Historium – The City Of Stories
We approached from the West, as we had been advised; and, after bartering a few fire-side tales for entry, we eventually found ourselves within the strangely mellifluous city walls.
It didn’t disappoint.
We’d long heard of Historium’s grandeur, it’s epic realities and many unbelievable fantasies, along with any number of hear-says, hints and vaguely audacious rumours that had been added-on limpet-like to its infamy; but, nothing had prepared us for the sheer scale of the place – if you were a tower enthusiast, this was the place to be.
Whilst we were busy fantasy skyline-watching, a chimera of a man appeared, approaching us from a deep shadow, his garb camouflaging him into the city’s penumbras until he chose to show himself.
“Take this and give it to Prince Tellumar when you see him; but, only if he is on his own – never trust his guards – they serve another.”
He passed a parchment to me, turned, and was gone.
“Who was that?” Simlon was ever the questioner. “And what did he give you?” The first words spoken between us since before we had parlayed with the entry guards.
“I don’t know. A parchment; let us not discuss this here.”
In agreement, we proceeded; even though we knew not where to.
Turning a corner we entered a street of doors: massive, with foreboding doorways, guardians to their secret withins.
“Can you hear bells?” asked Simlon.
I could. The sound had grown quickly from nothing, rather than starting fully formed, as if they were approaching us at speed.
“In here!” I directed, pulling him into a portico that led us to two partially opened doors.
We hesitated barely a moment, balancing the oncoming bells against the unknown within; then plunged through the gap.
The bells clamoured to a peak and then passed by as if they had been on our heels. The doors closed behind us and the noise of the bells was cut short, although their memory rang through us.
It wasn’t dark inside; but, it took us a little while to recover breath and accustom ourselves to the vestigial gloom.
“Tread carefully and be silent; and that goes for both of us.” I whispered, knowing that Simlon’s desire for Historium’s secrets was fired up; but, we would be better equipped if we tiptoed rather than ran full pelt into things.
“Sure.” came Simlon’s reply. “But, I think we had better work out where we are going – before we get there.”
I quoted from The Text ” ‘In ‘storium you have to turn the page to see where the story goes.’ ”
“We sure are turning a lot of pages, Gatti.”
I thought this through.
“We are probably no further than the opening gambit. Do we keep reading?”
“No choice!” opined Simlon, “We are in it for the duration, now.”
We moved further into the building and sensed that the light was emanating from a room directly in front of us.
We entered a sparsely furnished temple-like area; it’s high ceiling and windowless walls dwarfed us. In front of us was a fuelless flame. We approached.
In the flame were words, hovering amidst the tendrils of fire. The heat wasn’t unbearable and we could read from a distance of twenty feet or so what its message was:
‘WORDS ARE TO BE WRITTEN: WORDS ARE TO BE READ; A WORD UNREAD CAN NEVER BE SAID TO HAVE LIVED’
The flame cleared; the message had been read.
I thought of the parchment in my hand. “Simlon! It wants us to read the parchment!”
I unrolled it, and I read aloud the words held within the rolled parchment:
‘A little fish
Swimming in a very large ocean
Doesn’t stop to consider the scale of things;
The fish just swims.’
We paused in thought.
“That’s very Xenian!” offered Simlon. “I always said that Historium’s tale was like the tail of a fish that swims who knows where.”
“You said ‘that’?” I asked, never once having heard any kind of suchlike phrase proffered from my companion’s lips.
“I have said a lot of things in my mind, Gatti. It’s only now, here, that I can say them out aloud.”
And that was where our stories really began.