What does the blind see – post-apocalyptic short story 2/2

Philosophers from the Ereworld used to say that the greatest tragedies that had befallen the world cam from the destructive power of fire or water – namely, how the natural world used to rule over the fortune and misfortune of human affairs.

That changed with our former industrial civilization. We learned to control and direct the power of fire and water and iron, and for a while, we believed to be the dominant species on the planet.

Now, as the Faepocalypse came to spread its wings over the entirety of Mankind, we still reach for fire and iron, but our greatest asset lies in water.

Especially blessed water.

The cursed Fae and the wretched Eerie does not like water in any form, especially running and hot water. Hence, the reason to install an Augur on every one of the towns on the land, while those on islands or floating platforms could enjoy a higher degree of protection thanks to the sea.

Most famous in this regard used to be the town of Belacqua, lost deep inside the Forest, just a few miles away from the engineering outpost of Trefiumi. Belacqua was a fortified position and one that had long weathered the assaults of the Eerie.

Lost inside the forest, it could not receive any help or even communication. With the first snow, the Tide would rise and the forest would fill with hungry, restless Eerie ready to bite and tear.

That made the Augur of Belacqua one of the most important in the entire Order.

The blessed maiden would rest in the central pool of the Temple, laying in the water as she purified it with her blood and with her prayers. The presence of the Augur would instill water with the properties to hinder, hurt and even scorch the cursed flesh of the Eerie.

As the Augur had to be chosen among the most skilled ones, the water of Belacqua was always sought-after, and the town thrived from sale of its most precious goods, during spring and summer.

By autumn, they stopped sales and began to stockpile for the coming Tide. The pressure inside the pipelines would be increased and the blessed waters, running through the scalding iron veins kept heated by the ceaseless heart of the Generator, would then spew a fine argent mist all around the city, hiding it from sight and causing every Eerie that tried to get lucky and come in untold amounts of pain as the mist would eat through its hide.

Thus, for a long time there was balance between the forest and the remnants of the world of Men.

This would not last.

The origins of the disaster, and the misfortune that befell Belacqua, did not come from the forest, but they came from one of us.

In that time, Mastra Verna Sorgiva had been High Seer for years.

She used to be a tall blonde woman, carrying herself with the confidence that one has to expect from her rank. She used to be the youngest High Seer the Order had ever seen, and by far the most powerful Augur as well.

Everyone looked up to her as a beacon of strength against the Tide, as the one who could lead the Order to ever-higher accomplishments.

But if Vestals have the Sight that looks into the future, Mastra Verna looked towards the past. Starting early in her life she became obsessed with the ancient and lost arts of the Ereworld. She would spend days by herself, walking through the forest as she unearthed lost wonders, weapons of old and structures that the Eldritch War had left to rot.

And yet, all that would have been well and good, if she had kept the warning of the first Vestal in her mind.

Not to provoke the Queen of Thorns.

But Verna wouldn’t heed those words, and she began to encroach on forbidden territory.

In time, her blind gaze turned from the underground to the skies, towards the slow stars and quick. Those would be stations of glass and steel put above by the industrial civilization, in a desperate bid to stay out of the grasp of the Wicked Fae.

They had been rolling across the sky for centuries, and sometimes, they would crash upon the land or the sea, carrying with them their secrets into the oblivion.

But not all of them would follow that fate. Some remained intact enough to provide Masta Verna with an inkling of the highest craft of the Ereworld.

And as she gained resources and tools, she began to set up a plan. To use the artifacts she had recovered to burn the forest to the ground, kill the Queen of Thorns and recover the world for Mankind.

Perhaps, one can say in retrospect, it was her incredible Sight that betrayed her.

It made her too confident. Since then, High Seer Valeriana has kept a much more detached approach towards the forest, and things seem to have been improving.

What might have been the cause of Mastra Verna’s downfall? At the beginning of the harshest winter in living memory, she disappeared into the forest, and she would never come back.

The Council, at first dismayed, would then find out about her schemes and her plans, which she had hidden from the eyes of every other Vestal.

But it is not hard to imagine what has befallen her, given the fate that befell the city of Belacqua that same winter.

In truth, the most powerful and most highly-regarded Vestal of our times has left a legacy of broken souls, hundreds of square miles lost to the forest, betrayal and massacre.

The events that followed, which caused great upheaval in the ranks of the Order, and the encroaching of the forest further south, as it began to spread towards the Floodlands and the Bittersea, are to be linked, ultimately, to the failure and the hubris of Mastra Verna Sorgiva.

In the end, the words that have defined our world are just as meaningful now as they used to be. And it is just as likely they will always be.

You don’t go into the forest.

Author’s Notes: Still down with the fever.

Thanks for reading.


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