Dimmed and spaced far enough apart, the lights of the room have been recently replaced but that does nothing to brighten the downtrodden and battered appearance of the place which is in a constant state of almost darkness. A makeshift stage sits in a far corner. A few groups of bottles stand tall on the bar and on several new tables that stand out in stark contrast to their battered and beaten older counterparts. A square placard with the words, "Sports Betting" is nailed to a door leading beneath the bar. For the locals, and those who were familiar with the true face of Lugard, it was known that the word “Sports” was not used in its original meaning here.
Crowds of people gather in front the long oak bar that stretches the full length of the room, ordering drinks, chattering or just scheming. An old Thiefbane Most Wanted board is hanging from the wall next to the restroom. Holes decorate that board, along with a dozen metal-tipped darts and a few knives with broken handles. A string of festive multi-colored lanterns is strung around, lighting up everything with flashes of bright red, brilliant yellow, shimmering green and twinkly blue.
Kordin sits in an inviting, black velvet armchair. Motioning to Teben to stand beside him, as he produces a dark wood and iron smoking pipe, carved as if a small, iron gauntlet was holding a keg in its grip. He began filling the bowl of his pipe loosely with tobacco, pressing it lightly down with a tamper tool. In the mean time, Teben began to assemble what appeared to be a small puppet stand, but without any sort of curtains or decorative trim.
Kordin lit his pipe with a small sulphur match, taking in gentle draws on the pipe. With a circular motion, he moved the match in the bowl to ensure the tobacco was evenly lit. Taking a few slow and steady puffs, he glanced towards Teben as the young, avid Illuminator worked on a contraption, attaching it to the stand.
Kordin puffed a bit more, the gauntlet-carved pipes bowl lighting up as the tobacco burns inside. 'There is a village, reached through a cleft in the hills, via a broken, ancient stone roadway, over the Mount Sardlen in north-western Murandy.' He says and holds up a small wooden,tube-shaped device to his mouth. It appears to look like a kaleidoscope but there are no reflecting surfaces inside of it, only tiny rings with various carved patterns.
The old Illuminator pulled on the pipe, the bowl lighting up bright orange as if some power is being drawn, and blows the smoke through the mirrorless kaleidoscope. The smoke exits slowly forming into a shape of a few houses, floating in the air and settling perfectly in the frame of the puppet stand.
He pointed with the pipe towards the smoke. 'The village of Hinderstap.' He continues telling the story, as Teben crouches behind the stand, searching for something. 'Hinderstap was subject to a horrible act of evil. Touched by the Shadow. The villagers....' He paused, frowning and scratching his beard, as if trying to find the right words. 'Well, best to tell their stories as told to me by some Wisdoms and Aes Sedai. With a bit of help from fire and smoke...' He began to grin impishly, catching himself and frowning again.
Teben stood up holding a small carved electrum firestarting torch in one hand, and holding an orange in the other hand, wearing a leather fireproof glove.
'A villager by the name of Madry, bought an old house there, with her husband. The house was just on the outskirts of the village. Long abandoned and in a bad shape. He was to deal with construction, while she was to remove old wallpapers from some of the rooms.' Kordin continued as he taped the pipe on the armrest on the chair, and noded at Teben. The avid Illuminator lit the carved electrum torch and held it to the orange, flaming it. 'She told the Wisdom who treated her, that the removal was brutal, but oddly satisfying. Best felt when getting a long peel, similar to when peeling skin after a sunburn.'
The young, avid Illuminator set the torch aside on a holder in the stand, and then drew a dark steel daggger with a copper hilt from a small sheath on his belt.
'Madry noticed that under a corner section of ever wallpaper in every room were a persons name and a date.' Kordin spoke again, still gently tapping the pipe on the armrest. 'One day as they were visiting Lugard, she saw a Thiefbane, and curiosity got the best of her. She asked for his opinion and found out that those names were missing persons, and dates matched to when they were last seen.'
Teben began to cut the orange, taking a long peel rich with pith, and held it over the carved electrum torch.
'The next week, a few Thiefbane were at their house, along with an Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah, studying the wallpaper, names and dates.'
Kordin paused as Teben squeezes the peel, causing some orange oil to squirt on the torch. The flames roared as if enraged by the presence of the fruit.
'The Thiefbane confirmed the names and dates matched all the missing persons reports they've had.'
Kordin took another long pull at the pipe, twisted the strange kaleidoscope with the fingers of his other hand and blew the smoke through it again. 'Madry stood close to them all, curious and happy her life has gotten some exctiement in it. Until she overheard the Aes Sedai speak with her Warder. "Yes, human indeed."'
'She wondered what could they be talking about.' The smoke slowly began taking shape of a screaming womans face. Teben squeezed the oil from the orange peel, causing the flames to roar, and the faster he did it, a sort of screeching sound could be heard from the torch.
Kordin finished speaking as the screaming smoke face passed the torch and settle within the frame of the stand. '"My dear Madry, where is the material you already removed from the walls?"' said the Aes Sedai, '"This is not wallpaper that you were removing."' Teben droped the orange onto the torch, the flames roaring higher than before and wider, almost as if creating a small fireball, englufing the smoke-face that settled, burning it and acompanying with another strange, scream-like sound.
Kordin adjusts himself in the armchair, leaning back and using his left leg to push off of the table, balancing the armchair on its hind legs. 'Now the poultry farmers wife..poor soul still locked in the Tower of Tar Valon, tended to by Yellow Ajah, while studied by Brown and probably some other as well..' He puffed a bit more, the smoke from the pipe was now filling the room with smell of aromatic wood.
He drew deeply on the pipe again and blew, the kaleidoscope-looking tube cutting the smoke into various shapes. One was of a rooster, that seemed to chase another in the shape of a circle, slowly floating towards the stand and Teben, then suddenly lifting ever so slightly up to settle in front of the torch.
'If she speaks, she repeats the same story over and over. She woke, saw the rooster out the window, standing at his usual spot in front of the hen house, anticipating sunrise and preparing to sound off.'
Kordin's eyebrows narrow and a grim look settles on his face, as he puffs on the pipe. Teben hangs tiny pouchs, almost looking like little bags of tea, on the stand. They dangle around the smoke shapes, before suddenly bursting into flames that twist and turn, appearing to be long fingernails and the smell of aromatic wood is temporarily replaced by a repungent odour of sulphur.
'Twas then she felt and smelled something like long, rotting nails piercing through her chest, while another rotten hand muffles her screams.'
The odour of sulphur retreated, and the aromatic smell of wood and herbs returned. Kordin taped his pipe on the side of the armrest again, bit of burnt leaves and ash fall out of the pipe on the floor below. 'Then, she claims to wake up and sit bolt upright, relieved it was only a dream.' He glances into the bowl of his pipe. 'But as she looks outside again, she sees the rooster only just walking towards his spot in front of the hen house.' He pauses to puff on the pipe again, using another lit match to keep the tobacco burning. 'Then, she claims to hear the door of their bedroom closet, creak open...and it all repeats again...'
He blew the smoke through the tube as he finished speaking, the smoke exiting the peculiar kaleidoscope in the shape of an arm. 'Then there is Tobrad, the village lumberjack. Woke up one day with his left arm simply gone. No blood, no open wound, the arm was just gone. The Wisdoms from Remen told him he might experience a sensation known as "a phantom limb", from time to time.'
Teben put some powder on the palm of his left hand and blew it over the torch and into the smoke, as Kordin produced a small cube from a pocket, appearing to be made of something crystallic and with an orange hue, and threw it into the flying particles of the powder the avid Illuminator blew. As the cube ignited, Teben cut it with a quick horizontal slash with the dark steel dagger.
'However, nobody prepared Tobrad for the moments when he felt searing fingers brush across his phantom arm, grab it, burn it and twist it.' Kordin spoke as the cut flames of the ignited cube spread over the smoke arm in the shape of a hand with stilletto-like fingers.
He paused a bit, waiting for the flames to die out and teben to clear the smoke with a small fan, essentially clearing the invisible canvas, framed by the wooden stand. As the young Illuminator noded, Kordin continued, rubbing the gauntlet-carved pipe in his hands. 'The mayor, Barlden, a good, hard-working man...they said one day, after negotiation for supplies with the Lugardians, he came home to see his wife sitting at the kitchen table, cradling their child.'
Kordin again puffed on the pipe and blew through the tube, which was clearly now a brush for the fresh canvas on which the story was painted with smoke and fire. The smoke slowly took the form of a young woman, and as another made its way out the kaleidoscope-like tube and towards it, it slowly transformed into a baby being cradled in the arms of the woman.
He looked at the smoke-made painting, an expression of weight on his face. 'The mayor then stopped in his tracks, froze and turned pale, completely catatonic. Wisdoms, Aes Sedai, scholars from all over, are unsure to this day...' Teben took a pinch of powder from another pouch, and with a swift move of his hand, like a painter making an upward stroke with a brush, dispersed the powder over the smoke. With his other hand he quickly lit a match below it. The powder ignited but it seemed to have attached itself to the smoke. The image of woman and child just burnt out of existance like a fuse.
Kordin looked away from the smoke, his eyes falling on the pipe in his hands. '...which was more frightening and soul crushing- him seeing his dead wife and stillborn child...' He raised his head, a blank expression on his old face. '..or knowing that someone broke into his home to place them there.'
He placed the pipe between his lips, puffing slowly, looking at nothing in particular, as Teben prepared some kind of thick matches, tying them to the frame of the stand, all connected with some kind of thin fuses. 'Sammrie...' Kordin began to speak again. 'Sammrie the village cooper...some of other villages who survived, say that sleep did not come easily to him. He'd often ask them if they saw "them".'
The thin fuses burnt out quickly and the thick matches were lit one by one. Smoke from each match slowly settling in the frame and taking shape. Various faces were formed and the burning of the matches created an eeire sound.
Kordin continued 'He thought his home was full of portraits when he moved there. Portraits he didn't remove for unknown reasons. Only portraying the deformed..' He pointed with his pipe towards the various faces in the smoke, all floating in the air, movement making them seem as if alive. '...the decrepit, and the damned. But when his home was investigated, no portraits were found, only windows.'
Kordin tapped the pipe again, spilling some more ash on the ground and puffed on it again, watching as Teben extinguished the matches and faned away the smoke. 'And finally, among the lucky few survivors...if lucky they can be called....little Fayliene.' He shook his head and frowned, glaring at a spot on the floor. 'Her mother was the seamstress...'
A few of the matches fuses were lit again. Smoke filling the frame of the stand again from the first match to ignite. A shape of a puppy appeared as the smoke settled. 'Her mother told her never to go into the basement of their house, but young Fayliene wanted to see the puppy. She could hear it, making noises. At least it sounded like a puppy.'
Kordin took a few more slow puffs, as Teben put a small glass orb over the puppy-shaped smoke, slowly bringing it down on the stand, the shape never losing its form. 'One day she opened te floorhatch leading to the basement and tiptoed down a bit. She saw no puppy...' As he said that, Teben smashed the glass orb, smoke escaping and disappearing. '...and then her mother yanked her out and yelled at her.' Another match lit up but died out quickly.
The short moment it was lit, a screeching sound could be heard. 'The seamstress never yelled at her daughter, so it made Fayliene cry. She told her never to go down there again...'
Kordin takes two short puffs and blows both through the kaleido-tube. The two smokes creating an image of a chipped cookie. '...and she gave her a cookie.' Pausing for a bit, as teben adjusted the remaining matches, their lit fuses almost igniting them. 'The child told the Aes Sedai of Yellow Ajah who now care for her, or perhaps even study her...'
The last of the matches lit up and smoke was gathering again. Kordin stopped pushing away from the table, the armchairs front legs gently returning to the floor. '...that the cookie made her feel better, after her mother yelled at her.' He leaned forward, taking another puff of smoke from the pipe. 'Therefore she never asked her mother why the boy in the basement was making noises like a puppy...'
The gathering smoke took shape of a young man's body. Teben held two pinches of powder above the smoke image.
Kordin sighed heavily and finished. '...or why he had no hands or feet.' As he did, Teben let go of the powder between his fingertips and it fell down on the sides of the image. Igniting the limbs of the smoke image, the sound of the power burning again reminding of screams.
Kordin stood up from the armchair, a gloom look on his face. 'And that is the tale of the village of Hinderstap...touched by the Shadow...and forever changed. It's residents dead, or wishing they were...'
...for in character discussions, contributions and stories.
4 posts • Page 1 of 1
Originally thought I'd try to make this a show, but it ended up too long, not very Lumi-ish. Got some solid feedback, but eventually gave up on rewritting it for the Xth time, in the end. So after a quick, probably bad edit - here it is as a short story instead.
Kordin, you could be a Gleeman. But whether that’s a compliment or not, I couldn’t say. Thanks for posting.
Kordin is always gold