The ancestors who first dwelled here (that is, following the Ant and the Bee and the Frog of course – and also the Bear and the Drake, I must not forget to mention) were known as the Older Folk. I mean, they still are called that, at least in the villages I have come to visit in my time here.
The descendants of the Older Folk call them Ancestors, or sometimes the Gone Kin. These descendants are now just counted as many among a greater many of us, though some hold fast to traditions from their own lineage, and so still self-identify with those Gone Kin, although now long-gone. My family too is like that, though they – we – came to the Isles only after they had become Islands – that is to say, recently. We have less past to proclaim, at present.
The Gone Kin had cast The Long Spell on all of us, it was long ago told (and still is). This is a story not easily told in a short form, since The Long Spell, when rightly cast, cannot be seen as more than events unfolding due to diverse causes, causing effects that become more causes still. Ripples in Things.
The science of The Long Spell (more of a craft I am told, though do not tell that to a wizard) is complex and nuanced and full of opportunities to get it (and then other things) quite wrong. Entire kingdoms now beneath the earth or waves can sadly attest to that. I have been studying the histories of Long Spells gone wrong for, well, quite a long while now. So I know a thing or two.
The point I am hoping to make here is simply that “ordinary” time and circumstance is anything but; we are ensorcelled still it would seem, by those who lived in these hills and under the ancestors of the trees many of us now call home. The Spell continues to unfold, shaping events into its likeness – a likeness conceived over the full time of its casting, which is not yet complete.
You might ask (especially if you have not progressed past second-year-or-so in the general study of Magical Arts, and who could blame you for not?) why it is that a spell can take effect before it has gotten fully done with being cast. This would be a legitimate question, and there is no shame in the asking.
The Long Spell school of thought is not one easily reconciled with those of more straightforward forms of magic – namely, Elementalism, Wards & Banes, Guile (or Illusion), Necromancy (pardon for speaking its word), Divination, Temporalism, and ARTIFICING (to state only the most obvious); these other Arts all in some way or another require an intention to be set – and energy then expended – in order so they may then commence to changing their environment in one manner or another. Long Spells by contrast become a part of their environment, and so change (and are changed by) them, over time. This, to many folk, simply sounds like normal, mundane life, impacted as it always is by actors and then heir actions. Quite so, it does, and indeed.
I haven’t the time for that rabbit hole though (wherever did that term come from? I am unaware altogether of its origin, though its meaning seems somewhat plain, regardless). I must simply refer the reader to one of the many treatments on this subject by its currently assumed authorities, namely: Morthander T.R. Gilrod, The Widely-Written Grey Witch Ajest O’Feathern, or any of the current Penumbrahm Septuplets (saving, of course, the fourth). Long Spell theory has taken lifetimes to formulate, and will naturally take the lion’s share of any other’s who might seek to discern its mystery currents, and how to best ride, weather, or shape them anew.
What I have been consulted to achieve is the finding of those still living and responsible for the Spell-in-question’s upkeep, ongoing invocation, and full implications. It is surely not the case (a case put forth by several in recent years) that Long Spells are by definition impossible to stop once begun – they have proponents and summoners and guardians (as does any venture), and these are all mostly mortal, or at least partially so. Mortality is part of the requirement for being able to perceive Long Spells at work (and therefore, by definition, participate in their doing or undoing (as the case may be, in your case or another’s)). I am sent to sever or save one or more of those. This is my current career, you might say, I suppose.
I am now, therefore, at the full crossroads. I mean this literally (and then in the other sense), in that I am penning this report while sitting upon a Setting Stone (one carved precisely for sitting, if you are unfamiliar with the concept or practice – I will not make assumptions about from where all of the readers of this report might hail). This Stone is located at the intersection of the Old King’s High Road, and Teller’s Fork Trail. There is in fact a third path leading from this same intersection both ways, though I am not at liberty to say anything more about that at this time.
Suffice it to say, I have (more or less) at least six, established, ground-based directions to travel in from here: The road, the trail, and the path all continuing on their own ways straight through and then beyond this intersection, and all at roughly even tangents to the others.
I am currently not in possession of a flying mount or magical means of aerial propulsion (either and any of which would have been somewhat easy-enough to find only a few decades ago, quite unlike our today), and I am not about to try my hard luck once again and so soon on bushwhacking through the Hedgewild like a lunatic. Not after tomorrow’s fiasco falling into that time puddle. It will be the death of me yet, I’ll wager (being no Temporalist, I thankfully cannot know some things well enough to really worry about them until after they’ve presumably happened).
My beacon ring – the only small thing with an enchantment left on my person – suggests I go in all six directions at once, which of course means that it is either energetically confused, out of charge (finally?), or knows something I probably should (or shouldn’t). I have a weighted walking stick for defence, several day’s dried food, extra travelling clothes, some rope, and a bag of other essentials of the kind you might expect. It is late Fall – the snow will not likely come for a full season still, if at all. I have no reliable means of filtering water, though I have so far managed to find an inn every second or third day, and in those cases always fill myself to the brim on wine and cider, to fortify myself for the road. This has worked well enough so far – I barely feel the subtle effects of dehydration.
I am in good enough shape, in other words, for travelling some number of days, but not in the best shape for continuing that much longer. The arrowhead, though small, has not yet un-lodged itself, and I am beginning to feel as though it might have had toxins applied to it after all. Of what kind, I cannot say. My dreams have been dense these last three nights, and this morning, even invaded some of my waking moments as well. I lost track of myself while walking earlier today. Not for long, but any time spent walking without knowing you are there – out here – can certainly spell an uncertain end.
But back to the mission at hand: Given six walkable directions (and a seventh unlikeable alternative, in between all of the others), and no means of discerning which way might bring me a step closer to unraveling the truth governing the Long Spell I have been sent to end (or else perpetuate), I am left simply to sit upon a Setting Stone, and deliberate among myself. This Setting Stone, I can sense, has been sat upon quite a number of times before (and since… Cursed time puddles).
The choice, given each option is equally plausible as the next (and if plausible is even the correct word) seem to come down to a dice-bone roll. If only I had thought to not sell my better dice-bones. They did not seem especially valuable a fortnight ago, but they appear as exactly the things needed now. I can quite feel the Long Spell at work, even from this position of indecision. I know it must be close, though is either fleeing me, or else attempting to ensnare me, in the form of so many choices in such a small space.
Thus, the options, it seems, are thus:
– Old King’s High Road (North-ish or South-ish)
– Teller’s Fork Trail (East-ish-North or West-ish South)
– The Path I cannot tell you the name of (you might imagine the directions, if you’ve been following)
– I have already said I will not strike back into the Hedgewild, so do not try me.
But what would you have me do? This is what Setting Stones are for, I’m meant to believe.
– Bardlii Noonstar, Questing