Day 1: V

I never met the master builder responsible for our great hall’s construction. By all accounts of the man, it appears unlikely I would have enjoyed the encounter; and yet I cannot but feel disappointment’s keen edge that fortune spurned me the chance. One plays a dangerous game ascribing to an individual grand qualities based on the work they leave behind, but the image of the hall that feast’s day, which I summon now to my mind’s eye, leaves me with little choice. Master Skoffos—the ‘One-Eyed Architect’—possessed vision.

Spanning fifty men in width and two hundred in length, the hall spread itself across two levels: a sky-open recession at its middle and, three steps above, a high-ceilinged dais which encircled it about the room’s perimeter. An enormous table, its gnarled surface at odds with the lavish cutlery arranged upon it, sat at the center of all things. Gilded sunlight fell upon it. Raskalfahn is its name—‘cut from the king of trees’ in Old Palfiri—and its age surpasses the history of the Lachliez name. Flaring columns stood at regular interval before the dais, transforming that space into a colonnaded walkway. Atop these columns rested an architrave (painted by Skoffos himself!) which depicted the most famous legends of our house: the Lachliez lion, The Battle of Blackbone, Tertio’s Folly, The Month of the Forgotten Sun. Marble sculptures of lesser tales stood within the dais’s shade: a bust of a severe woman (no doubt a distant relative) enlarged to religious proportions, snarling creatures with crimson-tipped maws, a monk in benediction from whose upturned hands grew not fingers but great branches twisted and thorned.

Luthor and I entered through a door closest to this last sculpture. Before we took another step, he whistled in relief and I followed his eyes to the empty seat at the head of the table. The king (or my father, if you wish for me to acknowledge him as such) could not find fault if I gave him no chance—so had I thought.

“We are early,” I said, trying to hide the glee in my voice.

Luhtor smiled in response. The creases at the ends of his happy mouth met the shadows cast by his protruding cheekbones. Taken with his pointed nose and the white-wisped whiskers which fell tiredly down his chin, the overall effect created was that of a prescient owl. Only his too-lively eyes resisted the transformation. “Yes, which means you have time to play. Run along now. I see Crick has a gift for you.”

Even without Luhtor’s intimation, I could not have gone long without noticing the towering figure across the room. Crick’s size drew attention in the largest of crowds; in their absence it grew to impossibility. The top of his head, from which fell golden hair, matched the column on which he leaned. By my estimation, this would place his height at eleven feet.

How I can hear your mutterings of disbelief upon that last sentence! “Liar!” you wish to brand me, is it not so? If you count yourself among those incapable of such imagination, I urge you to visit the breathing embodiment of your doubt. Crick lives today in a hamlet on the shores of a lake the locals call Rorsessa. Although the village knows no name, the directions to its location can be written thus: from the city of Kubol head due north until you reach the Antarsis pass; here the path diverges—take the left around the peaks and continue for 5 days (2 by horseback) until you reach another fork; choose the right and after another day you shall come upon a dale hidden between red-treed hills. Here waits the lake and the fishing village I speak of. You can find Crick in the house farthest from the water’s edge. He has a wife and three sons. The youngest will outgrow his father, I think.

Being of such size, Crick experienced the world from a perspective foreign to most ordinary sensibilities. To understand him, one must first concede the depth to which each of us creates meaning through separation, that precise demarcation of all things by a simple question: is it like me or not? We embrace similarities and castigate differences to a profound degree—and from this constant categorization do our thoughts and our actions take form. Whence comes choice without a cage? I say this not to impugn human nature but to shed light on a truth few allowed themselves to glimpse: within Crick’s form lay a person of much the same character as you and I. In those assumptions to the contrary, so easily formed by the narrow-minded, arose the greatest tragedy.

Crick played the role of performer in the House Lachliez. As I crossed the hall’s center and the monstrous table which split it in two, I found it impossible to ignore the sheen of his shirtless torso. Taken with the unusual paleness of his skin (as descendants of the Thracian line, our family and the people of its lands know some renown for their sunkissed color), he appeared a being cut from ice.

“Kadon,” he said as I reached him.


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