The Italian sun was lazily strolling across the sky, sending his rays down to bake the land. It was a hot day and everything was still and sleepy. Everything? No, not everything.
In the middle of a parched field a bizarre sight awaited the curious observer. Not that there were any observers. It was too hot to be doing anything, even something as undemanding as observing. Especially if it involved walking around in the middle of the day under that sun.
But if there was an observer, they would surely notice that in the middle of the field there was a bright red heart. Nine swords of all shapes and sizes were attached to it, pointy side in, and it was bleeding. Now that was quite strange. But it was not the strangest thing about this heart. The strangest thing about it was that it was still beating.
The sun continued steadily on his journey towards the zenith. And then it was noon. The church bells of the nearby village started to ring. The pulse of the beating heart became stronger and stronger and the embedded swords began to twist and turn like living things, their colour turning duller, their hilts melting and taking on different shapes. I’ll spare you the details… let’s just say it was messy. But when the echo of the last bell toll drifted away, there was no heart and no sword anywhere in sight.
In their place there was a young man. He was tall, slim and extraordinarily beautiful. If you had been there, you would have noticed that everything about him was perfect. It would indeed have been hard not to notice, given that he was, in fact, naked. Perhaps that’s not entirely true though. He did after all have a violin. He calmly looked around. His gaze focussed on something briefly and he seemed satisfied. He turned to the south and lifted the violin. He started to play.
And then everything changed. The sound coming out of that violin wasn’t like anything you have ever heard. It started as a simple slow tune. And then it became faster. And bigger. And deeper. It swirled and swelled, it jumped and dived. It did things no violin song had ever done in those parts before. It wanted to be noticed. It was calling out to someone.
Someone appeared over the small hill the man was facing. It was a woman, followed by a few sheep. Her clothes were simple, but at least she was dressed. She was young, though not as young as he, and seemed flushed and a bit sweaty. In her defence we have to say that it was a hot day after all and she had been climbing a hill… but it wouldn’t be the whole truth.
As she walked towards him, she had eyes only for him. So she didn’t notice the changes taking place all around her. She didn’t see the grass turning greener and taller, she paid no heed to the flowers springing out all around her bare feet. She was enthralled, lost in the music, her body and soul captivated by the musician.
What happened next I’d rather not describe in any detail. But I do wonder how the music didn’t stop, since the musician’s hands were fully occupied elsewhere. It was late afternoon when the shepherdess set off again. They must have had exchanged some words, because soon after she returned to him with clothes, a horse and some coin. Where she found them I don’t want to guess. They seemed too valuable to have belonged to anyone in her own household. At any rate, she must have thought their afternoon together had been worth it. Or she was still bewitched. Her eyes were bright and her smile wide as she waved him goodbye.
The musician rode on, through the night and well into the next morning. If any bandits or thieves were tempted by his rich attire, they did not act upon it. Perhaps it was because he was often playing the violin or whistling. A strange peacefulness surrounded him like a cloud the whole way.
Eventually he reached a palace, set on top of a gentle hill. He stopped in front of a tall gate. There was no guard, no handle and no bell. The gate was made of seven wicked looking swords, a huge golden lion’s head towering over them. The musician got off the horse. He stared straight into the lion’s eyes. If you were there, you would have sworn the lion stared back.
Will you not ever give up? How many times do you want my swords to hack your body into little pieces and pierce your heart? Will you not ever learn?
The voice had the weight and texture of old bronze, if such a thing is at all possible. But the musician did not flinch.
‘I want to play on the Worldbuilder’, he said cheerfully, with a hint of defiance. His voice was sweet and rough at the same time, the kind of voice that stirs passions and awakens secret desires. ‘You know I will not give up. I cannot give up. Every time you tear me apart I become stronger. My desire can only grow.’
The swords rattled and the whole hill trembled with the lion’s roar.
Your desire? The Worldbuilder is not a game. It was not made with your satisfaction in mind. It is a powerful tool, dangerous in the wrong hands. Your hands!
Then there was silence. The musician was not perturbed. He just thought it wise not to say anything at that point.
So what do you plan to do if I let you near it?
The musician did not believe his ears. He could sense the lion was not as absolute as all the other times he had managed to get this far before. He would let him play! But he had to convince him first. ‘Words cannot fully explain’, he started. ‘I wish to express my joy, my love, my appreciation to all that is, was and will ever be… I know you can stop me. But please let me play. It is not true that I have learned nothing. Every time your swords hacked away at me, they took away some falseness, some pride, some imperfection. They taught me pain and they taught me truth. They taught me life. Every time I came back purer, stronger, more real. I now only have one wish. I just wish to play… for the sake of playing. For beauty and fun and life!’
Nice try. Humility doesn’t suit you, you know. But it seems you have actually learned something. You get one chance. If you mess it up, you’ll beg for the mercy of the swords.
The swords parted then. He walked through the gate and into a garden. In the middle stood the Worldbuilder. It was massive, yet delicate, every detail perfect, carved with patience and dedication. He trembled with anticipation. He tentatively touched one key. There were no observers allowed here. But if they were there, and if they weren’t totally bemused and distracted by the all other wondrous things going on in that garden, they could have seen an apple tree bloom at the pressing of that single key. With a feral smile, the musician applied himself to the task of making the best music of his life.
Images from the Lo Scarabeo Tarot of the Master (Vacchetta).
Once upon a time there was a girl. She was like other girls, vain and silly, sometimes timid, others stubborn. But she was also kind and funny, strong, witty and strangely wise. She was, to put it simply, a girl. She liked to wander in the forest and play with the pixies, the rabbits and the trees. And she liked to dream… a lot. In her head whole stories and plots would play out; fairies would dance and trick innocent young men, dragons would save the fair maidens and burn the wicked witches, valiant heroes would go on dangerous quests and return victorious and attractively battle-scarred… you get the picture. She would also put herself in the stories, often as a princess or a wizard’s apprentice, or both. Why not? Anything is possible, she would say to herself and chuckle. Read the rest of this entry »
The air was cold and crisp, the night sky sparkled and burst into lightning with the excess energy discharged occasionally by the frustrated dragon. She beat her wings with force, dislodging air with a vengeance, but it didn’t really make her feel any better. She looked down on Sister Island and the group of female dragons that rested there. They were gossiping and cackling, the sound of their malice reaching up to taunt and torture her. They had seen her, she knew. She was the target of their spite quite often, one of their favourite subjects. ‘Stupid lizards’, she hissed. A little plume of smoke accompanied the statement. She kept flying, venting her anger and pain. She closed her eyes and navigated by instinct, feeling the differences in temperature, playing with the little variations in pressure. ‘None of you slithering serpents can do that‘, she thought to herself and laughed out loud, savouring her little victory. Read the rest of this entry »
Our story starts with a lonely dragon. He sat alone in the winter forest and stared inconsolable into the pool. His own reflection stared back, his magic lazily making sparkles at the edge of the pool. ‘What am I to do? I feel so bored!’ he thought, and pondered and then pondered some more. Darzul was a young dragon, and if his magic was strong, he wasn’t yet very wise in the ways of the world. ‘I need to go on a quest or something. Just by sitting here nothing fun is ever going to happen. And I need to gain experience, learn something, do something impressive even. Or at least useful.’ Read the rest of this entry »
Once upon a time there was a guard. He was a careless guard and very lazy. He would often spend his time on watch dreaming with eyes open, his miserable narrow fantasy filling with images of taverns and tavern wenches, and the filthy things we wanted to do to them. Many a wench had suffered in his hands and they all now avoided him in the village by the castle. But that was not the worst. He would so be engrossed in his little fantasies that he barely took note of what happened around him. Lovers would sneak out on his watch to meet in the forest. Thieves could slip by him silently in the night, creeping into the lower levels of the castle. But that was not the worst either. Read the rest of this entry »
‘Have you found it yet? I thought you knew these maps inside out.’ The scholar sighed. ‘It’s not as easy as all that, you know. You didn’t bring me many clues. A fortress of temptations, a forest where the phoenix roosts, a mysterious ancient artefact… You know how many of these there are in these parts? Lots. And these maps aren’t exactly new. Or accurate. So there. Why don’t you go for a gallop to let off some steam and let me concentrate? Bring some herbs for the soup too while you’re at it.’ Read the rest of this entry »
Dreamghost awaits in it’s chamber. Tall, cool, beautiful and deadly. It listens to the whispers of the winds, bringing news in wisps of dreams as they slither round the tall chamber. ‘He’s coming’ they’re whispering. ‘He was awakened to her call…’ As the skies turn and align for the moment it’s been waiting for, Dreamghost feels it. And it waits. Read the rest of this entry »
Delavelflort was fuming. He was not happy. The cats just sat there and pointedly ignored him which only made it worse. They clearly blamed him for everything. The rocky cavern offered no respite either, no distraction, he could feel his thoughts bouncing back with intensity and torturing him. He fumed some more but it didn’t make him feel any better. ‘Stippel…’
‘Oh will you shut up already’, said one of the cats. He could never tell them apart, not even before the Accident.
Read the rest of this entry »
There is a meadow next to a river, far to the west from here, near the Naked Mountains. In the spring it’s full of dandelions and bunnies, the wind blows softly and the insects buzz around all day long. It’s a pretty and peaceful meadow and if you happened to walk past, you wouldn’t notice very much happening at all… unless you knew the secret of the song. Because if you knew, and if you managed to be there at just the right time, you would witness the Passing of the Trumpeter Swan. Read the rest of this entry »
The magician looked up half-excited, half-horrified, the blue and yellow shadows dancing madly all around him, intoxicating fumes and smells whirling in his head. ‘Too late to regret it now’ he thought. A quick peak at what was rising out of the big ceremonial cup and he wanted to retreat inside his tall purple hat. But no, that was not an option. ‘I must do this’, he told himself.
‘Do what?’ asked an amused deep voice. Read the rest of this entry »
Starlily was a beautiful and kind maiden of the star people. She lived in her star in the skies and shone her light upon the worlds. But she was young and restless and sometimes felt very lonely, so she decided to go down onto a planet to learn of earthbound life and talk with the trees and the birds and the people who lived there. There were two tribes of people living on the peninsula where she landed, the stone people and the flower people. The stone people were big in stature, but very gentle and dreamy, they loved the winds and the sea and the open vistas and they built their homes into the living rock at the craggy hills near the sea. The flower people were tiny in size and they lived in the thick undergrowth of the forest, rich in smells and lush flowers, under which they found shelter and thought of as their homes. They were joyful and bright and loved the earth and colourful things. The two tribes lived in harmony with each other and the world for as long as the oldest tree in the forest could remember, which is to say for a long long long time. Read the rest of this entry »