Tales from Forgotten Europa

Ruins

Some stones burn, others char and blacken, and still others bear the flames and live on

His boots are a supple gorgeous black, hand-tooled and embellished with interpretations of curls, wings, leaves, and vines. Silver fastenings and silken ties secure them to his legs. Ancient boots, meticulously cared for, and veteran of untold wheels of travels. He kicks over a broken shard of whitish stone, leaving a small grey scuff on the toe. He notices it. He always notices such things.

There is no scent for him to notice, but he does anyway. He can smell woodsmoke, and the more acrid tang of other things burnt beyond recovery. He can taste the past on the still air, even though the fires burned down decades ago. He hunkers down over his gleaming boot-tops and draws up a handful of loose scree. it sifts through his fingers slowly, sand passing through the neck of an hourglass, time unceasing. But time has never mattered and never will. He turns up his ancient eyes to the watery Octubrim sun and squints. Hours, days, seasons, years, none of it matter in the grand scheme.

He stands up, brushing his leather gauntlets against his breeches and surveys the lay of the land. The hillock has somehow remained untouched since the fire. Deeds and tithing ensure that none have encroached but for the flora. Shrubs and bushes, grasses forcing their way up through the seams of old flagstones. Boulders and slabs of broken rock. A dwarf might be lured closer and notice the caliber of the stone all around him. Instead of granite and fieldstone, these ruins are comprised of the finest alabaster and marble from far off Istanbul and Carthage. Tons of the finest white stone, all tumbled down and forgotten, covered with the patina of decades of weather. Still, enough remains to build a manor house, such was the breadth and scope of the towers that stood here not a manling’s lifetime ago. Now all down to rocks and stones and dust, sifting through the elf’s fingers.

He turns, his rich brocade cloak spinning around him and he faces his mate, stunning even in her drab city attire. Rich, voluminous crimson velvet done in an antiquated Spanish style, the very picture of eldritch beauty, save the scowl she greets him with. She does not wish to be here, reminded of so much, the memories returning unbidden with brutal clarity. No, she’d much rather be somewhere else, damn near anywhere else.

He has come to see and to think. He knows to go to the beginning, to where things start. Home and hearth, blueprint and plan, all things have a birthplace, a start point. And even this blackened, forgotten ruin is a birthplace as well as an end-place. This is where things changed, where he evolved into something more, where all of his kith and kin grew and changed or withered and died. Here, tucked into a pocket park and a small, valiant copse of alabaster towers, he sees the years gone by, the blood spilled, and the decisions made.

His decisions made, he moves to join his mate, offers her his arm, and leads her out to the cobbles, to the carriage parked over long-gone bloodstains that he can still see. Of course he can still see them, just as he can still smell the smoke and fire in the wind. Decisions made.

“Let us go and find our son.”

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The Mad Viking

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