The Consciousness

The Consciousness

A Chapter by FantasyGal
"

My first chapter. I wrote this a while ago, but I was too shy to ask anyone to read it. I hope you guys like it! Please drop me a review, and I promise I'll do the same for you x :)

"

By the time he reached the cabin at the top of the mountain, his belly was empty, his throat arid, his eyes red, and his skin whipped raw by savage winds. His feet were bare and showed the scars of a million miles walked. A windigo’s kiss smeared the left side of his face. His coat was thin and his bandolier was empty. The spindly, five-chamber gun at his waist looked as an anchor does on a ship. He looked as though the weight of his own skin was too much to carry.


The ice seemed to have penetrated his skull; his thoughts stumbled lethargically through a wasteland of bleary half-memories, vaguely defined emotions and long-forgotten motivations. He had no recollection of where his feet were taking him or why, but they carried on nonetheless. Maybe it was because they retained some of the urgency that his mind had lost during the hardships of the past nineteen days. Or maybe some part of him, some final shred of sanity that was sheltering from the cold in a remote nook of his abused psyche, dimly realised that to stop walking now was to fall face first into the snow.


The snow was unlike the light, airy flakes that fell over his home in the wintertime. That snow blanketed the fields and plains of St Llewellyn in a fashion that evoked the harsh beauty of nature and inspired the works of many a poet or painter or other such man-o’-culture in the King’s court.


This snow, in stark contrast, was driven by the wailing winds with such a might that it almost flew horizontally. It formed dense, matte clumps that hit like musket-balls and accumulated on the narrow mountain paths in terrifyingly slippery hazards. Besides the snow, the gale also carried the echoes of the windigos’ cries. He heard them. He shuddered.


His feet pulled free of the snow one last time as he mounted the steps to the cabin’s door. He had seen smoke at the chimney, and he heard stirring within. He prayed to whatever gods ruled this frigid domain that the inhabitant of this hovel was a human, not another minion of the thing that lived in the valley beyond the mountain.


The door opened before he could reach it, and light spilled out onto the snow. It was the unsteady yet homely radiance of a hearth fire, and it seemed to banish all evil from the triangular patch of ground it illuminated. Silhouetted in the doorway was a woman of slight build, who wore the silver-and-gold garb of a priestess o’ the void. She looked unsurprised at her ragged visitor, who climbed the final step to the cabin’s porch with some difficulty. The priestess stood aside and motioned for the visitor to come in.


The cabin had a single room in the shape of an L. The fire was against the east wall, opposite the door. A bed, a wardrobe, a couple of rickety chairs and a stained writing desk comprised the rest of the furnishings, although the visitor presumed there were stairs around the corner that led to a cellar. A wide, cast-iron pot of water was heating over the fire. The fire cast long, flickering shadows on the walls.


“Your timing is most convenient,” the priestess told the visitor as he lowered his hood. Her voice was steady and calm. “The water is just warm enough to thaw your fingers, should you wish it. If you plan to stay a while, I can cook us supper when the water boils. I have whiskey too, although it is thin. I must dilute to make it last longer. Supplies are scarce up here, you understand.”


The visitor nodded.

“I understand. Thank you.”


He crossed the room to the cauldron and dipped his shaking hands. The relief was instantaneous. The priestess closed the door behind him, shutting out the sound of the wind. She brought him a flask and he drank eagerly. He sniffed the contents first, though. He had been duped before.

His fears were unfounded, and the warmth spread all through his aching body. He sat heavily on the floor by the fire and drew uneven, rattling breaths. The priestess crouched beside him.


She was somewhere between twenty and thirty summers old, although summers seemed an odd way to measure the passing of time in this place. Despite her youth, her hair was pure white. So white, in fact, that it made the snow outside look grey. It was tied in a braid that reached down to her waist. Her robes were thick and fur-lined but the visitor could tell she was petite and slim, and her hands were soft and delicate like those of a nobleman’s daughter. Her eyes were startlingly green. She looked harmless and fragile, and that was what made her visitor wary. Such a vulnerable looking woman living in a place as deadly as this must have something to hide - some concealed power.


“What is your name?” she asked him.


He opened his mouth reflexively to give the answer that had come so naturally his entire life, and found that he could not. He frowned and shook his head.

She laughed. It was not quite a giggle, but almost. It sounded like tinkling bells.


“Worry not. It will come back once your mind thaws. I am Enyani, of the priesthood of the void. Welcome to my outpost.”


“Greetings, Miss Enyani. I thank you for your hospitality. You are not surprised to see me. Do ye receive many callers?”


She smiled and shook her head. Her eyes closed when she smiled in a way that was charming and amiable. “Nay, I saw you coming.”


She gestured at the pot over the fire and he nodded. He had seen the light fading in the water as he had warmed his hands. He had known many a spellweaver in his life - hey were not uncommon in St Llewellyn - but to use the surface of water as a viewing window was an advanced incantation. It was true what they said about the priests and priestesses o’ the void after all, then.


“I’ve followed your travels for the past week,” she told him. “You were making steady progress up the mountainside until today.”


He chuckled.

“Aye. Windigo finally got the jump on me this morning. I had to run for it and leave most all my gear behind. I was lucky to keep what I did, although my boots would have been nice.”


“You are luckier than you know. Had you not found my cabin, you would have caught frostbite or hypothermia even if the windigos had not taken you.”


“The windigos will not take me from here?”


She shook her head again. The movement made her braid twitch back and forth like the tail of a playful puppy.

“The windigos do not disturb the priests and priestesses of the void. We are trained to keep them at bay.”


“You need to teach me that trick,” he joked.


“Yes… You have the mark of one on your cheek.”


He raised his hand and absentmindedly touched the disfiguring scar where the windigo had gnawed at him that morning. It had bled a lot at first, but the cold had eventually made the blood vessels contract.

“Can you heal it?”


For a third time, she shook her head. He grinned, and felt the scar tug on his lip and pull the smile out of symmetry.


“I thought not. Never mind, ‘twas vanity.”


“Yes…” She fingered the left sleeve of her robe with the fingers of her right hand.


“Why have you come so far, traveller? What do you hope to find this far east?”         


He hesitated, trying to remember. His name had returned to him now; he would tell it to her if she asked again, he decided. After a moment the vague inkling of where he was going and what he was doing resolved itself into a series of crisp memories of his journey from St Llewellyn a mere month ago.

“I seek the Philistine consciousness,” he told her.


She closed her eyes and sighed, as if receiving confirmation of some terrible news.

“Then you have nearly found it. It lies two miles further on your current course, in the valley beyond this peak. But I must ask… why do you seek the consciousness? No good can be found there.”


“I don’t remember why… Only that it is vital that I reach it.”


She said nothing for a while. He thought he saw genuine concern in her eyes for a second, but then her long, curved lashes curled down over them and hid them from view.

“If that is your wish, then I will not keep you from it. We, the priesthood, are not the guardians of the consciousness. We merely seek to study it, to understand it and ultimately to eliminate it. But I advise you to take extreme caution regarding it. What exactly do you know of the consciousness?”


By now, the visitor’s teeth had stopped chattering, and some eloquence and articulacy was returning to his speech.

“At this moment? Very little. But as you said, my mind has yet to fully thaw from the cold. I am certain that I once knew much more about it. Perhaps you could jog my memory, as a scholar of the consciousness?”


She looked up and met his eyes. For a brief while she seemed to be evaluating him, judging his character. Then she eased into a more comfortable sitting position, folding her legs underneath her and smoothing the front of her robes. She laid her braid in her lap and fondled the end of it, deep in thought.

“The Philistine consciousness is an entity that has resided in this mountain range since time immemorial. It does not appear to move or communicate directly with other beings. It takes the form of a dense, black orb about eleven feet across. This much you surely know?”


He nodded. She went on:


“The consciousness embodies the basest, most primitive aspects of human nature: greed, hatred, envy, rage, lust, fear and others. Some theories say that the consciousness is comprised of the physical manifestations of those emotions themselves. Others say that it is the well from which all living creatures telepathically draw these emotions. All that can be said for certain is that, the closer to the consciousness one gets, the stronger the consciousnesses hold grows. Men living near the valley wherein it lies have been known to go mad with these base urges and impulses.”


He nodded again.

“Aye, I feel that I knew this too. You explain very concisely and intelligently, sister.”


She smiled. “That is a verbatim recital of the writings of Yindrid Earthmover, founder of my order.”


“I see.”


There was a comfortable silence. Then Enyani spoke again:

“You have questions. I can tell.”


“Just one, sister.”


“Then ask it. And you may call me by my given name.”


“Very well, Miss Enyani. If the consciousness radiates such powerful forces, and we are nought but two miles from it, why are we not overcome?”


“Your question is astute, traveller. Come, observe.”

She stood gracefully and approached the cauldron. Vague wisps of steam were now rising from it.


He stood too, ignoring the shrieks of protest from his legs. Enyani extended her index finger and muttered a word in the ancient tongue. He made it out: sau - moisture.

A clear drop of water formed at the tip of her finger and fell into the pot. Another followed, and then another. He watched her work this simple spell until there was a steady drip, drip, drip of tiny liquid diamonds falling from her hand onto the water’s surface.


“Watch the ripples,” she told him.


He did. They radiated outwards from the point where the droplet struck the surface in concentric circles that grew larger and larger as they moved away from the epicentre, but also fainter and fainter.


“I see nothing of import,” he told her.


“What about now?” she asked, and raised another finger.

She uttered the spell again and the second finger began to drip in unison with the first. Now there were two points on the water’s surface whence originated a series of ripples.


He began to notice a pattern. For the most part, the ripples stayed the same. They travelled outwards in ever larger and ever fainter circles until they faded into nonexistence to make way for the ripples of the droplet that came after them. However, where the ripples from the two sources crossed, there formed lines of interference - where the peak of one wave met the trough of another and the two cancelled out to form beams of calm water.


“As it is in this cauldron, so it is with the consciousness,” she said.


“These beams… they are places where the consciousness’s effects are negligible?” he asked.


“Aye.”


“But there is only one consciousness. How can it form the ripple pattern of two sources?”


“It exists in a different plane of existence to us. Its physical form is a protrusion across dimensions. It is here once, it is here twice. It is here not at all, it is here a thousand times. You need not understand; you need only know that it is so. Great scholars have spent their lives studying it, and still come away looking as confused as you do now.”


He took a moment to digest what he had heard. She took her hands away from the cauldron and ended the spell. The water dripping from her fingertips ceased.


“But the lines are temperamental. They shift and change with the winds. Sometimes I am relatively free here of the consciousness’s effects, other times this cabin is directly in the path of the radiation. Hence I have no breakable belongings - I may destroy them in a fit of rage.”


His eyes widened. He could not imagine this slender feminine figure breaking anything out of rage.

She noticed his expression and nodded.


“But enough of such serious talk. Rest, dear, and let me cook us our supper.”


She fetched a skinned rabbit that had been hanging by the window. The water had come to a rolling boil, and the rabbit went in to cook.


“This creature was a prime example, traveller,” she told him. “When I found it, the consciousness had infected it with rage. It had killed and eaten four of its warren.”


The thought of such a thing turned his stomach. He had had a pet rabbit as a child.

It can really do that to creatures?


“Aye, she said solemnly, shaking an assortment of spices and herbs into the pot. What did you think the windigos outside were?


“Servants of the consciousness,” her visitor replied. “Cannibals. Freaks. Demons. Monsters.


“Not just that,” Enyani told him. “They are travellers, just like you, who were overcome by the Philistine consciousness. 

That is why you must be careful. And it is also why you may only stay here one night. I have been trained on how to resist the consciousness’s rays, but you have not. If the winds should shift while you are here, we may hurt each other. If it is hatred or rage that overcomes us, we may tear each other’s throats out. If it is lust… then I may unwittingly betray the oath of chastity I swore when I joined the priesthood.”


“Worry not, Miss Enyani. For I am so exhausted that I lack the energy to satisfy even my own flesh.”


She blushed as red as wine.

“You take chances, traveller. Had you come across the outpost of one of the more…austere priestesses, they may have turned you out into the cold for such a remark.”


“I take many chances, Miss. In fact, my gambling nature is part of what lead me on this journey.”


She looked up from the vegetables she was chopping over the pot.

“Oh? You are remembering what lead you here?”


“I… I think so. My story is beginning to return to me.”


“Then let me hear it. It will help you to sort out your own thoughts in your head, and I am curious to hear what could possibly have urged you to come searching for the Philistine consciousness.”


“Very well. I shall tell you as the rabbit cooks.”


She put aside her chopping knife and pulled the cabin’s two chairs closer to the fire. He gratefully accepted one.


With the rabbit cooking in the pot, and the wind and the windigos wailing outside, and the snow pounding on the roof and the windows, and the consciousness lurking somewhere out there in the darkness, he began to speak…




© 2013 FantasyGal



Author's Note

FantasyGal
Please be brutally honest. Do you think this is worth continuing?? Drop me a review, and I promise I'll do the same for you :) (and I'll put in as much thought and insight as you did for me, so don't think you can get away with a simple "it's good", lol)

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Featured Review

I enjoy the level of detail you put into this story, although I was confused for a while along the end, I finally started to understand. The plot is intriguing and Intelligent. The priestess was my favorite character, as she seemed like a very smart person(?). I hope you continue this story.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

FantasyGal

4 Years Ago

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)
Which parts were confusing? I'd like to make it as easy .. read more
Scott "the magic maker" Mou

4 Years Ago

This might sound stupid of me, but some of the words were kinda difficult. Also the idea of the "Con.. read more



Reviews

I lived it the detail was what I loved the most it was enough for me to visualize and get the emotion.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

FantasyGal

4 Years Ago

THank you very much :)
I enjoy the level of detail you put into this story, although I was confused for a while along the end, I finally started to understand. The plot is intriguing and Intelligent. The priestess was my favorite character, as she seemed like a very smart person(?). I hope you continue this story.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

FantasyGal

4 Years Ago

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)
Which parts were confusing? I'd like to make it as easy .. read more
Scott "the magic maker" Mou

4 Years Ago

This might sound stupid of me, but some of the words were kinda difficult. Also the idea of the "Con.. read more
Hi - I enjoyed this. You have used some really great imagery and descriptive phrasing making it possible to actually picture what you are describing.

Just a few things from a personal point of view;

With the weather as bad as you describe, I am not sure he would have been able to walk without boots. Second, maybe the priestess should offer to let him soak his feet to warm them as well as his hands.

It also seems as if you can't make up your mind about the language. The 'old' language with 'aye' and 'nay' etc seem to fit in your story, but then you have other sentences where you say yes and no and your language is more 'modern'. Work out which way you want to go and then stick to it. I like 'old school' but it can be hard sometimes to say what you want to say while remaining authentic with your language style.

Putting your work out there for someone to read and review is scary - I know, so kudos to you for doing it. Just remember at the end of the day, as long as you like what you write and it makes you happy then nobody else's opinion really matters.

Keep going :)

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

FantasyGal

4 Years Ago

Thank you very much for taking the time to read and review, it means a lot :).
He hasn't been .. read more
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Amazing idea, it's a story I see lots of potential in and could become a great world people can get into and can turn out to be very popular, you describe things very well and once you get going it gets interesting, I did get alittle confused threw out the story but it starts to make sense once you keep going, I suggest you continue on with this, I would actually be really interested in what you can add and what the mans name and past is

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

FantasyGal

4 Years Ago

Thank you very much! :)
I think I will continue this after all. Which parts were confusing? I.. read more
Andy Toews

4 Years Ago

The part I guess found the most confusing was the beginning a bit, maybe shorten some stuff on the s.. read more

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Added on September 22, 2013
Last Updated on September 22, 2013
Tags: fantasy, fantasy world, steampunk, western, adventure, odyssey, journey, mythology, monsters, mythical creatures, romance


Author

FantasyGal
FantasyGal

Bath, United Kingdom



About
Hi! :) My name's Helen, and I'm a fantasy writer. I'm quite shy, so I don't really like talking about myself xD, but if you want to know anything about me then you can just ask x more..

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