sleep by a harsh cry.

I was drenched in sweat, I was thirsty and it took a while until it dawned on me where I actually was. Images of the past day had swept through my mind incessantly when I was half dozing, half sleeping: the ball room scene, the keep itself, the deadly cliff, the tombstone, the image of the raven on it...

The raven's  cry that had waked me sounded again. I sprang up and there, it was repeated yet a third time (Or do you want to make it four times, Art?  :) ) Driven by a sense of foreboding I opened the window and looked outside.

A cold breeze enveloped me, and the full moon was still there hanging over the horizon, watching me silently. Far down below the tower I was in, above the cliff, I saw the dark black mass of the sea, sending waves over and over again to the shore. In the moonlight the fog was creeping around the rocks, slowly, gently as if it was performing an elegant dance. It was quiet, though  if I listened intently I could hear the crashing of the waves, the rhythmical lulling breath of the sea.

And then I heard it.

It was nearly inaudible at first, but I noticed something that was not only the crashing of waves. I thought it to be the call of an animal first, but then I knew it: It was a scream. And it came from the sea below, far out there.

My eyes darted about to see the source, but in the fog I could see nothing. For an eyeblink I doubted my hearing when the crashing of the waves seemed to have reconquered the night. But there it was again, a cry from the open sea. The longer I tried to focus on it, the louder the screams became, the more desperate it seemed. Yet I felt paralyzed by the shock of hearing it.  I could neither move nor speak.

Then I saw it.

There was someone out there, fighting with the sea, waving, shrieking, alive, struggling for survival. Somewhere in the mist, I glimpsed a hand, desperately grasping out for rescue, but there was nothing there. There was only the endless sea, the moon and a silent watcher high up there in the keep’s tower. It seemed that a hundred thoughts assaulted my mind simultaneously: It’s too late to help... Do you really see it?... Is it her?... It is just an illusion, an illusion... You’re delirious... Is it her?... You’re dreaming... delirious... it’s her... too late... too late... It’s her... It’s her... It’s her...

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« Reply #21 on: 22 February 2008, 02:46:11 »

Thanks again - changes were made, now working on the next part. Maybe 2, maybe 3 more installments, then it should be done and we can tie the threads together...  evil
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« Reply #22 on: 22 February 2008, 13:06:05 »

While we are waiting for the next installment, Art, I'll go over the first part of your story.  I know Grunok already did, but there are a couple of phrasing things that (forgive me my temerity) could still be changed for clarity.  So I'll just quickly highlight them here in orange.

THE EYE OF SKANRIS KEEP

I do not believe in ghosts. I’ve always met any kinds of apparitions or phenomenons that trick the eye or the mind with a healthy dose of skepticism.
 
(Well, if you actually met them, maybe you wouldn't be a skeptic.   :P
Perhaps it should  read  "I’ve always regarded tales of any kinds of apparitions or phenomenons that trick the eye or the mind with a healthy dose of skepticism.")


 Maybe this is due to the upraising by a mother that believed strongly in the Twelve, yet was convinced that the Gods would take no interest in meddling with the lives of common mortals. I assume this was because my father left her even before she had given birthed me, and she refused to accept it as fate that the Gods imposed on her. "No, the Gods don’t decide on our destiny," she used to say, "Destiny you have to take in your own hands." In the same way she thought that every witcher was nothing more than a macanti, and that neither Seyella nor Coór, nor any creature of the Void would descend on Santharia fopr any reason - not to suggest a new path, to teach or to bring fear, death or destruction as the folk tales seem to imply. Well, my mother was rather practical, and so am I. So far I can’t say that I’ve actually met a „watcher“ as the people call those things that show up from nowhere in a foggy night. I’m taking them for what they are – gnarled tree trunks, not grey-cloaked unmoving figures that try to communicate with the likes of us. No wailwoman has introduced herself to me yet – not that I am keen to hear the bone chilling, mind shattering cries for which such unfortunate beings are famed.  Let those with the minds for it deal with such things, as obviously it originates from just there!

However, a certain curiosity is roused in me when I look in the gleaming eyes of a fisherman who tells me a sailor’s tale. Rest assured, he has seen this ghostship himself he’s talking about, of course, and can describe it to you in detail if you ask. He didn’t dare venture near it, no, definitely not, as that is what the lore claims so firmly – stay away, or you might lose your life as well!  If one could only get on that ship, investigate and finally get some explanations... But by the Twelve, no, a poor fisherman that believes in the lore cannot. And a ghostship won’t appear to a scholar eager to investigate it. Ah, the irony... But as I mentioned, I can’t help but being fascinated by those tales and the people telling them, let’s say for purposes that merely serve my personal enjoyment.(This is a little unclear, can you restate it?

So it has been, until last week. Since then I don’t trust my senses anymore, or my mind, I know not which is more to be mistrusted. Yet, I am drawn towards this new experience that challenges everything I’ve known so far, and while I observe, it is as if something else is observing me, studying this suddenly helpless and forlorn individual. And yet, I must look it in the eye.

But I shall start at the beginning, at that very day when Gerneth, my loyal servant, brought this letter up to my tower and with it would eventually toss me into what I can only describe as a nightmare, a nightmare recurring day and day again...


Halfday, 27th of Sleeping Dreameress
„Now, this could be our season to rain gold, Gerneth!“ I said jokingly to my servant, who seemed to be as pleased as I was when he saw my broad smile upon reading the lines. (I based this change on an Avenorrian proverb, BTW) The letter promised a lucrative business opportunity and was sent by the Lord of Skanris Keep in the south of the province, close to the Fens of Yanthai, west of Ciosa.

 „Someone must have picked up on our special goods shipments from Deni’lou, Gerneth! You know, these exclusive spices deals I’ve made in the last months, and it seems that Veirek Liemolf Jorril helped with advocating his satisfaction to an influential figure on the Pearl Coast! Now what do you say to that?“

Admittedly, all this wasn’t exactly mentioned in the letter, but it was stated clearly that our new potential customer wished to do business with the name Snimradskun of Marduran as soon as possible. I just connected the dots and was satisfied with the conclusion that it must have been my dwarven trading relations that have brought my name to a southerner’s attention. I was delighted to read such a strongly expressed desire to establish contact, as the letter even contained an invitation to pay a visit to the Skanris keep for a week or two in order to get to know each other, all expenses covered. Well, and as a bachelor’s life like mine longs for any unusual adventure it can get, I decided to seize the opportunity.

I quickly dispatched a reply to the Lord of Skanris and started packing the same evening I had received the letter. The next morning I was off towards the Pearl Coast.

Elfday, 2nd of Fallen Leaf
My arrival in the village of Skulje on the first Elfday of Fallen Leaf was memorable to say the least. There was no direct way to the keep, so I asked my carriage driver to drop me off in the village, and I’d manage things from there in case transport wasn’t already arranged by my host. So, close to Sundrown, the carriage dropped me at the most prominent tavern in Skulje. It was off again in a minute, leaving me behind next to a small shrine of Armeros on the wayside with my luggage. A white-haired old man was busy planting some flowers there around the statue of the God holding his Truthsplitter. He looked up and nodded to me in greeting. Just as I answered a younger fellow on the other side of the road spotted me and offered to help me get my stuff inside the tavern to stretch my legs after the journey.

The man's darker complexion, as well as his accent hinted at a line of ancestry from the fabled continent of Aeruillin. His friendliness as well:

„New, eh?“ he asked curiously. „I’m sure ye seek some accommodation then, don’t ye? Either that or a drink. At any rate I’d say ye can get directions and that drink best inside the tavern.“ And with that he had already taken some things and chivvied me towards the „Singing Willow“. The tavern was the largest house around, built in typical Avennorian style with the roof in the shape of a boat that was simply turned upside down.

„I’m Aimen, by the way,“ my new acquaintance finished. Of course I couldn’t disagree with his convincing behaviour that surely was meant to earn him a free drink.

„I’m Fjorek Fjerth,“ I told him. „Of the Snimradskuns of Marduran if you want to know exactly. And yes, I’ll offer you a drink.“ I smiled and, carrying the rest of my luggage ,followed him in.

The mood inside was relaxed and the four or five farmers that sat around at a table with the landlord were happy to have company bringing news from the north. I ordered some dwarven ale for Aimen and myself, and we got into a discussion about my business. The beer helped to bring up my relations to the Iron Realm of Deni’lou, and I gained some respect with that – which clearly shows when people start referring to you as „Fjorek“ instead of the first name you have offered them to address you with.

At some point someone brought the question up: „And now where are ye headin’, Fjorek?“ And I was glad that he did, as it was indeed time to finally get going.

„I have an appointment at the keep,“ I answered. „Might someone be able to show me how to get there? I have some coins in my pocket I don’t necessarily need.“

„An appointment – at the... keep?“ one of the farmers asked disbelievingly.

„Yes, as far as I understand, there is just one keep around here, now isn’t it?“ I kept insisting. „The keep of Lord Skanris.“

All of a sudden the room turned quiet.

„What is it?“ I looked around, not knowing what so suddenly had changed the atmosphere.
„Ye must be jokin’, lad. The Lord Skanris, the despicable Margeir Kjorskum, is dead. And that for good reasons. And so are his wife and both sons. Better it stays that way.“ As if to affirm his dire revelation, the farmer hit the table with his fist. Horror was written in the faces of everyone sitting around. Even Aimen, who had been one of the most jovial before, didn’t touch his beer anymore and just stared at me.

„But I assure you that I have received an invitation to talk business with the Lord of Skanris,“ I replied, puzzled.

„Then ye must have received a letter from the dead!“ the landlord threw at me with a grim voice. „Let me tell ye somethin’: The place is cursed, my friend! It has been cursed for the last thirty years or so, and I urge ye to go back where you came from, for it will bring death upon those who seek it out.“

„I don’t understand...“ I groped for words, seeing my hopes for big business shattered to pieces already. Curse or not, if there was no Lord Skanris, there’d be no sans to earn. Maybe these people were right and I actually had fallen for someone’s foolish prank, or perhaps someone had needed to get me out of Marduran for some reason. „But try to explain to me why...“ I stuttered.

„Go now, friend, while ye still can,“ the landlord insisted and stood up to leave the table. „We don’t talk about the curse here. It brings back memories, and the gruesome death might just be sleepin’ in Skulje. It must not be awakened, mark my words! None of us will show you how to get to the keep, so please, leave for ye own good.“ With that he disappeared behind the counter, refusing to continue any discussion.

I remained there for a while, bewildered. Silence fell on us, just like the sun was slowly engulfed outside by the falling darkness, drowning below the horizon. What had been a room filled with vivid talk just a few moments ago, now seemed to harbour just strangers. Only the sound of the landlord wiping one glass after the other could be heard. I looked around, but none of the people I had talked to wanted to contradict these last words that still hung in the air, menacing like gigantic cobwebs, hinting at a lurking presence in the dark.
I took my luggage and left.  I had no idea how to progress from there, but I knew I was no longer welcome there.

As I was standing there in front of the tavern, thinking, I suddenly noticed a movement at the edge of my sight.

„Fjorek Snimradskun?“ someone asked with a soft, slightly lisping voice.

I turned around, not knowing whom to expect. „Yes?“

It was the old man I had seen earlier when I had left the carriage, who had been tending the shrine of Armeros. (He should introduce himself here, saying who he is and why he's speaking to Fjorek) „May we go now?“ He pointed to a horse a few peds away that was yoked to a cart. „Sorry to have kept you waiting, but I figured you’d get out there anyway soon. I’m here to take you to the keep.“

Halfday, 3rd of Fallen Leaf
„Thank you, Udvig, thank you very much! It is my pleasure.“ I took another slice of the still warm bread the woman offered me and placed it on my plate. The fresh butter and the rimmilched cheese tasted exquisite. And neither had I drank such an extraordinarily flavourful kind of cha’ah tea in quite a while.

„Only the best for our visitor,“ old Jovdur confirmed my thoughts with a reassuring nod and poured in some more tea.

When I looked in his eyes I felt at home in a way, despite the vast emptiness in the dining hall. In the bright daylight the man’s wrinkled face showed his grandfatherly appearance even more clearly. As did his white shiny hair, the kind, obliging voice, the occasional knowing smile when I brought something up in discussion. I must say I enjoyed Jovdur’s company right from the start. Besides, he was the only person I could rely on in Skanris. Yet, there seemed to be something brooding behind those thick eyebrows, an unspoken sorrow in his look once the smile vanished.

„Speaking about visitors...“ I started, picking up his last comment. „You don’t get many people up here these days, don’t you? I didn’t meet a soul except you and your wife since yesterday evening, nor did I see any lights in the towers. Why is this ?“ I thought it best to get to the bottom of these rumours immediately. „The villagers even told me that the keep is cursed and that I shouldn’t venture here at all.“

„Ah, who can blame them. But one got to keep the toads in the bucket,“ Jovdur replied. „What do they know anyway? It is not easy living with the curse, but then again I have been caretaker of this keep for more than forty cycles now along with my dear Udvig. We’ve promised to care for it, and we’re still here after all these years, as is the keep.“ He cleared his throat then continued with his lisping voice. „I only wish that the whole story about the curse were finally over and that this place can find its deserved rest. But because of the curse the keep is shunned, and many people who have stayed here overnight claim to have seen ghosts and heard strange noises where there aren’t any. The few that have come here in the past years only did so to satisfy their curiosity, nothing more, but the coins they left aren’t enough to keep this place in shape. The castle crumbles, but its legacy still hangs over Skulje, even more so today than years ago when it all began.“

„So you two live all alone here in Skanris?“

„Yes we do, always have done since the old Lord’s death,“ Udvig said from the other end of the table.

„But... Who wrote the invitation then? Where is your master?“ I inquired impatiently. „I’ve come here to do business with the Lord of Skanris, only to learn that he had died dozens of years ago and that you two live here alone ever since. – Would you explain that to me? I don’t care much about this place being haunted, actually I slept quite well last night – but it is time for answers, nevertheless.“

„Oh, I have invited you of course, Fjorek Snimradskun,“ Jovdur explained in a reassuring tone. „Just as I picked you up from the tavern and brought you here. But only on behalf of my master, of course.“ He smiled, obviously proud to be able to present this information to me.

„There is a new Lord then...“ I concluded, relieved.

Jovdur laughed out aloud. „Either that or the old one still knows how to instruct me to do business from his grave...“ His laughter acquired a sarcastic edge.. Then he continued, whispering. „But I suggest we let his soul rest in peace, as he was the cause for the ‚curse’ in the first place. I’d be ill advised to listen to the wishes of a dead person whose main achievement was to get the keep cursed.“ Jovdur put his hand on my shoulder. „My master prefers to invite business partners without his consent, Fjorek, I can assure you of that.“

I had to admit that I was relieved to hear some common sense speaking here, as well as the prospect of eventually getting to that business for which I had come.

„The villagers don’t think that selling the keep and getting business back here brings any good to Skulje, but what do they know,“ Jovdur continued and shook his head disappointedly.

„You said yesterday that my host isn’t around to welcome me,“ I interjected. „That’s fine, as you took great care of me, so my thanks for that. You’ve been very kind. But from the looks of it, not everything is prepared yet for the Lord’s arrival.“ I let my eyes wander around in the dining hall to state my point. Some coat of arms that were attached to the walls were still covered with clothes, a bunch of trunks and crates stood still untouched in the far end corner, obviously waiting to be unpacked.

„So when do you think that we can expect his appearance, Jovdur?“

The caretaker made a halting gesture with his hand. „I hope you aren’t too impatient with it, as admittedly, I cannot say for sure. You have, after all, arrived here quite promptly. I’ve sent word out that you have already come, but it might take at least another day or two I fear, until you can settle your business. – I hope this doesn’t interfere with any of your plans.“

„No, don’t worry,“ I answered, staying polite. „I need a few days off anyway from the dull bookkeeping lately. And besides, there might be a chance now that I get to hear that story about the curse people seem to refer to so often around here.“

„You just might, Fjorek,“ Jovdur agreed with a grin. „How be it if you unpack properly now and after lunch I’ll take you to the place where it all began. Can't say fairer than that now, can you?

No,“ I responded, smilingly. „After all, once I spy a ghost,  I must needs know how to address it properly, hey?


There you are, then.  So much for my promise of brevity, but I think that the changes I've suggested should be helpful. 

Alysse
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Alysse the Likely
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« Reply #23 on: 22 February 2008, 15:59:12 »

Thanks again - every suggestion of native English speakers is welcome, Alysse :) - Will get to updating the story soon. I also have 2 more pages so far, but I need to finish up a whole idea to post it, so I'm still tweaking things. I'm confident however that I can finish the story this weekend - and next weekend should be regular update time then if everything works well.
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« Reply #24 on: 23 February 2008, 01:29:44 »

Changes were made, two things I've kept, though: The "seize the day", as "opportunity" would have been a repetition, and it's a nice proverb I guess. The other thing where I didn't add anything is the introduction of Jovdur. This is an intentional moment to keep the reader interested in starting the next chapter. The character is introduced as we go along bit by bit later. The passage would lose effect if I'd made a proper introduction. He surely introduced himself, but the writer didn't document it, to generate some supense for the reader... :)
« Last Edit: 23 February 2008, 01:31:42 by Artimidor Federkiel » Logged



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« Reply #25 on: 23 February 2008, 05:28:04 »

Ok, here you go - three more pages, starting with "Browninday, 4th of Fallen Leaf"...  Hope you enjoy, at least two more installments still to come, but it should be definitely possible to finish the story this weekend now. Stay tuned!
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« Reply #26 on: 23 February 2008, 22:51:35 »

Ok, guys, I've added another page now, so that I can keep things interesting until the final part will be posted... And if you have followed the story so far it should keep you guessing...

But as they would say in Twin Peaks: The owls are not what they seem. Which poses three questions: Who are the owls anyway? What do they seem (or more precisely: What are they supposed to seem)? And finally: What are they if they are not supposed what they seem? lol

Probably this is the last cliffhanger before I'll post the complete ending. However, this scene is not the ending yet and I need to do a few more pages, as we've just entered the final round of the roller coaster ride. However, the finale should be posted at once I guess, otherwise it might lose the dramatic effect. We'll see...
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« Reply #27 on: 23 February 2008, 23:02:33 »

Phenomenal, phantastic, and phrenetically phun, dear sage.... you have an innate ability to make us hold our collective breath.  I do wish I hadn't read this just before bedtime....     (shivers)
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« Reply #28 on: 23 February 2008, 23:27:50 »

I'm gonna be stubborn and read the whole thing when you've posted the ending lol
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« Reply #29 on: 24 February 2008, 13:48:48 »

I'll try to give the last installment a  look-through tomorrow--there is no way I want to be going through this just before bedtime tonight.  In the light of day I hopefully won't need my blanket... :D

Alysse
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