One Hour Story 3

Today I struggled, and what follows is actually half an hour of writing, not a whole hour; I abandoned my first attempt, which is appropriate given today’s inspiration is the abandoned signs of civilisation posted to Reddit’s Abandonedporn sub. So I ran out of time a bit, but I think I got what I wanted across. Not so sure about the tense. Feedback welcome.

~~~

I am an archivist. A royal archivist, and I was always very proud of that. I knew the books well, their contents, their authors, where they came from, where they belonged on the shelves and what spine they had. I’d read them all. But the archives and the palace burned, the city fell, and now I seek other works; a new archive to curate, a new king worthy of the title, one who understands the value of heritage and preserving the knowledge and memories of the ancients.

My travels have not been easy. I am used to sitting, reading, climbing ladders, carrying. I am not used to the chill of the outdoors, or of walking all day. My feet are sore and my legs ache, though less than when I first began this journey.

This night we are camped out; there’s no inn for miles, and the roads are too dangerous to travel. We found a place to shelter, and what a place it is.

I thought it no more than a ruin when we approached, another casualty of the war, a castle thrown up a generation ago nd brought down within the last year. We were, after all, close to the route that defiler who now sits the throne took with his army. But there is no sign of the passage of an army here, no flattened crops or trees chopped down for firewood. No crops and few trees at all.

It was the doorways that gave it away. A castle built in the last two centuries would have been adorned with arches, sweeping curves as the engineers have devised and found in every structure of stone since the building programme of Jannis. These doorways were rectangular, two study uprights with a crosspiece, like the wooden huts all across the land, but in stone.

At first I thought it merely a hastily constructed thing; this ruin could no more be a hall of the ancients than I could be a knight, for it lacked grandeur. It was just stone, no wall paintings and relief sculpture of such beauty that the ancients wrote poetry of it. Nothing like those buildings I had read of. But the lintels told true: not merely their right angles, but the carvings at the end of them, above the uprights of the frames. The traditional motif seen across the whole of the southern lands, three upright lines bound by willow, the ancient symbol of the three gods the ancients worshipped. There could be no denying that.

It is a sad place, this ruin. Empty and forgotten; roofless, the relief carvings – for they do exist, though deep within the building – washed almost flat by rains and winds for more than a millennium. Not a building the like of which I have seen drawings of for twenty years in the old books. Just a pile of stones, half-collapsed walls, broken pottery, weeds and grass and dust.

Quillin thought the place haunted, bless her. I can see why that might be. It is a cold place, a dead place left abandoned; the inhabitants that once brought it life have been cold in their graves so long they are likely no more than dust now. And the wind of these remote places does whistle and moan so through the empty windows and down the empty corridors. But if ghosts ever resided here, they too are gone. They remain only to haunt the living, and a millennium without any living will leave the ghosts to fade.

I didn’t really want to see more, once I knew where we are. I’m not entirely sure our position, and the oldest maps are not reliable, but I believe we have found the palace of Corash, the first emperor; it would explain why the place is so small, for at the start of seven hundred years of high culture, there were too few resources and too little skill for what followed at the empire’s height.

But I cannot sleep. The fire barely gives warmth, and the wind keeps it spluttering. So I get up and walk from room to room, climbing occasionally around obstructions and over stones and around bushes. In each room I add to my sketch, mark on the dimensions. Where there is the start of a set of stairs, cut off at head-height, I note that too. It is getting dark and I can scarcely see the page, but I hurry around, adding more rooms to my sketch and notes in the margins, until the page is filled and I return to the room where we have set up camp.

It is a sad place, but it is no longer forgotten. And when I find somewhere to stop, my notes on the palace of Corash will be the first new book I add to that library; heritage is preserved, if only on the page as the ruin becomes gradually overcome.

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