[Book] Clever-Man's Shave

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Gnomey
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[Book] Clever-Man's Shave

Post by Gnomey » Mon Dec 31, 2018 3:15 am

After some discussion of Greybeards on Discord I decided to try and describe my impression of them through an in-universe text. This is the WIP of the text, though the actual relevant bit still needs to be written, as I consider it the hardest part to write. Not sure about the title and author; the current title is the result of my realizing just now that it needs one. Edit: I consider the text finished, though would very much like to hear feedback as I can't really judge it objectively. I'm inclined to keep the author and title as they are.

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Clever-Man's Shave
by Ulfthing Wheel-Step

I was always curious in the days of my youth. I wandered the woods beyond my village, ran to the harbor to hear the longboats pull up to the quay, listened to the merchants that alighted talk of their wares and the world. When elders spoke and the other children ran outside to play-fight or chase some vermin real or imagined, I stayed and listened.

When I was old enough to embark on my own, I went to the city. I learned a trade, got into scuffles with others my age, traveled to other places as need or desire arose. As I passed through villages and sat in longships and carriages I spoke of my own journeys and knowledge, and others spoke of theirs. But slowly what I heard began to sound familiar, and others found more that was new in my words than I found in theirs.

Woods far from home are still much like woods, waves far from home much like waves, and merchants far from home much like merchants. I became surrounded by the circular hum of old sounds, and I began to find them dull, and those around me began to find me clever. And perhaps I did too.

But I was still curious. As I could not escape the hum, I decided to find the source of it. And what other source could there be than the Throat of the World? That is where my feet carried me, no longer practicing my trade but merely feeding on my obsession. As I made it to the foot of the mountain, the hum was carried like a shudder down its slopes, passing over rocks and drifting snow and the cold, hard surface of the 7000 steps. Each step I took reverberated shortly through the stone before the unrelenting hum silenced it, as though I was hearing the echoes of all those who had walked the path before me.

I had traveled far and wide, but that journey up the steps seemed the longest I had undertaken. Everything I had experienced, everything I had heard seemed to be gathered in that one place, in the wind that constantly tried to beat me back and stop me from reaching its source. The further I went, the stronger it became, no longer a hum but a howl. And as I sought shelter from the wind in vain, trying to find sleep in the cold so that I could continue with sure step the next day, I thought I heard some new words, too.

In contrast, the people of Hrothgar had less to tell me than I had hoped. Their words turned ever towards the Greybeards: some had seen them, some brought supplies up to them, some wished to become them. None, of course, had actually spoken with them. They had much to say, and some were impressive figures on their own. Some had voices so powerful they were apt to shatter drinking vessels and ears if the speaker got carried away mid-conversation, and windows were paned with semi-transparent vellum rather than glass, which seemed better-suited to withstand the timbre of their voices. But they were like myself: possessing many questions and looking further up the mountain for their answers.

So I continued upwards until, finally, the flagstones I had followed under foot rose above me to form a foreboding facade, black through the endless snow. I had no trouble entering the home of the Greybeards; no lock or spell could better guard it than its inhabitants. I cast one final, ill-advised glance down from whence I came, thick clouds thankfully obscuring the fall, contemplated the possibility that I would soon be heading back as snow-borne ash, becoming part of the unending choir that would greet the next visitor, and then stepped forth into the hall.

My eyes took time in adjusting to the hall. It was very dim and large, and its ceiling remained beyond my gaze. The Greybeards, however, did not. Their name is well-chosen, as their ashen beards were first to emerge from the darkness. They sat on high thrones which seemed chiseled out of the living stone, dark robes obscuring their limbs, hoods hiding what part of their face their gags did not cover. I was not sure that they were the Greybeards, they might as well have been statues of ancient kings. They made no sound, but then nor did I. My breath was out of me, out of the room.

Somehow, I summoned the courage to step further into the chamber. I do not recall hearing my own steps, though the ground beneath me was bare stone as before. They seemed to be swallowed by the silence. I felt, or imagined, the gaze of the Greybeards on me. They did not speak, and neither did I, for to speak is to invite reply and I had no such wish. Instead, in that room bereft of familiar sounds, I listened for my answer.

The harder I strained to listen, the further the sound around me seemed to retreat from me, and the further my senses stretched out for something to latch onto. The Greybeards seemed to loom forward until I felt I could reach out and touch them, their grim aspects filling my eyes and their silence my ears.

And then all at once, as though they introduced it as a whisper into my very soul, I became aware of a sound deep within me. Not my footfalls nor my heart, though I could feel that beating fast, but a rushing sound which wound through every part of me, beating against my muscles like water, causing my bones to creak like windswept branches, filling every part of me with a constant murmur. The sound escaped me and filled the room, and once more the hum was around me. At that moment, I thought I saw one of the Greybeards motion, but I merely shook my head.

I turned around and started on my way back down the mountain. The voice of Kyne is carried in the trees, through the waves and on the tongues of merchants in the marketplace, even those from foreign lands who do not know how to use their words. I was greedy in coming to the place where those whispers gathered; where in absolute silence the rumblings of the world reverberated. I had wished to reach the source of the world's hum, but instead felt that chamber contained its sum, or worse yet that I did. Better, I find, to sate one's thirst by procuring dew from a twig than risk being swallowed by the flood.

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Gnomey
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Post by Gnomey » Sat Feb 16, 2019 11:27 am

I forgot to get back to this. "Woods far from home are still much like woods, waves far from home much like waves, and merchants far from home much like merchants." could be switched out for "Foreign woods are still woods, foreign waters still water, and foreign merchants still merchants." if a less ambiguous wording is preferred. In general, the line should acknowledge there are differences to some degree, but the author was not able to appreciate them as he found more similarities than differences.

Other than that, I fixed the one typo (ones to one's) that was pointed out. This book implies that Hrothgar and High Hrothgar both exist, and that both are settlements on the Throat of the World, one nearer the bottom and the other near/at the top. That seems to be the current plan, but some edits may be necessary if that changes.

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