Whither, thou goest…
October 6, 2013 § 1 Comment
The City stretches boundlessly and there are none who, if not exactly welcomed, are not tolerated under the great munificence of our Lord. From the winding alleyways of the Riddle to the open plazas of the Limbic Quarter, in the huddled camps out by the Sleeping Cliffs to the clamouring throngs of Dyall Square; diversity is victorious.
Yet, even these places are commonplace next to the great City within the City; the eerily glimmering necropolis of Whither.
Behind black-iron gates, gates that are locked from the inside, lies this rarely mentioned Dark Borough. No tombs or catacombs stand here, no gravel paths lead through weeping yews, for this is not a place of eternal rest. Shadowed boulevards stretch into the gloom whilst glowering townhouses line their routes like stern-eyed pallbearers. Perpetual fog lurks under leafless branches, ignoring the changing seasons as it has for time out of memory.
Occasionally, as dusk falls on some quiet evening, a black hearse will draw up to the Whither Gate and the Master Undertaker, paler and more aged than his calling perhaps demands, will step down onto the cobbles. His assistants will bring out a bundle – sometimes large, sometimes small – and place it on the low, worn stone by the gate. They will pull the black, horsehair cord above and retreat quietly, quickly. There will be no reply, no acknowledgement, and for this they are grateful.
By morning, the bundle will be gone. By morning, a pledge will have been fulfilled. Only one man has remained, on a youthful wager they say, to watch the bundle be accepted. He does not speak of what he saw. He does not speak of anything, any more.
Our Lord’s honoured grandfather, long may he be remembered, saw the Whither’s existence as a snub against his rule, an island of silent independence in a place of otherwise universal dominion. Before dawn on one cool, spring morning he sent the militia to storm the gates and reclaim the Borough in his name. No man who crossed the threshold made it more than a dozen steps before collapsing into the gutters, grasping at their throats in silent torment as eyes bulged and ears bled. Our one-time Lord, many honoured even now, is said to have risen from sleep in his chambers ashen-faced and gaunt with a parchment clutched in his shaking fist. This parchment, written in his own hand but with signed addenda in perfect copperplate of unknown authorship, outlines what has become known as The Agreement; Whither will never again be assailed or otherwise defiled, a seat will be made available at the Conclave for any ambassador that Whither may wish to send according to their whim and there will be a tribute offered to the Lords of Whither by the Lords of the City.
Though a chair sits waiting in the Rose Office even today no ambassador has ever issued from the Borough, much to the relief of all sane men. Yet Whither remains unmolested and the tributes, delivered in bundles on demand, continue