Castle of Ages Release!

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Chapter One

I can say without any semblance of ego that I have seen deeper into the shadows than any of my kind born upon this earth. I have pierced through the hearts of men and found the horns hidden underneath the brows of innocents. I have been kissed by demons and cursed by those who claimed to serve the Lord.

Yet, in all that I have witnessed, of all of the multitudinous horrors, including bearing witness to that awful chamber of the Castellan, nothing could have prepared me for the Aionic canal. Time, the Castellan said, was a difficult thing to manage and there are always the elements of physical law to consider. I know now that time itself occurs simultaneously to our dimension, or no, perhaps it is more accurate to say that time does not occur at all; it is immovable and mass and matter merely revolve around it. This, of course, becomes something of an issue when one decides, perhaps foolishly, that he wishes to travel to an earlier era— for matter must be dissolved to its simplest iota to be put to use elsewhere. Great minds in the fields of chemistry and physics have postulated that there is a finite amount of matter. There would be no lesser or greater amount of the stuff in 1503, my destined era, than there was in 1903, the year I departed from. Hence, the Castellan’s Aionic canal must strip me of my physicality in 1903 and find a suitable amount of atomic material in 1503 to re-establish my form. 

This was not a pleasant experience if I might offer a wry understatement. Imagine that you have been pushed through a sieve with an imperceptibly small mesh or otherwise have fallen into a meat-grinder and even the most vivid of imaginations could not possibly anticipate the amount of pain one must endure to travel backward through linear time. The physical pain was one thing and perhaps easier to understand. Now apply the process to your mental state or, if you dare, your spiritual being. Of how many memories creates a person? Of how many thoughts and ideas? These are ethereal concepts, containing no substance, yet these too must become obliviated, parceled into the tiniest parts of their humane sum. One might be able to calculate the weight, volume, and atomic material a single body possesses, but the equation is less precise when it comes to the intangible modules of the human spirit. This is why the Castellan prefers a sacrifice when transmuting a body along the canal— simple maths of debit. 

Perhaps it would be helpful to provide an allegory to better explain myself. In my travels to visit my mother country of Russia, I encountered a former Buddhist monk from Japan who once tried to explain to me, over a shared bowl of saké, where the concept of separate identities comes from. He asked me to consider the table and he asked me to give it a name. 

“It is a table,” I told him. 

He agreed. Then he asked me to consider what I would call it if he took an axe to it. 

“A broken table,” I told him. 

He agreed. Then he asked me to consider what to call it if he shredded the table to absolute bits. 

“Splinters.” 

He asked me to consider what to call it if he then shredded it further. 

“Sawdust.”

 And then what to call it if he burned it?

 “Smoke. Ash.”

 “And once the smoke disperses and the ash is thrown 

into the dirt?” “Air. Soil.” 

“And yet you continue to call this a table,” the monk said, somewhat mockingly. “And can you make a table out of air and soil?” 

“No,” I said.

 “You can,” he said. “You need only to wait.”

 It was not until I had separated into a million particles that I fully understood what the monk had been saying. My identity as the man, Ulysses Malevich, my body, my mind, had joined the cosmic oblivion of energy passing into states of motion and rest. Memories of my mother holding the obsidian knife to my eye, blessing me with the Siren Goddess’s vision of collapsable probability, separated into the concepts of mother, knife, eye, blessing. And then those concepts separated into vaguer ones, woman, child, stone, sight, prayer, blood… and so on. They mingled with the particles that once comprised my face, my eyes, nose, forehead, eyebrows, ears… Atoms that had comprised my circulatory system passed through synaptic charges of energy that held thoughts of duties, compulsions, the drive to eat… and what’s more, after their unbecoming, the differences between them were unrecognizable. 

This, then, is the Castellan’s gift, for it soon dispatched of the particles that comprised my bodily form and absorbed it to put to use in my “modern” era. With it left all feelings of pain and misery. All else was flushed into a great sea of energy, thought, and consciousness. From there, I witnessed every possibility from every outcome. Perhaps, I misspoke. Earth barely registered as a place here. The universe, as I had once considered it, also appeared small and inconsequential to me. I was then a part of some greater formation, some eternal architecture. Flowing through it. I had not the capacity to feel joy or sublimity, nor had I even the faculties to think— again, I floated like a cloud of concepts, partially formed ideas, and then merged with every concept. There was no future, no past, no love, no hate, nothing. I was the table shattered, burned, and returned into this swirling void of the never-was, the cannot-be, the all-encompassing tide of non-reality. 

And then, when I felt as if I had finally found my home, those damnable Newtonian physics once again began to seep into veracity. With it, my amorphous cloud of concept began cleaving back into itself, memories, lusts, and traumas made whole, as physical law crafted planets and stars according to their mass and volume. I became aware of globules of atoms here, snatches of particles there, elements from quasars, salts from unnamable moons, proteins filched from protozoan organisms from cratered pools of ice pocking the surface of meteors, all of it carrying the pain of entropy, establishing in my thinking that to exist within this universe, one must suffer. 

I became the table reborn. 

Castle of Shadow [Chapter Two]

Castle of Shadow [Chapter Two]

Castle of Shadow launches today and can be purchased here

Chapter One is available for free here.

ii

The morning began, however, with an element of confusion, as we were not accustomed to the east country’s atmosphere and it appeared, upon first glance that the hours still belonged to the night. Robert made mention of the sky’s refusal of the sun’s rays and had to check his watch against that of an attendant to ensure himself that morning had indeed come. A cart came bearing coffee and buttered scones and that did much to improve our temperament, although Robert remarked that perhaps his mother was right and expected Zenborough to be a likewise gloomy place. I soon came to enjoy the dramatic romance of the scenery as it looked remarkably like the paintings I had come to adore within the church where my flower bed once resided.

Once we had performed our morning toilet and dressed for the day, Robert mused over the figures of his business while I stared out of the window, entranced with the somber landscape outside. Just as it had happened the night previous, I lost track of time and before I knew it nearly an hour and a quarter had passed and had been non-risible to Robert’s touch. A morbid curiosity weighed on my mind then: had I been watching the land outside or had I been once again bewitched by my faint reflection on the windowpane? I shook it off and made the excuse to Robert that I was simply not feeling well. Robert apologized profusely and said that he had been a fool for not expecting that I might endure some travel sickness, never having ventured so far before. He left and returned a few minutes later with a glass of brandy and a quinine tablet. I accepted the medicine gratefully and returned my attention to my novel, fearing any prolonged stare through the glass would lapse my attention back into my trance.

I still allowed myself brief glances to note the progress of our journey. It struck me as strange as to how many owls flew in the sky— generally solitary and nocturnal hunters, the creatures seemed to congregate en masse like a flock of sparrows. When I last glanced at the countryside, I took notice of how densely forested the area had become and how thick the trees themselves were. Black coniferous giants walled off any other features of the countryside and this frustrated any attempt to gauge our distance. I was again flummoxed when an attendant notified us that we were to arrive in Zenborough in a quarter-hour. I remarked to my Robert that there was surely no way any town or village could exist in such dense arboreal vegetation and that seemed to amuse him although I suspect he had the very same inkling.

On the train platform, Robert took care of the particulars to have our luggage delivered to our hotel and asked the bag man for a recommendation for a place that would serve some coffee or tea. The man, whose face was flushed red and carried an odor of bitter alcohol and petulant pipe tobacco, directed us to a cafe near the town square. Robert thanked the man and pressed a silver coin into his palm and we made haste at once, eager to get out of the misting rain and muddy streets.

Robert enjoyed a coffee and a small cigar while I chose chamomile and nibbled on a petite cake. Robert warned me not to eat too much as a Duke’s feast was sure to warrant a healthy appetite. After our luncheon, we settled into the hotel, bathed and took care of our toilet duties before donning our nicest garments— Robert looked absolutely handsome in his dark suit and I slipped into a green dress, an engagement present from my beloved after he had noticed me coveting it through a window. The principle adornment was the silver crucifix necklace and I was moved nearly to tears when Robert said that he had been stricken breathless by my stunning beauty.

Our carriage arrived to take us out to the manor driven by none other than the drunkard who had taken our bags just a few hours earlier. I’m afraid my feelings were not friendly towards the man as intoxication does not usually make for a charming disposition. Robert, however, smiling and eager as ever gave the man two pieces of silver and even asked to know the drunkard’s name which he gave as Klaus. The moment humbled me as I am occasionally too quick to judgment about the lower classes, now that I have been elevated. A true lady remembers her beginnings or she hazards losing her gratitude.

The misting rain turned to downpour on our way to the Duke’s manor and the noise of raindrops against our carriage roof was to be accompanied by the owls’ fevered screeching overhead. This did not seem to affect Robert and thusly I vowed that it would have no effect on me. As the windows of the carriage had no glass, I felt I was again free to gaze outside and take in the sights, what little I could see through the rain and the trees in the night’s gloom. An interesting notion caught me when I regarded the moon— which bore larger here than back home and with a muddled orangish tint— and then some minutes later, after a few miles had been crossed, the queer notion caught me again. It could be the coincidence of our location, but it appeared to me that the moon had not shifted in its location in the sky. Robert squeezed my hand and remarked on how excited he was to meet this Duke and I soon put any thought about the moon and the peculiar absence of stars out of my mind.

 

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