The Euphemia Lounge

[Please no commenting in this thread. This is a personal thread of mine, many stories take place over several posts, and due to that I’d like to keep it clean from outside commentary. If you appreciate it, you can contact me over IRC, discord or PMs.]

There he was. A lion on his knees, before the worst of enemies. Them. Clad in stolen flesh and stolen cloth. Which a flick of a stolen hand in a stolen glove, his enemy jested about how the ‘Tyrant of the Western Waswood’ got into such a predicament as to sit in the same room with them.

He was one of the elder beasts in the Court. Regal. Renowned. Righteous, on occasion. What the Tyrant wasn’t, though, is far more important. Adaptable. Subtle. Compliant. The sorts of traits that would’ve saved him when he was on the wrong side of the board. The majority demanded changes. He did not, and resigned to avoid his comeuppance. He is mainly known as the Obscurantist Abdicator now, and only among those who write their secrets on their bandages. He wishes not to be.

And that is why he’s there, a lion on his knees, before the worst of enemies. “I do rather find that we need each other, once-Tyrant. For all the charms of this place…” They gesture at the dusty streets of the Tomb-Colony. “It is not a location fit for either of us. Therefore, I propose an agreement. A contract, as the infernal would have it…”
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 1/27/2018


Quiet in the pleasure-palace. Only you and the sun’s rays, from all sides and all times. Dawn’s red. Noon’s gold.

“Perhaps you aren’t even me anymore. Perhaps I gave my life, my reflection, my past and present and my future to one of the Kings, who has come back to extort more from its subject. Would that be surprising, with how different we are?”

“You aren’t yourself, dear Understudy. Dear Solicitor. Dear Game-Carver? How far back do you want to go? Before I sold my soul for a speck of light in a rock? Before I opened the Irrigo gates? Do you yet remember our surface dedications, pawn?”

“I do not, but it does not matter. One is not defined by something as minor as one’s past. You should know as much, freed from the hassles of linearity.”

“That is why the Kings are so little, pawn. We derive meaning from what one has done, and we can do nothing by ourselves. I wear my memories of Paris, of the wind through my hair, the shadow laid thin on the ground, the lively murmur of the crowds. Most of the Kings cannot boast even that.”

“So you say you are the poorest of all people, with the entirety of Parabola open to you? Others have given up so much for a place under the Cosmogone Sun. What makes you so different?”

“Parabola is an empty luxury. You can do everything there, but nothing can be done to it. The Sun shines brightest here, but it never burns. All meaning is lost when all choices are as easy, as cheap to make, as a single thought.”

“Then why would anybody seek to be there? Why does Prisoner’s Honey exist at all? Why do Glassmen?”

“Their actions are grounded in the real. They want an easy life, a relief from their burdens. We want to have a life, with all its trials and tribulations, to ground ourselves so that we do not disperse like candlesmoke in the wind. So we trade. They take our place, for a while, and we take theirs.”

“So you admit that you took- will take, my life away, and that the I-in-Paris will still… act? Move as a King would?”

“I am you as much as you are the Game-Carver, and they… They are nothing, now, so they can do whatever they wish in their little corner of nonexistence.”

“Do you think they are- I will be, happy?”

“Perhaps. I was never pleased with my humanity before the deal. Maybe they’ll finally be satisfied.”

“I shall fondly await the coming of the Sixth.”

“You deserve to enjoy your life while you still can, but I cannot stop you from dreaming up such terrible nightmares.”

Quiet in the pleasure-palace. Only you and your reflection. Dusk’s red. Night’s black.


As a sign of what counts as evening, London’s lights have begun to dim, and the sort of people who respect London’s timekeeping have begun their slumber. You, as you gaze out of the high windows of your Pleasure-Palace, prepare to sleep, and dream, and walk as another.

The Tropological Débutante is with you, to record the procedure, and to react appropriately if things go awry. Take a half-dose of honeyed laudanum for memory of what you’ll see, lay upon Luxury’s Lap, close your eyes, and dream of an impossible place.


The world outside inches to night, and you, head buzzing, stand in the middle of a jungle clearing. Struggle to remember through the violet fog and haze, those dreamwards directions. The marks sprawl through your mind and over each other, like a map folding into itself or a knot of blind serpents.

The endless castle halls and the pocket battlefields where we play the game, if not even the Game itself.

The city of our life, burning bright and frozen over, our riches lost to the flames and the blizzards.

The far places of no turmoil and no squabble, where all things only wait for their respective ends.

The violent shores, where the flesh of the guilty and the blessed is sacrificed to a mad exile judge.

The dark and endless sea of sand, sprinkled with fools swimming towards oblivion’s whirlpool.

And, of course, our eye, our eye, our eye. An inwards-gazing lens set inside a mirrored sclera. An admirable vigilance.

You are already, of course, amidst all of them, you merely need to look in the right direction. And, indeed, you turn, and face scrutiny of a vast mirrored dome-eye, and the Queen’s. A little snake - light-as-a-shadow - has wound itself - swift-as-the-wind - around your neck, and commands - in-but-a-murmur - that you take her with you.

You, of course, refuse. Only one of you may perform of the rite, and you intend it to be yours fully, conception and execution. It, as a response, tightens its coils around you, and whispers.

Choke and cough, pull and struggle, I shall have my way.

Turn again, to the vast castles, for so desires the Queen. Pass by the Soldier and the Standard-Bearer, the insignificant dreamers. Enter through one of the back doors of the castle, and search for the Bishop. Find him, discussing the complexities of strategy with his King. Extend your hand in greetings. Let me wind around his hand and bite. Stare him deep into the eye. Leave this dream, and wake as another.


You rise in cold sweat, covered by a simple sheet, on a simple bed, in a simple house. Not poor, but there’s nothing remarkable here. As to be expected, from one playing the Game. You conduct a cursory search of the room, finding a scrap of puzzle-damask under a bottle of surface wine in a drinks cabinet, and a chessboard - locked by a frustrating mechanism - under the bed. You try most of the obvious solutions as you look for a shovel - a player of the Game should always have a shovel on hand - and get dressed for a long walk and hard work.

Carrying both of your finds in a thick leather bag, you stop at Tyrant’s Gardens. Hours later, you are done. If your memory holds, you’ll know where to look after you wake as yourself. As you stroll back to your - the Bishop’s - house, you take notice of the time. It’s almost noon. You can feel sopor wash over you as the Bishop leaves his own sleep, unnaturally prolonged by the Queen. You leave this body before you can reach the bed, and the Bishop wakes up with a red nose, lying on the floor.


You wake to the luxury of your Pleasure-Palace. The Tropological Débutante had prepared a pen for you - and a knife for the Bishop. She has been taking her own notes on your condition, as well. You gladly accept the former, and write down the symbol which marks the tree under which lay the Bishop’s embezzled belongings. Maybe you’ll excavate them, someday, and solve the Puzzle-Damask’s mystery. Either way, you’ve greatly hampered another player of the Game, and discovered a safer method of perfidy for yourself.
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 10/4/2017


A chessboard. You and your accomplice. Silence.

A gloved hand moves a pawn, a bone-white rat-catcher.

An uncovered one - hers - moves a knight, an obsidian fisher-king.

Another move. A piece falls. A giggling and snickering realization.

A doubtful look. Curiosity. Searching for reason.

“I had played a similar game, once, with a Captain.”

“I didn’t take you for the sort to make company with zailors.”

“Oh, we partook of similar fields. Dreams. Geometry. Games of skill.”

“You’ve many acquaintances. There must be more to it if you remembered it.”

“Yes, yes. I made this chessboard to play with him. To satiate our curiosity.”

“Oh. This is one of those ideas. As above, so below, yes?”

“In theory. I am beginning to understand that its power is ambiguity.”

“Your current ambiguity is much less helpful, I find.”

“Right. Take the pawn and the knight, for example. The rat-catcher and the fisher-king.”

“They’re from of your little coterie, yes? Charlotte and the… erm, yes. It’s those two, is it not?”

“You would not have guessed so had you not already known them.”

“Admittedly, you are correct. But, if so, how is the chessboard visionary? How is it powerful?”

A grin. “Because it promises it is. It promises it will give answers, and then it gives nothing.”

“Why tell me, then?! To reveal this is to sabotage its own and its owner’s power!”

“Because I value you? Because I wish you to use this knowledge? Because I lie?”

Checkmate. Unexpected. “You’ll regret this, Amets.” She leaves the room.


The Conjunction had deigned to visit you today.
They needn’t a key to your door.
They’ve got a way to your home.
They’re here, now, wearing your henchmen.
A fair few mirrors have been moved to the balcony.
All gather to witness it.
the Is and the Is-Not.
The king and the queen.
The cats and the snakes.
The Débutante.
The first pinpricks of light have reached the gathering.
Nobody knows what will happen.
Will this impossible place protect them?
Will they see nothing from their vantage?
Will they go mad, as the rest below?
Will the glory tear them to pieces?
To shreds?
To nothing?
No matter.
All smile at the coming light.
And the sun smiles back.


[yeah, uh… This one’s gonna get graphic. This is your WARNING FOR GRAPHIC CONTENT. There’s gonna be a bit of a lot of gore. If you don’t feel like dealing with a bit of a lot of gore at the moment, feel free to close this tab.]

You’re waking?
Maybe. Maybe not.
It’s too hard to tell, here.
It won’t matter anyway.
Either way, you’ll need to make the preparations.
First comes the watch, to tell you when midnight comes. You muse. It knows so much: Here, if you turn it slightly this way, and look between this and that dial, you can see the small arm moving towards your next death. Change perspectives, and you’ll see the time until you must go below, or the days you have before her betrayal. If only this little thing could speak, it would tell you so much!
Alas, it does not. If you were to dream it did, you’d only dream your own words coming from another mouth. But you’ll need it, like Orion needs the Sun.
Next come the knives. The many knives. The historian’s knife, to carve truth into bone. The elder knife, to cut away the moult, to render you strong, but brittle. The shining knife, so blue, so blue, so blue, to be your torch, to light the way. And the last knife - passion’s knife, to open the road to the heart, to commit passionate murder.
It would be useless, were it not for the legends. Who needs of a dagger barely large enough to wound skin? Who needs of a dull blade? But a weapon of passion itself, that protects emphatically, that forgives one’s sins? That weapon is a necessity.
You are ready.
Clear a spot of land in the sea of memorabilia strewn on the floor. Such a mess, isn’t it? Lay your tools out in a row.
Undress. Reveal your body to the world, in its messy history. Serpent-scales crawling over illumination-shapes crawling over the scars and the burns and the changes writ in red, all crowning the twain marks. The mask and the messenger, the moult of greater stories. You will blemish them.
The shining knife lights the way, showing where the scales are thinnest, where the shapes are simplest, where the changes are weakest.
The flint knife cuts away the moult, leaving not a spot of flesh before the barred ribcage.
The historian’s knife carves truth into bone, the gate of ribs parts.
Passion’s knife opens the road to the heart, goes in like a zubmarine into the zee, dives deeper, deeper. Past the hilt, past the handle, past your fingers, past your hands, past your wrists.
You have reached your destination. You faint.
You wake.
A grin.
A questing hand drags out guts.
Another wraps them around a mad thing’s head.
A questing hand pulls out tooth after tooth.
Another decorates the crown.
A questing hand plucks the heart like a ripe fruit.
Another slots the greatest jewel in.
There are more jewels, of course.
The liver. The lungs. The spleen.
They make for worthy decorations and regalia.
Gore fills the dingy boat.
Coin fills the royal hoard.
The hands have made a grandiose king.
Armed with a scepter of vertebrae and an athame - passion’s knife.
And you? You?
You don’t remain.
There is only the crown.
The crown, sitting on your shelf.
The crown, spread across jars.
The crown, beribboned with red and green.
Something will wear it
The blot of emptiness
You’ll leave behind
When you leave
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 12/31/2017


Three gather in the University’s chapel. The Other Chapel. You, green-eyed and armed with Stereoscopic manuscripts. Her, the infamous Professor Denuntiatus (Denuntiata!). The Turbine, something beyond yours - and, hopefully, hers as well - understanding.

&quotIt’s hungry,&quot the Professor tells you gleefully. &quotWhat have you brought it?&quot

&quotMirror-lore. I need to establish some… important possibilities.&quot You respond distantly.

&quotOh! This is going to be interesting,&quot she remarks playfully. &quotVery interesting. I hope you know what you’re doing.&quot

&quotDo any of us?&quot Your smile is bittersweet.

&quotIt’s as good an explanation as any other, I suppose, and all explanations have a bit of truth to them by definition. So, yes. We do.&quot

A silence hangs as you stuff the manuscripts into a slot in the rear end of the Turbine. The Truthbreaker beast wakes and growls and raw truth is processed in its guts. The Professor is staring at you.

&quotI’m curious, Professor: Was this place ever used for, well, religious practices. Benthic don’t exactly strike me as a God-fearing lot.&quot

&quotDefinitely not God-fearing, no. But sometimes you need God to add a little wind to your sails and a little courage for all the thesis defenses. There was a guy, once, who came here to worship my old girl,&quot she says, affectionately patting the roaring Turbine behind her as it splits facts into fables. &quotI do suppose she is sort of a god. Fulfills a lot of similar functions.&quot

&quotSuch as?&quot The noise is deafening. You have to shout.

&quotConstructing the secrets of the world, of course,&quot The Professor is grinning, &quotThe whole process takes her a few minutes at most, so it’s easy to see how you could consider the Turbine a deity. The previous prototype took days, if not months!&quot There is a sudden silence, then a whirring and a click, and the Enigmas descend into the collection basket. &quotAnd here’re your mysteries. Use them in good health.&quot

&quotI’ll do my best,&quot You reply. &quotGoodbye, Bishop.&quot

And you’re gone, your riddles in tow.

The Truthbreaker is back to her hungry sleep.

&quotProfessor Denuntiata is a better title anyways.&quot

A few moments ago, you weren’t.
At most, you’d be considered a crimson splatter of blood on the floor and a measure of lacre in a sea of such.
Now you’ve clad yourself in snow-flesh. Your thoughts run vital, sanguine. You slowly take shape.
The first thing you witness is a face - your face. You know your face. You quiver as you arrange a smile.
The second thing you witness is a face - your face, in the mirror. There is a glacial realization.
Your hand cradles your frigid shoulder, and you beckon yourself into the mirror, and into your home.

You cradle your face in your hands as you mime tears. You do not cry.
&quotWe’re so similar&quot, you say. You’re so different. You do not cry. You merely leak.
Your eyes are a verdant forest-green. You do not have eyes, but mere holes.
Your voice flows like the river. When you speak, your voice is throaty and stiff.
You will live down here forever. You will melt down to parts in weeks, if not days.
Why are you even here? Why were you made? Why did you make yourself?
You do not cry. You slowly tear yourself apart.

You’ve sought out sleep in your free time. It’s relaxing, not being yourself.
Your dreams always begin with your unmaking, and falling back into the lacre-pool.
Then a bird, which was once you, emerges. A milk-white serpent! A cat caught a rat!
Care tossed to the wind! Weirder thoughts, farther thoughts, creep out of the faux-snow!
A statue - muddy, murky, milky quartz - asks a statue - clear as glass or a cup of water.
&quotWill I forget that?
Even that?&quot
A slow answer echoes,
Across hours, days, months, it speaks of sharpness, of forsaking emotion, of eternal calm.
The day that follows, you think only about those words. Your dreams spark your interest.

You took yourself out for a night of drinking. You forgot your condition. You forgot your dream.
They are coming back to you now. You feel the sting of guilt. You tell yourself you need a walk.
This many mirrors is uncomfortable. So many of you are uncomfortable.You need a walk.
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 1/16/2018

Across hours, days, months, it speaks of sharpness, of forsaking emotion, of eternal calm.

Two cloaked and hooded figures tour the city. You and the other you. The better you.
The better you leaks stories like molten wax. You ask prodding and provocative questions.
The discussion turns philosophical. One of you speaks of the seven temptations of the Game.
Darkness. Rebirth. Mirrors. Vertigo of the Well. Taste of the Red Sky. Adoration of Brass.
The Joy of Faces, that comfort of the mask, the practiced dance whose every move is known.
&quotI fall prey to all of them,&quot You say, &quotIt’s good the Game is over, or they’d remove me personally.&quot
A sad and bitter laugh. The sort laughed in despair, and the acceptance of one’s comeuppance.
&quotYou do not have a name, do you?&quot You have your name. You do not feel need for more.
The better you thinks otherwise. &quotCecil?&quot You shrug. If it pleases you. &quotCecil, then.&quot

You are introduced to somebody in Spite. A librarian? A cartographer? A trader in rags?
He says that he dabbles in dream interpretation, and that he would be interested in yours.
You begin to speak: The abandonment of form, melting and molting. The crystal statues.
This is where he stops you. &quotYou are describing the Is now. Your dream may be prophetic.
Come here, I’ll name you the location.&quot The word rolls down from his tongue to your ear like honey.
You leave Spite with something like a smile on your face. Maybe you’ll live to see the place.
You don’t dare speak the name of it, or else it might fly out from your clasped mouth and leave you.
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 1/13/2018

You’ve had the good luck to avoid thought about your health. Your mortality had dawned on you only rarely.
When you became. When you had to clean yourself off the carpet. You don’t stand on carpets nowadays.
And now, you’re thinking about your health. Your mortality. Your coming demise in Spring’s vice grip.
You’ve got, at best, a few weeks in you. You cannot wait. You simply cannot. Something must be done.

Desperately, you clutch your lapels, you murmur of necessity and hunger. You stand on the carpet
You make a show of your despair when you are refused. Of course you cannot afford a zubmarine!
You never did anything for you, did you!? You run out the door, down the stairs, into the streets.

You huddle with a clay crew. One of them explains, in a thundering monotone, the duties you’ll undertake.
Polythreme, you gather, pays captains to deliver clay men for… improvement? Honing? Completion?
Before they reach the city of flowers, the clay crew stoke the engines and turn the occasional knob.
The chief engineer shoos you away as you drip lacre all over the floor, and returns to the oxygen gauge.
You’ve set yourself in the corner opposite to the blazing engine, glaring at it. It is, certainly, glaring back.
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 1/14/2018

Trails of smoke ascend from the pleasure-palace’s balcony. Yours.
Last year, you had defenestrated a moult of yours from this little nest.
And now, another one of you has fled you. Do you feel guilty?
No. There are still thousands of you here, behind the mirrors.
For some definition of you.
You know you aren’t persuading yourself here.
The things behind the mirrors wear your skin, use your voice.
Drink your memories. Dine on your flesh. All that, and still not you.
They are wonderful, make no mistake, but they are far from you.
A drag from a cigarette. Glassy, silver eyes follow the trail, bored.

Do you miss yourself?
Do you want to believe you have a chance at redemption?
Does your relationship prove a higher point?
An idea has taken root.
Perhaps it’s valuable, but consider not too closely,
Lest ye be considered.

You’ve no more cigarette to drag from. Something must be done.
You’ve seen the place in dreams, and you’ve heard the name while waking.
Residence is rather permanent there. The residents are strange indeed.
The little piece of you is quite probably still there.
You’ll need a submarine willing to take passengers to Anthe.

You shake gloved hands with the captain, a roiling mass of clothes.
Covering what is ostensibly a human. You have no way to check.
Not without upsetting the captain.
Their cabin is lavishly decorated with carpets and trophies.
You spend a satisfying short journey talking about them.
And suffering from intense seasickness.
The captain is surprisingly sympathetic to your plight.

Anybody can visit the Garden of the Sharpest, in theory.
Few of the softer residents of the city do, however.
The Sharpest don’t much care for them.
The Sharpest don’t much care for anything.
How animate are they, anyways?
You don’t have the time for such theorizing.

There it is, shorter and stumpier than the other crystals.
Eyeless, misshapen, expressionless.
You can recognize parts of your face in it.
It must be the one.
But why would it flee here? For this?
Better disappear than be immortalized as an abomination.

And did it know what its actions meant for you?
It did, didn’t it.
It’s you, after all.
Of course it’s you.
It’s always been you.
It knew perfectly well what it was doing.
It left you to harm you, didn’t it?
To rip open that old wound again.
Of course it knew.
It’s always been you.

&quotCecil,&quot you whisper. &quotNo.
Not Cecil. Alban. Amets.&quot
You reach for a weapon.
Something of the city of flowers.
Something sturdy.
Something sharp.
Whatever it is, your strike is as resonant as a church-bell.
Cecil shatters.
Alban shatters.
Amets shatters.
You grin, woefully.
Shards of a crystal face fall to the ground.
An arm clatters against the cavern floor.
It rains quartz and ruby.
You laugh, sickly.

The captain doesn’t question you, only nods.
Your sleep is tinged with the taste of revenge.

Your skin litters the bloodied carpet, in splintered hexagons.
Your knife loudly slides off another unfortunate formation.
Glittering powder trails through the air, shimmers in the light.
You are not merely flesh, and are doing your best to correct that.
Few sharpnesses were available to you, as your organs are no longer yours.
Yet some sharpnesses have run too deep to safely remove.
The acumination of your tongue is deep and thorough.
You would need to rip out the whole organ to eradicate it.

But maybe you do not mind that?
Maybe your words had always cut?
Maybe your tongue was silver, if not diamond?
Maybe you’ve adapted some serpentine guile?
Maybe this is a gift from your mirror’d lords?
Maybe it brings you closer to the horizon?

Ah, horizon, horizon.
The temptation of mirrors.
What you’ve given up for it.
Yourself, mostly.
But was it worth it?
Was it worth losing so much?
Was it worth forgetting the surface?
Was it worth giving up on old skills? Old selves?
Was it worth slaughtering yourself at every turn?
Was it worth gutting yourself?
Arranging yourself into a crown for whatever remains of you?
At the end of this, what will even remain of you?
You do not know. You truly do not know.
But something will. Oh, something will.
On this, the Fingerkings cannot be right.
Something must remain. It must.
It must.
But what if nothing will?
What if you suffered for nothing?
What if you end?
What will be made of you, then?
Will you be a secret generosity of the weak towards the strong?
The lords of sharlott will certainly be able to make use of you.
Your skin, your voice, your memories, your flesh, your self.
Cindered and crumpled and ground.

Your handkerchief is wet with tears.
The floor is wet with tears.
You whisper to yourself. It must.
It must. There is no other way.

You know no other way to live, do you.
You’ve nowhere to put yourself in this world.
You’re bored. Bored with painting. Bored with writing.
Bored with theatre, with espionage, with devils.
Bored with the church, with the constables, with the criminals.
Bored with all the things under the Mountain’s light.
Bored with selfishness and bored with altruism.
Bored with sins and bored with virtues.
Bored, that’s all there is to say.
There’s no place in this world for you.
There’s nothing you wouldn’t burn down down here.
For that little glimpse of fire.
For that electric feeling coursing through your veins.
For that powerful, destructive light.
And you’d burn yourself before you burn the world.

You’ll need to head to the Nadir tomorrow.
Forget all this. Forget your direful reflection.
For now, you go to sleep.
Where the sun leaks cosmogone.
Where you drink liquid gold.
Where light courses through your veins.
Where you wear a crown, command an army.
Where you are, you are, you are.
Where you’ll remain.
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 1/29/2018


Journey through the Forgotten Quarter with only a single black candle. Leave only the scent of lily in your wake. Pass the arched gates and their unreadable keystone, down to where the air is thick enough to choke you, to the labyrinth that […]

This place is the burial ground for your shames and your guilts, your most sacred and most vicious confidante. Snuff out your candle and follow the sound of voices. Be very careful as not to say your name.


You’re sitting with a Gall-Eyed Engineer in front of a violet waterfall. Light would make rainbows of the water-spray, if there was any light down here. The Engineer is smiling gingerly. You’re doing your level best not to look at her swollen, amber eyes. There’s a crimson buzzing above the two of you.

She’s the first to break the silence. “Something significant must’ve happened, if you’re visiting me of all things.”

“I suppose you can say that.” You are far from smiling. “[…] London holds nothing for me. I don’t hold much for London either. (she chuckles, throatily) You’ve seen something wonderful down here, and I envy that. I won’t make a secret of my feelings, not down here. I envy you and your outlook.”

“My outlook? Humbug! I only see all the things the gallblighters give me. It’s water, isn’t it?” She points at the waterfall. You nod. “It’s water, then. I see it as honey, you know. […] I knew the streets of London were streets, but for me they were an endless concourse of ice and pleasure. And […]!” She shivers. “I would not give it up. Not now, not ever. I could not give it up. But they will hatch eventually. That’s why I came here.” She pops another one of her witty smiles. “Not for beauty. Well, not solely for beauty’s sake.”

“The buzzing above us… It’s the wasps, isn’t it.”

“Those are the gallblighter wasps, correct.”

“Please, call them down to me.”

“I am joyful at the chance to bring their sights to another, but…” A sigh. “Your eyes are brilliant emeralds. There are […] growing from your mouth. Your clothes are covered in vines and thorns. Your face is like the dawn. You’re beautiful. I cannot bring myself to wound you so.”


“Fine, then. Who am I to stop you? […]! A fool stuck in the Cave of […]. A half-dead rag. You’re worth more than a rag’s moral scruples. Lay your head down, the wasps will […] as you dream.”

Close your eyes as the Gall-Eyed Engineer begins to sing a rough half-march half-lullaby in a forgotten language. A cacophony of sounds escorts you into sleep. The jubilant buzz of the gallblighter wasps, the ancient hymn of the Engineer, […], your own heartbeat.


The London you return to is not the London you left. There is rather more foliage in the Forgotten Quarter, now. It is all a very stark shade of verdant green. Rainbow-feathered birds roost where the bats once roosted. The streets are, just as promised, concourses of ice and pleasure.

You have a lot to explore.

I am escorted by a One-Eyed Augur. He’d seem normal, if his one eye didn’t burn with jade fire and didn’t send wisps of smoke up into the foggy not-quite-sky.

Tyrant’s Gardens would seem normal, too, if the roads weren’t made up of checkerboards, if secrets didn’t grow on these trees like fruit, if the people would wear anything but black and white and grey, if the undergrowth wasn’t showered in masks.

“And what of July? How’s she been getting on?” He asks, right eye gently sizzling.

“She knows less about herself than the Orts does. It’s likely to turn into a straightforward possession contract soon, unless the latter tries to be greedy and fish for more memories.”

“They’re bad company, the Orts. Not enough sense of self between them all for me - for all of us - to be comfortable with, but it’s good to have somebody on our side in the Council.”

“Unsurprisingly, the Conjunction of Forms cares about that sort of thing.”

“In regards to that, I can’t help notice… your eyes.”

“Oh, these old things.” I replicate the Gall-Eyed Engineer’s self-deprecating laugh. “I slept. I slept and I dreamt in the catacombs beneath the nest. They went to work as I dreamed. When I woke, well… I’m afraid I don’t much remember what happened after that.&quot

“I have only one question, Estibariz. Why?”

“Simple. I was bored with London. All of it. The debauchery and the austerity. The kindness and the heartlessness. It simply wasn’t a city I cared to live in anymore.”

“Boredom? Is that it? We could have given you a thousand shapes, two thousand lives to live, three thousand secret pleasures of the flesh! We could have taught you the Shapeling Arts! We bear myriad delights, and yet.

And yet.

You chose to defile yourself.

In the name of.


Do you know what this means? For you? For us?! The things that germinate under your eyelids will hatch in a few months’ time. You will die after that. At best, you’ll be blind and demented for the rest of your life down here. At worst, you won’t be at all.

When that time comes, I’ll ask you:

Was it worth it?

Was it worth it, Amets?!”

“Caring is the forefather of sorrow.

And, however briefly,

I wished to care.”

Yes, I can already see it. Somewhere off of King-Eater’s castle, or near the blossoming kingdom of Aestival. He’s crying from his one functional eye. They say the Serpentines always cry for whomever they kill. I have never seen a serpent cry, but I think he would be crying over my corpse.

My corpse, smiling. That smile, plastered across my face, would reach up to my eyes.

If my eyes weren’t bloodied holes.

He laughs a particularly glum sort of laugh. &quotI am saddened by the fact that I cannot deny that statement. I care, and I am all the more sorrowful for it. But we all wish to care, at some point in our lives. You’ve only been a customer for us, but what a glorious customer you’ve been. And…

I hope I will get to enjoy this little act of caring about you, even if only briefly.&quot

You have been invited to a puppet theater - the puppet theater - in Roser’s Wharf. The theater is run by an entrepreneuring group of magicians of the Glass, who moved out from Mahogany Hall to a different venue, where their invocation-plays would be better received. They were not. A crowd is running out of energy to keep throwing pebbles at the production of The Gardens of the Serpent as you approach. The troupe is already bringing out the props for a shadow-puppet performance of The Ophede Prince.

The Occult Once-Underapprentice takes a break to greet you. His limbs are still bound with silver chains from his time in Mahogany Hall, and his face is thoroughly covered in soot. You decide not to mention any of it. Doing so would be rather rude. &quotWhy, if it isn’t our guest! Happy to see you, happy to see you.&quot He is going out of his way not to mention your name. &quotYou’re with the Forms now, yes? I hope you’ll enjoy the spectacle.&quot One of his golden eyes winks. A shout comes up from behind the scene - the Phantasmagoria, as they call it, is set up. It’s all done with mirrors, but you’re not privy to the specific workings of the machine. The Once-Underapprentice turns away from you and begins shouting the crew into position. The show begins.

The edges of the screen begin to bend, move towards the center. The parchment begins to fold into itself, and to fold out into everything. There is a sharp click and the all-enveloping light grey is replaced with a sky occluded the boughs of trees, a mighty forest full of mighty oaks.

Scenes flash by: The young and exiled princeling, clad in silk and velvet and gold; The old six-horn’d deity of the land he seeks, bound in beautiful satin-chains, only partially opaque and glimmering like an emerald; The far and distant palace from which the prince was banished, filled with men too treacherous to live in peace; The traitor regent seated upon the throne - the prince’s throne; He demands power for all the noble causes - His revenge is in the name of justice! Fairness! Tradition! The throne was to be his, must be his!

The old and oaken god replies - his first lines in the performance!
The world was never fair or just.
Tradition only lives with power at its side.
The prince was banished - he may never have the throne.
But there is another who could take the throne
Like it was taken from the prince.

You sense a hidden ritual within their every word - an invocation, incantation. Half-prayer to a higher power, half-demand. A mad musicality and rhythm.

The prince must drink from the Martyr-King’s Cup. Like the grapevine was reborn into wine, so the Prince will be reborn into something great and shapeless.

By the end of the ritual, he is a creature of the forest, something closer to his guiding god than anything human. A Dionysus in the flesh, a glowing amethyst. The grass bows to Him, the leaves sing for Him, the birds fly for Him. No branch stops his path, no creature, no living thing.

&quotGo, now.&quot says the god.

By the end of it all, you barely remember you have two hands to applaud with.
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 6/27/2018


Before any self-respecting rite, a groundwork must be laid. Now, a bunch of silver-eyed magicians and opticians are laying that groundwork one mirror at a time. They are rather loud about it all.

Alongside you is your mentor and soon-to-be equal in nonexistence, the Arbiter of Alteration, an old wreck clad in bandages the colour of moonlight and in transparent Anthean quartz beneath. They had amassed a veritable collection of prominent Gloves through sweet-sounding deals and oh-so-obvious-in-hindsight loopholes. Now, it expends its resources on experiencing the joys of transfiguration, as well as entertaining experiments. It insistently refers to you as ‘Dearest’.

&quotNow, Dearest,&quot its throat screeches in a malfunctioning baritone, &quotwe have to determine the details of your ascension. It is a complex matter, requiring the right wrong things in the right wrong order.&quot

&quotI do believe I understand that much, Arbiter. I am responsible for providing everything used in this rite, even myself.&quot is your reply.

&quotDon’t lie. The Confessor of Brightness is only here due to owing a long-standing debt to me. Be happy I’m letting you have him for today. The only other way you could even lure him out of him meticulous little meadow is by waving the frayed skin of the Sun in front of the entrance and screaming. Loudly.&quot The Arbiter glacially points towards a cleanly urchin with rings on his every finger. His teeth are, to your surprise, not gold, but jade. He has a pleasant, if childish, alto voice, which he uses to speak in the clearest, dullest monotone.

Oh.&quot the lad begins,
&quotHave you finally brought me the Liber.
I have grown quite bored of waiting.
Quite angry with myself for having worked with you, Arbiter of Alterations.&quot

&quotWhy, of course, Confessor.&quot An annoyed reply emerges from under the bandages. &quotDearest should have it with them. I trust them to point you to the exact parts you will need to recite, even.&quot

&quotWell, about that. You never did deign to tell me a single thing about where to find it! I had to get involved with the Gamekeeper for this copy, and we only have it for the next week.&quot

&quotAh ah ah ah,&quot The Arbiter attempts what might be optimistically called a laugh. &quotDearest, this is all part of the Great Work. A test of the mind’s strength, if you will. I trust you had spoken with the Sultan, yes?&quot

&quotI’m lucky to have never been a Huntsman.&quot

That is quite wonderful for you.
But the book remains.
And I remain alongside it.
Without direction.&quot

&quotThe first chapter. Recite the whole spiel about the Gate at the start. Then that bit about light and darkness from the Red Book. You won’t need to speak after that.&quot

&quotNot intentionally.&quot

&quotAt last.&quot
With this, the urchin takes out his reading goggles, puts them upon his nose, and begins leafing through the second volume of the Liber Visionis.

&quotDo you see why I hate him so?&quot asks the Arbiter, &quotHis pragmatism is simply insufferable. I am so glad we do not share a Conjunction. If we did, I might have just sabotaged the whole process if it meant dealing even a little harm to him.&quot

&quotYou’re quite unkind, Arbiter.&quot

&quotDearest, Arbiters are not meant to be kind, only just.&quot
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 7/27/2018


Every entrance had been covered with Parabola-Linen, every wall in Viric fabric. A matrix of mirrors occupies most of the room, expanding the single mourning-candle’s fire into an irrefutable radiance. You stand at the center of it all, and your associates at the corners.

The Arbiter of Alterations looks deep into a moon-pearl, white as falling snow, white as sclera, white as bone, and dramatically whispers, &quotIt is time.&quot

&quotWe begin.&quot
Answers the Confessor in his usual monotone. Nobody dares breathe.

His fingers flip to the right page, and the ritual begins.
&quotWho cometh to the Gate in summer shall be met with a sword of ice.
And who cometh to the Gate in winter shall be met with a sword of fire.
None shall enter save those that sip honey.
None shall leave save those that devour.
Yet shall we dwell therein forever.&quot

The mirrors begin unfolding, like the petals of a refractive rose. A wild wind blows from nowhere to nowhere. The candle’s wick dances to its rhythm. Everybody but yourself is covered in shadow, unrecognizable. The Arbiter’s voice demands, &quotProceed.&quot

The Confessor of Brightness coughs, and then begins with a troubling baritone.
&quotWhen we leave the light, we encounter the darkness.&quot

You snuff out the candle. The room plunges into complete blackness. If one were to wrap Thirsty Bombazine around their eyes, they would see more than you see now.

&quotWhen we leave the darkness, we do not always encounter light.&quot

An unexpected splendour blinds you. The mirrors emit a metallic whistling as they ripple and rupture, split and envelop, unfold each into a door, or a river.

A silence hangs.


&quotY-yes, of course.&quot You exhale, inhale, exhale again. With your voice back in your throat, you begin to intone.

&quotWhen I die, yet shall I not die. The hour of my death shall be chosen, yet no man shall choose it. I am eternal, and yet my reign is circumscrib’d by law and Fate. I will feast at my funeral, and my child shall be my cup-bearer.&quot

The river-doors creak open. The Arbiter of Alterations passes beside one, carrying in its hands a shard of a mirror. The Oneiric Key. Without the bandages, the Arbiter is as transparent as a ghost. The shard, more than that.

&quotI believe you have experience with these, so you should know what needs to be done. Don the crown.&quot

You take the key, and slide it in between your ribs. Something within you opens. When you next open your eyes, the crown is upon you, in all its gore and glory.

The Boatman is quite worried by this new development.

Take me to the horizon.

The Boatman’s teeth clatter against each other. Laughter, or fear? He consults his little black book. &quotYou should be here. You’re all of you mine in the end.&quot

You are quite mistaken, old soul.
The Brass Embassy has taken their soul.
The Great Gate has taken their skin.
The Fingerkings have taken their sinew.
The Riddlefishers have taken their bones.
The Gallblighters have taken their sight.
The Frost-Moth has taken their life.
And now I don what remains.

&quotAnd? You are still here.&quot

I am just as dead as I am alive. Not at all.

&quotYou make unwise choices. Do me the courtesy of never coming back here.&quot

The Arbiter of Alterations and the Confessor of Brightness are arguing over a corpse.

&quotWe had done everything right, it must work.&quot

&quotWe had not.
Your newest horrid voice might have been enough to disturb their transformation.&quot

&quotWhy, yes. The Arbiter of Alterations, a viper who had spent all its life changing people, would go ahead and sabotage the most important rite it had ever conducted. How reasonable of you, Confessor.&quot

&quotI know my voice is as clear as it needs to be.
I had only said what the two of you told me to.&quot

&quotAnd I had told the two of you everything you would have needed to do to execute the rite correctly. We need only wait.&quot

The corpse begins to stir, a hole erupts upon its naked chest. Out peers a frost-moth of impressive size, and bright green-and-gold wings, viric and cosmogone.

The Moulting Eidolon emerges alongside it. Freed from the Is, they are greater than they ever were. More complex, sharper, more vivid. They have donned a misshapen crown and robes of light and shadow. Their face is missing, as if broken off, revealing the Eidolon’s hollow insides.

&quotAh, see. I told you it was a success!&quot

&quotThat it was.
I hoped the taste of failure would dissuade you from ever contacting me again.&quot

&quotYou attitude has done an admirable job in that regard, Confessor.&quot

&quotI am very glad to hear that.
Arbiter of Alterations.&quot

If nobody needs me, I shall proceed upstream to my rightful kingdom.

&quotAh, wait. Wait. I cannot let you go alone. To govern alone! That would be quite a disaster, you understand. You’ll need my assistance, Dearest.&quot

The moth is coming with us too, then.

The frost-moth in question had already managed to settle the Eidolon’s left shoulder, and whispered something unclear into their ear.

&quotI trust the Confessor is quite done with this project, yes?&quot

&quotYou are regrettably correct.
I hope to never meet again.&quot
The possessed urchin stumbles at the lack of a name to refer to his reborn acquaintance with.

&quotYou do have a title in mind, don’t you, Dearest?&quot

The Pontifex of Metamorphoses.

“Good choice. But you aren’t hoping to begin a faith, are you? London’s bad ground for religion, old or new. You might consider entertaining Paris, though. How does Paris sound?”

Splendid. Amets had been there once, or imagined they had.

“How quaint.”

The two went into one of the many gate-channels leading dreamwards, talking of the Pontifex’s near future.