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Under Incession

Copyright © 2004 C.E. by Dustin Jon Scott
[Last Update: June 6th, 2018]

Version 1

¶XCIX. From where they stood, though by the tall fungi surrounded, they could see in the distance beyond the forest many black towers; tortile obelisks that twisted and knurled as they reached in gyres high upward as if growing toward the ceiling. And upon these towers were lights, betraying that within them dwelt many Swart Elves.

¶C. The Nymphs began to search this forest for a path to the city itself, and pushed through the dense growths of fungi looking for such a pathway. Then the Nymphs happened onto a small clearing, and they saw at its other end three statues of such perfection that the Nymphs could not refrain from examining them more closely.

¶CI. The statues had been carved in the image of Elves: two male and one female, each leaning upon the hilt of a longsword stuck into the ground before it. Each statue was flawless in every detail; from the manner of wrinkles in the stone robes they wore to their eyebrows, eyelashes, and the hair that could be seen under their robes’ hoods -- all so lifelike that it seemed impossible they could have been formed of stone. Further, the rock that the statues were carved from showed not a single fault; they were not stippled in the varied shades of granite or some other stone, but instead were as solid cast-iron.

¶CII. “They’re so real,” said Serenity. “It’s almost as if they are breathing.”

¶CIII. And then Faith noticed that the bottoms of the statues’ robes were being blown just subtly by a slight breeze along the forest floor, and said: “Serenity, they are breathing.”

¶CIV. Swiftly the Swart Elves took up their blades and their bright yellow eyes opened, but as quickly as they could do this they fell entranced by gazing upon the Nymphs’ splendor, and with clangs their swords dropped from their hands.

¶CV. “Do any of you speak the traders’ tongue of the surface world?” asked Liberty.

¶CVI. “Ay,” said the male on the left. “I speak the surface tongue.”

¶CVII. “We’d like passage through Mor’nor,” said Avidity. “We have agreed to lead these three Wood Nymphs to the Elderwood. Would ye be willing to escort us thither?”

¶CVIII. “Surely, verily,” replied the Swart Elf. “Of course, it would be our greatest pleasure.” And he turned and began to speak to his companions in the ancient Mal’naril tongue, which all there but the Dryads could understand.

¶CIX. The other Swart Elves nodded their heads in accord, and motioned for the Nymphs to follow as they disappeared into the fungi, heading toward the city of Mor’nor.

¶CX. Soon they came to the edge of the forest, and for the first time the Dryads could clearly see the city.

¶CXI. Far beneath the tops of the twined spires were courts enclosed by peristyles of contorted columns, and colonnades of bent struts, and monuments of all strangest sorts. And there were gigantic arches all about that in pairs crossed at their acmes, and at these junctures beamed a pale light down between what seemed their four legs, onto the streets and structures below. And everywhere there were streetlamps sitting atop crooked posts.

¶CXII. And everything was black, and shined in the pale light, and was as the dark ground of the cemeteries above brought alive by the kiss of sallow moonlight, and with silver breath haunted.

¶CXIII. “It’s like some beautiful nightmare,” Faith whispered to Serenity.

¶CXIV. The whole city was alive with Swart Elves, Underlings, and Deep Gnomes.

¶CXV. “As much as it tries me to say this,” said the Swart Elf, “we cannot allow sixteen Nymphs to wander the city naked.” The Swart Elf then once again spoke to his companions, and immediately they left.

¶CXVI. “They’ll return shortly with something for you to wear,” the Swart Elf assured.

¶CXVII. The Nymphs waited there with the Swart Elf for what seemed an eternity until the other two Swart Elves returned with armfuls of material.

¶CXVIII. “Here,” said the Swart Elf, taking pieces of the material from his companions and handing them out to the Nymphs.

¶CXIX. They were robes, not unlike those that the Swart Elves wore, but a bit larger. So the Lampads began handing their torches off to one another and slipped the robes on. The robes fit them rather baggily, except across their chests where the garbs were unnaturally strained.

¶CXX. Once hampered in their new clothes the Nymphs pulled and tugged at the garments, in a fuss attempting to make themselves more comfortable. Neither the Lampads nor the Dryads felt at ease, as none of them were accustomed to clothing -- for it was not the way of Nymphs.

¶CXXI. And so the three Swart Elves led the thirteen Torch Nymphs and three Wood Nymphs into Mor’nor.

¶CXXII. In the streets were many booths, with merchants buying and selling things of all kinds: clothing, jewelry, meats, and mushrooms most prominent among the others.

¶CXXIII. Carriages were pulled down the streets by sirrush -- tall and limber reptiles with agile bodies, necks long and graceful, yet powerful, forelegs as mighty as lions’, hindlegs as lithe as the spryest birds’, and wiry tails; all over were they covered in the smooth green scales of an asp, and crowned with horns like those of an oryx.

¶CXXIV. And the Nymphs were taken ever deeper into Mor’nor, through ghostly rays that in pallor bathed them, and through deathly shades that by fear they felt pithed them. Yet even in these grim stills, there was a quiet calm; a peace that bound the ancient city.

¶CXXV. And everywhere the Nymphs went, men and women alike halted just to stare at them, agape by the unrivaled allure of their beauty.

¶CXXVI. Now the Nymphs had never hereto been in a real city, and as the men and women stared at them they were equally agape by the strange and wondrous sites they saw. And the fear that in the city’s shadows they felt began to fade with the passing of each moment, and the Nymphs began to smile and laugh and skip about as the people’s excitement with them grew.

¶CXXVII. After not much greater than an hour the Swart Elves had lead the Nymphs to the westernmost border of Mor’nor, where the city once again met the forest.

¶CXXVIII. The Swart Elves then proceeded into the fungi as the Nymphs followed, and in a short time came to the undercroft wall.

¶CXXIX. And in this wall there had been a tunnel bored, likely in times far now passed but yet still clearly bored, as vestiges of archways now quite crumbled remained barely seen. And with their swords attent the Swart Elves stepped cautiously into the passage, slowly, and with a slight gesture the female Elf bade the Nymphs keep near. And so the Nymphs did, doffing their robes and entering into the tunnel.

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