Germination, like a pearl forming, like an idea, grown through time. This is the phase of magic, against which the Riddle spell works its cold breath. If your use of the Method has been true, then here sprouts the reward.
It is a rupturing, the beginning of beginnings. As a birthplace of monsters it will grow from the tears of your enemies, and amidst the clear, metallic dream ink a feathered angel will be written. Whatever has been used to nurture the seed, whatever aspects fed through ice and time, those keys will determine the thing grown.
The gardener may not recognize the blossom; such is the way of growth. As a natural process the Method produces things of variance and possibility, without limit, either in process or product or prediction. Worlds may be grown, enlightenment cultivated, the pale vine of today will yet strangle stars.
The Method may produce any natural thing; all things are natural.
And still the balance holds. Should the Method be weakly interpreted the seed will die. If the environment has too much of one humor and not enough of another poison will flourish. Any reason may change, change the seed, change the sprout. All may be done correct and yield nothing. Nothing is also natural.
Here begins new life. Emperors lust after such treasure but grasp nothing except the poison thorn.
The nomad held up many colors, the silk shimmering under bright afternoon. Trading with outsiders took place past high sun. The Jomoth women made a floor of thick jungle leaves and placed their wares—loomed in their houses each morning—so that the hungry merchants of Ahgren and Ruin might look on, amazed and make poor deals. Jomoth’orr silks held quite the reputation.
The Trumpeter yawned from his perch, bored of commerce. Several days had passed since D’douc’s murder and the Fencer’s subsequent, and uncharacteristic, shift in mood. Having taken up the axe, the polar barbarian swung and hacked with the Jomoth all day in their lumberyards. Every night he would stumble back to the blue house, inhale a meal and then collapse in their room on the second floor. Keeping company with such boredom the Trumpeter had to provoke his own entertainment.
First there were the fellow travelers, who kept the drinks flowing and slowly realized the two from their exploits. Soon they were alone at any table they wished and could make the highwaymen and cannibals jump with simple gestures, like brandishing a cursed sword or playing a plain note. Merchants never were a good judge of culture.
So the Trumpeter found himself outside, perched atop the blue house, watching the goings on in town. He made a study of its people and customs which he intended to forget as soon as some true amusement arrived.
He looked at the tents of the silken nomads. They were the same garments worn by the wanderers. When encamped they shed part of their bright Winter silks, the lower braves using their spears and tools as supports for those of station.
He looked at the slanted roofs of the Jomoth, how by design they warded off the storm winds which spilled from the mountains and directed the ice melt into cisterns behind each household. Even now the Trumpeter watched a great sheaf of ice break loose under the assault of sunny afternoon and slide crashing into the stone pit found there.
He looked to the people of the Jomoth, their thick vestments made from rich silk. The tapering rods carried by the men, the pale faced women, their fine hair of muted color—a trait evident in both sexes.
The Trumpeter began to laugh. He boomed from the heights of boredom. He slid down the roof and skipped onto the snow. As he ran through the town he noted foundations and handkerchiefs, smelled food cooking and children playing with sticks. Such was his glee that he scared several of the large, buzzing insects which were kept as pets, leaving worried children to cry.
Exhausted but jubilant, the mad musician at last ran out of energy outside the town. He stood at the edge of the nomad camp, a place he and his friend were no longer welcome. His laugh overcame Coyat’oc smile and with this victory he wandered off and fell asleep and dreamed of pale lemur-men.
The Fencer wandered through the sunset. Besides him loped Harx, Natl, Copa’an, and Grou, men of the Jomoth, all worn down by their day’s labor. These were the lowest of the town, unable to pay for their own young men to do their duty. By custom all Jomoth owned a share of the great trees brought from the Jungle, but to reap such profits required work, or an appropriate monetary compensation.
These were fair-haired men, pale skin blemished with freckles, eyes of thin color. Though they wore their finest coats to the cutting fields they worked stripped down under the warm light of this enchanted land. Should there be an accident—a hand cut, a limb crushed—then all made a gesture towards the far off jungle to ward against the evils of the creature they intimated in their conversations but of which they were unwilling to speak clearly to an outsider.
In the few days he had spent toiling the Fencer had learned much but when he asked certain things or showed interest in certain topics he suddenly found a barrier between himself and his fellow workers. They rarely spoke in their own words, but instead used the common tongue to speak of women and profit, occasionally telling stories of the jungle beasts and their previous hunts. Large things waited in the jungle, hunting things, monsters of poison, flesh-drinking flyers, stilt-legged behemoths with long snouts, long tongues, which drunk the marrow from those they caught. All were excited for the next hunt.
And then there were the words which they wouldn’t speak to the Fencer. Their faces changed as they fell into a far more comfortable language. The old men did it most, their Baranti being broken, their tongues stilled at sight of the ashen stranger from the polar south. Novels were written in this other world, so close to the Fencer but divorced by an atmosphere of protocol and tradition. This was a common binary elicited by the Riddle, of ignorance and misunderstanding. The Fencer simply struck the tree harder every time his temper flared.
Jomoth industry sprawled across the snowy hills west of the town. A dozen trees, each with their own team of men, awaited the saws and axes. Here and there drying fields for the leaves, salting pits for the peccaries and many more niches. The leaves of the eley trees changed color as they dried. It was from these that the vibrant silks of the town were dyed. The silk itself came from the Anawke. They wore its wool too, milked its venom and used their fangs in certain medicines. All found a use, nothing went to waste.
This was isolation with company, a thing the Fencer had grown used to in his travels. The Jomoth were cordial and half-genuine, not like the city men and their practiced distance. Still, the work was exactly what he needed because Coyat’oc never bothered him here.
Such was the quiet which wouldn’t last. The day ended. Inside the doors of the blue house the Trumpeter waited—had been waiting—to jump up at sight of his fellow traveler and make such noise that the trumpet itself seemed quiet.
“A most remarkable revelation has come to my attention,” gasped the tall man.
The Fencer waved him away. He was tired, and wanted nothing more than whatever exotic meal was offered that night to be followed by the cold oblivion of their room. The worst cubical in the place, set at the northwestern edge, with a ceiling so slanted that the Trumpeter continually bumped his head.
Smiling at such entertainment, he moved to the counter, sought out the young man who kept their tab and purchased what he thought would be stew. Baranti was also his second language.
“What’s the smile for?” demanded the musician.
“I was having a singular and joyful thought,” sighed the Fencer.
His food arrived, some kind of peppery morass of roots and questionable meat. The overall color was red. As he ate he noticed something was missing. The Trumpeter had vanished. The rest of the meal was suddenly unpleasant.
The next day, at their noon break, the Fencer asked the question he’d been holding onto since D’douc’s murder. It was cloudy and cold and the breath of the workers filled the air with quickly vanishing plumes of steam.
“I saw something the first night I was in town,” he began. The others took note because the Fencer was a singularly quiet individual.
“Out by the wall. Your broken wall. A humanoid, it fled when I approached, leaving behind strange blossoms.”
As he spoke the Fencer leaned back against the tree to watch the dull sky. When no comments came he leaned up into faces full of concern.
“You have these blossoms?” asked Natl, whose narrow face was slightly wrinkled with age.
Tucked into his belt the Fencer carried the strange things he had found.
“No,” he replied.
“It was the witch!” exclaimed Grou, who was the youngest, largest and had a loose tongue. They all made warding gestures.
“All is clear now,” said Natl. “That brave smelled her perfume and it made him mad. Did you travel far with the man? Did he wander off?”
The Fencer shook his head.
“It could be anything beyond the wall,” continued the elder. “She can ensorcel men with a single flower, compel them to take off their clothes and run indecent into the jungle, spoil hunts by scaring away game and coax women to be unfaithful. She is, in all things, responsible for every last trouble for the Jomoth. May her blood feed the roots of the eley.”
Such outpouring of hate consumed the elder. Natl’s eyes were slick with tears, red with rage, his voice was quiet and trembled at every atom of this enchanted other enemy. Looking at each man in turn they responded to this deluge with equal disdain, teeth showing, axes held, knuckles white.
“It could be,” began Copa’an thoughtfully, “that the whole incident with the spider was her doing, to make us look bad, or to bring violence past the wall.”
Now it was the Fencer’s turn to be silent and unresponsive. He weighed his next words carefully.
“Your wall needs mending,” he said at last, before going back to work.
“I want you to find the Fencer and start trouble.”
The Trumpeter’s words only teased the man’s attention, who gave barely a glance towards the musician as he folded reams of colored silk into elaborate shapes. Coyat’oc spat a word and waved the Trumpeter off.
“You’re much like him,” rasped someone from behind.
The nomad’s camp was full of activity. He’d been watching it since sunrise, after a night of walking through the brightly lit town, disturbing the Jomoth, their pets, all without lifting his mood. The Trumpeter mind was strange with unsorted feelings.
Bare-chested, wearing not but his sarong, the chieftain ambled towards them, displaying his age as he walked barefoot in the snow.
“I just realized something,” realized the Trumpeter, “we’ve never asked your name.”
The old man laughed. He wasn’t old for life, just for Winter, which froze men before thirty, should they survive their youth. Now he seemed a child, left wandering the ice without good sense.
“Sihiru,” he replied. “You’ve the smiling disease, sure enough, though you seem temporarily cured.”
“This town gives me little joy,” sighed the Trumpeter.
“Then we are the same in this matter.”
As he spoke Sihiru observed the men and women at their work. The long bolts of silk were unraveled, folded many times, some of it twisted and contorted, the beauty transformed into a flat puzzle of color.
“What are you doing with all this silk?” asked the musician, ever curious.
“We silken nomads like to travel without burden, but we must have our silk. Without the silk we have no name, no reason to wander, to be nomads, apart from survival as we follow the mammoth herds across the slanted lands. So we fold the silk.”
“Then what?” demanded the Trumpeter, the answer inadequate.
“We wear the things.”
The musician saw it now, the braves carried these new prizes between inner garments and outer robes. In his mind the wind caught them and like the vivid underplumes of the saasaa bird their hidden colors would be revealed.
“I can understand what life is like without beauty,” nodded the Trumpeter, his mind grown clear, a rarity. “Where did you get your silk before the split?”
The question was so bluntly stated that he had to ask again for the old man had become lost in his tribe’s gains.
“We weren’t silken then,” sighed Sihiru who started to wander off. “We were Jomoth.”
The similarities were there, between townsfolk and nomad, their dwellings, their names, their features. But the differences were marked and brutal, the division of houses, the egalitarian nature of tents. Yet they were close cousins, one bound to the other by the addiction of beauty.
When the Trumpeter had fully digested this secret the old man was gone, and so was Coyat’oc. Frantically the musician demanded answers from the other nomads but they only yelled back in their native tongue. Then it peeked out from behind the clouds of his mind. Everyone abandoned him to a desert of misunderstanding.
Surely the young brave was a better runner, a better competitor. Soon he would be at the axe fields. There was no way of reaching the Fencer first. After all the abandonment he felt his heart to be a distant star, hugely impossible, full of an energy which must find release.
It was late in the day when the sound arrived. Huge, sonorous, it ruptured the afternoon, cut through the cloudy sky, breaking open the sun. The Fencer knew at once who played the note.
But this was no ordinary playing. There were sounds which the silver trumpeter could produce which ranged the heavens and plucked out the hearts of men. Like with any note these were uncertain arts, and a slight misplay could bring down avalanches or incite a riot, cause forgetfulness or boil brains. So the Trumpeter didn’t play loud, but instead practiced in his secret moments. He kept these notes for a time when he might need them, for even he wasn’t sure of their results. He wasn’t so mad as to tempt suicide.
Yet the clouds did break and part of the huge disk of late afternoon sun peeked in. Amongst the shifting gold light the whole band took notice and a cry went up from the Jomoth. The sound lingered, resonating off the ironstone mountains.
So warned the Fencer had his sword in hand before he realized it and before the trouble arrived. Like a herald the note laid out the scene before Coyat’oc as he arrived, breath steaming, spear in hand. Decided on his fate the swordsman readied for the attack.
Tall, like a lost willow, Coyat’oc looked about with a grim face. Then smiling, he made a gesture to old Natl, one which was grudgingly returned.
“A dueling mark?” asked the Fencer.
“No,” said Natl. “He wishes to join the hunt.”
Distantly the note ended, the clouds returned, the moment which had brought the brave faded to a close, but not before a reply.
In the White Jungle a clamor rose just as the Trumpeter’s note fell. It was somewhere between the cracking of an eggshell and the creaking of boughs in a storm. Such storms and boughs were unheard of on Winter, but so were notes as lustrous as the Trumpeter’s and as terrible as the thing which awoke in the distant mayhem of alabaster leaves and unknown growth.