I find before me the daunting task of revising, annotating, and producing the ninth edition of 100 Years Lost, with the bar for quality set high by my predecessors, my father, grandfather, and my grandfather’s mentor.
100 Years Lost may be the most contentious and important text in the Finder community, and provoked a metamorphosis across the community that continues even today. Without Hazel and her work, Finding might still yet be relegated to a select few, dismissed as madmen and gamblers, plumbing the realms of Dream. My father once drew comparisons between our Hazel, last name unknown, and the pilot Amelia Earhart, with the distinction that our version of Amelia Earhart happened to do the equivalent of taking her plane to the moon, spent a lifetime there, brought back proof and incomplete knowledge of the journey and survival, and only then did she disappear. The rest of us were left to scramble in a mad dash to make sense of it all, adapt, and advance.
The changes Hazel catalyzed continue today, which is one reason why we maintain editions of 100 Years Lost. As our base of knowledge improves, so do our annotations and subsections exploring the passages, the curation of which is a difficult task laid before my fingertips. The lovely Latimore family, the Gadsens, and the Inconnue enclave have kindly contributed knowledge and assistance that I certainly hope will be treasured for the coming centuries, and they have certainly and graciously made my job easier with their open communication. Still, much happens and is revealed in the five years between editions and I hope my efforts are up to the task of tying those revelations back to Hazel’s journey without taking away from the reader’s ability to read Hazel’s thoughts.
But perhaps the most difficult thing before me is the reality my father would allude to but not say directly: that the changes Hazel brought us were not all good. Hazel’s disappearance and the furor that followed led to lines being drawn and family fighting family. In the past, my father and grandfather used the Foreword and Afterword as a pulpit by which they would admonish other families or make their stances on the current state of practitioner family politics clear. I have no interest in doing this. With that in mind, I wish to make it clear that any omission of mention of any family or family discovery is not an intentional slight. I bear no ill will, and as we approach the fifty year mark since Hazel found her way back to reality, I hope we can find our way to peace.
We will also avoid wasting page space on niche philosophy and considerations, such as the Dreamer Traditionalist, Absurdist, Giant Head, and Disintegrating Reality notions. Some small mention is made of the Architect theory but this is largely due to the fact that it forms a tidy shorthand for referencing those key figures so many Finders encounter in their travels.
As a final note, I’ll stress I’ve taken pains to soften the language of this text surrounding Hazel. Much debate was had within the Wray family over this, as it constitutes erasure of my own father’s words and judgments, without which we wouldn’t be where we are today. In making the final decision, I pinned a great deal on the fact my father softened my grandfather’s words, and in writing for a modern audience I can and should do the same. Where my father removed my grandfather’s tirades and judgmental words to add in the somewhat kinder references to Hazel as a flighty twit, a woman prone to hysterics, and a scattered idiot, I’ve removed many of these, reserving my unkind words for only a handful of pointed incidents.
-Paris J. Wray
Hazel notes: These first twenty or thirty parts I transcribe from an old notebook I’d found that was unfortunately damaged by water and soiled with blood. A fortuitous find of a new book, though small, proved to have endless pages, resistant to the climate. I make my revisions and add additional thoughts.
Editor’s Note: It is unfortunate our lost damsel did this and did not keep the old book. Later notes make reference to pages and parts that we believe were removed in the revision. We likely lost valuable information here and someone’s memories a month after the fact are prone to self-editing.
I’ll restrain my words here and say only that this is the first of many such unfortunate decisions our heroine made.
Year Zero, Day Zero:
What is the use of a sanctuary without protection? What is the use of a sisterhood without love? What is the use of practice if I cannot do anything in the face of the greatest pain I have ever felt?
Minnie my daughter was dead and the reasons for her death were already fiction before the dirt had been thrown over her. The church supports that fiction for I have told them the truth yet I was casually dismissed and urged to return home. The coven who taught me the practice had no succor to offer me. The practice, scattered hedge magics taught to me by local women, cannot bring my child back to me.
Mindless spirits have already given me more comfort than all the rest of these people together. More than the church, than the coven, more than those I healed, at expense to myself.
Most of all, more than my husband, who shook the priest’s hand and thanked him for a lovely ceremony. My husband, who my coven sisters feared enough they would not speak to me. My husband, who I had to keep my practice from.
He had never liked that Minnie was a child from my first marriage.
I was shattered in my own mind when I saw the life leave her. I remember the events and the handshake with the head of the city police. The man was one we had invited over to dinner twice. I remember the service but I do not remember the words. Throughout that day I felt and thought little but a sentiment endured, foolish as it was, that my husband must be wracked with guilt in his silence. A detestable part of myself even harbored hope that at least now his concern was removed and the house could be peaceful and quiet.
It was not. The day had been full and with all of the days stresses pent up he had struck out.
Injured and bleeding, I retreated to use the outhouse when I was suddenly struck by the recollection he had rolled his ankle early in the day. I might never have run otherwise, but that thought in my mind gave me a spark of courage and I carried on past the outhouse, into fields and woods. My husband saw from the window and he gave prompt chase, limping behind.
He had made it clear I would not or should not survive his anger. Church, coven, and every soul I had seen or talked to made it clear that if I did not survive the rest of the world would not care in any substantial way. They hadn’t for Minnie.
I ran, attempting to flee him, but my husband was a hunter and he knew things of tracking I never could. It was only by running until I couldn’t run any longer that I could put distance between us. I collapsed and crawled to water to drink, unable to stand with even my life on the line. Drained and broken, awash in grief, I heard his shouts grow louder. It is there, at the river’s side, that the spirits paid me heed, one warming me by accident, the other drawing branches closer around us. Hiding by the water’s edge, I stared at my reflection and I thought back to the practices I had learned. Herbalism and potions were much of it, but we had attempted the healing of women with the coven, to get them through childbirth when doctors could not or would not come. A transfer of something in ourselves to something else.
I so wished to be away from it all, staring at my reflection in the water, at moon and star. With will alone I poured my being into the world on the other side. I did not want to exist in this world any longer.
But a reflection is only a reflection. I fell through. I arrived at the opening of a place I would call The Broken Road. A straight path led up an increasing slope, with shops and homes on either side. Cracks and pits in the road made progress impossible.
Editor’s Note: Two outstanding points demand attention here, and I’ll reserve the second for the end of this section. Many attempts have been made to decipher how Hazel was able to enter the Paths, and none have been exactly replicated. Debates on whether an innocent might be able to enter the Paths and become Aware or Awakened by her mechanism are ongoing. For further reading on this, I suggest B. Gadsen’s Elusive Lake, PSBN 9106359107202.
Soon after I had caught my bearings, I heard the crash, followed by my husband’s raised voice. I’ve since thought to how he made his way through, and I believe he searched until morning, when the sun came through to reveal the path I’d taken, and he followed in my wake.
I chose to stumble through a shop, in through the front, past the displays, and out the back door into another place entirely, where the stone path was a ribbon stretching across the sky, all parts but the one I stood on flapping about madly in the strong wind. I had to move back and forth to let the wind move the path before hurrying forward to freeze it. In my panic, I passed through three worlds in short order, before my tired legs could no longer bear me.
Editor’s Note: Two things to note as we close chapter one. The nature of Hazel’s Wolf of a husband has led to several theories, but Wonderkand released information suggesting another theory while buying books through Wray publishers: that there is a group (predominantly French-speaking or French-accented) calling themselves Little Wolves, where the boons they gain are different, they have protections from certain practitioner-facing hazards on the Paths, and they have exceedingly aggressive relationships with any Finder they run into. In brief, the only times they don’t attack on sight is when they can confound, trap, disarm, rob, or cause a practitioner to be Lost. They function much as Finders do, though some may be Aware, and if they have a presence on Earth we don’t know where they are rooted or how we might contact them.
There are no especially firm links drawn between the Little Wolves and what Hazel will refer to as her Wolf of a husband, but the loose parallels leave the question open, where it joins theories such as the idea that Hazel’s husband never reached the Paths and the entity that chased her was something Abyssal (the broken road does have ties to the Abyss), that there are multiple signs Hazel was addled and he could have been a delusion of a stressed mind, (facts discourage this reading but don’t disprove it), or that he was actually the Wolf, as she would have seen it on the Forest Ribbon Trail, and that he chased her.
Second, as I alluded to in the last editor’s note, I’ll stress that the Latimores have made a point of inducting their children into the Paths by way of the Broken Road, rather than the customary Forest Ribbon Trail. While others have done this here and there, the Wrays included, the Latimores have remained a close partner of ours and made pointed efforts in attempts to trace Hazel’s route. By starting at or near the same point, the dedicated Latimore approach means they have the opportunity to gain the same unwritten, unstated boons and benefits she did. Their research over years and generations helps us a great deal in striking things off the list of possibilities. We’ll note their recent successes and discoveries in upcoming instalments.
Year One, Day Fifteen
As we entered a washing area in the broader Keyways, the dull scholar, the marzipan ape, and I were all engaged in passionate conversation, with me as the one who had raised the topic at hand. The thought had struck me in the early hours of the morning and once we were all gathered, washed and ready, I had asked them whether the natives of these nonsense places were incomplete and in need of something singular to make them whole. To illustrate my point in a most perfect way I indicated a young woman with an upper body akin to the frame of a painting, with the painting not yet installed. She noticed me pointing at her and pressed a key into my hand, as the natives of this place were so fond of doing.
Oddly enough, it was our dear dull scholar who was the most talkative for once, “—I dare say that any living thing is incomplete. All of us want for love, a next meal, a brighter tomorrow. Without such a wanting we wouldn’t be alive, would we?”
The Marzipan Ape then said something I won’t repeat on paper, while taking pains to demonstrate with the key and the keyhole in the water’s surface. I scolded him and made him insert the key so we might have access past the water’s surface. I used a key for the clothesline and adjusted its position, and another for the bag we had bought, which did promise to be secure but required a key of its own. I thought myself quite a fair hand at the key business. In fact, that very morning I had barely batted an eyelash on waking when I had needed to, for the fourth time, put a keyhole to the right spot in the air to unlock my ability to breathe my first waking breath of the day. I knew that to the natives I was still little better than a fumbling infant, fiddling with the four hundred odd keys on six different keyrings that I had accrued over my five days in the Keyways, but I was still proud at my dexterity and system.
“Dear scholar—” I addressed the man, ready to launch into a speech.
“I am not a dear scholar but a dull scholar,” he corrected me, “and I must beg you to mind that, for I am not very good at minding anything of importance myself. If you were to suggest I was anything but dull I’d worry circumstance would contrive to correct you. It would likely do so by denting my head further, as it has done all my life.”
With that, he touched his bandaged, dented skull. I apologized, and I assured him he was an idiot and that I was in fact about to correct him. I even poked fun at how he, a man, was helping me with the wash, as I carefully extracted my extra set of clothes and put them to the water. Mollified, he let me continue.
“—I do think there is a flaw in your theory. You think every living thing is defined by wanting?”
To this he agreed.
I went on. “—What of a baby, mere months old? Let us assume it is warm, it is fed, it is clean. It does not yet know enough of the world to want for more. At this stage, this is all it knows.”
“Perhaps the baby feels a desire to grow old? Something drives its need to see more, try more speech.”
Something in me was so excited to talk like this, which I had rarely done before, except with my father years before. I imagined it was how the University students talked with one another. I was overjoyed to be cleaning my clothes, knowing they would be fresh and unsoiled on next wear, when I so rarely had the chance to look after such things, out in these nonsense lands.
Then suddenly and terribly I was interrupted from my thoughts of children and wanting by the knowledge that Minnie, my dear daughter, would never grow old. I made myself pretend I was deep in thought, bowing my head over the clothes I washed in the bath-like basin, but tears betrayed me and dripped into the water, prompting the Marzipan Ape to point and laugh. This in turn aroused the notice of the dull scholar, who became alarmed, apologizing bitterly.
Then, as if all of that wasn’t enough to truly put me on the spot, the natives of the area noticed as well. A little girl with keyholes for eyes approached to pat me on the back, and a burly matron of a woman with a need for keys to get her body properly moving set to work, pushing up sleeves, inserting and turning necessary keys, and taking over with my washing, to my protest. Others still gathered, concerned, some young men thinking it was the dull scholar who had brought me to this state. Matters were not helped by the fact the dull scholar had in fact led me to the state I was in but was not truly at fault and I was in no state to find the careful wording I needed.
Eventually I was able to stammer my way through my explanation and pacify matters. The distressingly awkward moments after were cut short by the Marzipan Ape, now stripped of his overalls and underthings, jumping naked into the water of the washbasin, splashing everyone present. Past the initial sputters of outrage, many of us were brought to laughter, and it was in these sorts of circumstances that the maddening and ribald Marzipan Ape was such a good and lovely companion to have.
Some efforts were made to push keys into my hand. Every third day the shuttered window of the bakery could be opened by this one key to get a pie that would heal the heart, I was told, then before I could even set eyes firmly on the key, two more were set down over it.
The little girl with keyholes for eyes told me in the most rushed and excited voice that one would move a little door aside in a pile of litter and garbage, over by the park with the tree of violets and the tree of various reds, but no trees with oranges, and it would be disastrous if I were to go to the litter pile in the park with the tree of violets and trees of various reds but also no trees with blue fruit. She went on to warn me I had to be careful to open the square door with the round window and the twisted handle and not the square door with only the twisted handle or the round door with the square handle, or I could die in a most horrible way, and could I remember that?
I assured her that I was certain I would if my skull wasn’t dented in the interim like the dull scholar’s was, and that I wasn’t good at many things but I had a sharp memory. She told me that the door hid a kitten that would be the sweetest and most noble of kittens, a loyal companion for a long time, and that there wasn’t much extraordinary about it except that it would bring keys and small treasures to its master instead of dead rats, which she and I both agreed was a very fine improvement on matters. She went on to tell me she wished so dearly she could collect it but her mother wouldn’t allow it, and I promised that if I could get to the kitten I would ensure it was given love and kindness.
Editor’s Note: Yet another example of Hazel’s facility with the Lost of the Paths. It bears noting that the Keyway has been found, though the residents were more recalcitrant and proved more stingy with the keys than they were in Hazel’s experience. Much of this is attributed to the fact a Finder finds navigating the paths an easier affair as they accumulate experience there, and Hazel had already spent more time in the paths than some would in a lifetime.
As an aside, though we sometimes bemoan Hazel’s priorities and scattered behavior, Hazel does not lie in this case, and her memory is indeed sharp. What she put to paper proved accurate and there was a door exactly as described, square with a rounded window and a twisted handle, in a park with trees of violets and reds but no oranges. The kitten, however, was not there- Hazel returns to the Keyways in year 16, day two hundred and ninety seven, and even though there is not a detailed diary entry, she does indeed have the kitten after the fact. Oddly enough, it is still a kitten and remains so until year 49, day one hundred and ninety. The broken key in the lock suggests the kitten was a one-time reward available for claim.
The other key was being explained to me when my attention was drawn to commotion untoward for the Keyways.
I knew it must be my Wolf of a husband and warned the natives and my traveling companions. The matron ushered us through a gate, locking it behind us, and we hurried on.
I’m ever so loathe to get into any detail of my husband and his attacks, or the times he’s captured me, and that remains true here. I’ll only state what must be stated to make events clear. He didn’t unlock the doors and gates, but kicked or battered them down. The Marzipan Ape attacked him, attempting to buy the dull scholar and I time to get away, and the last I saw of him before we fled was that he was being beaten fiercely.
I had to fumble with keys to adjust the stairwell that led up the hill, to get the stairs to stop collapsing under our weight, and I had to use keys on other gates, doors, the bridge, and other things. My Wolf of a husband pursued and he wasn’t slowed or stopped by much of this.
He caught up, and he cast the dull scholar down the stairs, causing a terrible fall. As he passed a window, I saw a scene reflected in glass that wasn’t for where we were. I began whistling, a thing I knew my husband was on the lookout for, ever since I’d crossed the Tortoise Stampede. Ever since, I’d found that I could whistle and spirit up a burst of speed, and I often used it to try to escape him. I do believe I surprised him by charging him, instead.
I drove him through the window and tumbled after him, taking us out of the Keyways and into a new place, a twisting corridor with antlers, animal heads, and animal skulls mounted on each wall. I was able to run to the hallway’s end, and my Wolf of a husband made it barely three steps before some of those beasts proved to be much less dead than they had been, with a bear and a stag lunging out of the wall to assault him.
I seized the opportunity and ran until I thought I was far enough away, then used a key meant for unlocking the heat of a fire, and inserted it into a stately fireplace, turning it backward. I crawled through the roaring flame, now unable to burn me, and up through the chimney, to another Path. Then I fled through a forest of chimneys and rooftops with no homes below them, weeping bitterly at the fact I had lost the company of the Marzipan Ape and the dull scholar.
In writing this entry and attempting to make sense of the day, I do believe I have worked out one nuance of these nonsense places. I dare not think my husband has truly stopped, for he has come out of worse situations to track me shortly after, but I do think the fact was that I was the one to follow him onto the path. It is curious then that I was not so bothered by the difficulties on the path.
Something to think about another day, after my mind is less busy with mourning. I have left another two good friends behind and I cannot know if they have survived knowing me and meeting the Wolf of a man who pursues me.
Editor’s Note: A famous installment for the conundrums it has presented the Finder community. This year we have some new findings.
Let us begin with the Coursing Mounts, the location referenced by Hazel. It was visited six years ago and mentioned in the eighth edition, but it certainly wasn’t entered by passage through a window. Our attempts to find the window in question in the Keyways wasn’t any more fortuitous. However, this year, the Inconnue enclave traded with a new Finder based in Egypt, who had found the way in. Contact the Inconnue enclave for more information, as they are currently preparing an in-depth examination of the Coursing Mounts. Expect a release from them in the coming few years and a fuller examination in the next edition of 100 Years Lost. It proves a very useful if double-edged option for the Finder on Earth who is fleeing trouble. If one is fleeing, the Path can make itself known, with a higher likelihood as one carries more Lost things. It quietly enacts a tax of some of the items one is carrying, which are promptly lost to the Paths.
Second. Many of you readers will know what I’m about to reference. This chapter marks the origination of Hazel’s thoughts that will later become statements, one of the few things she clearly explained after leaving the Paths and joining us. Hazel’s Paradox.
I’ll outline this in brief but I’ll expand on it later as it comes up further on in this text, with references to relevant material and explorations. Hazel comes to believe that forcing someone onto a Path and following after them allows one to let the other individual shoulder the hazards. This is a fantastic notion with a breadth of application, it helps make sense of many events Hazel describes, and it could be a way to bring less experienced subordinates and apprentices onto the path. Even if it were a purely aggressive measure, it’s one many of us would want to keep in mind, for self-defense or forcing an enemy on Earth onto the Paths and immediately following them to capitalize on a skewed home field advantage.
Now for the point of confusion. Finders haven’t been able to replicate this practice. There are meant to be no preconditions, no required boons, and she even described it as something ‘fundamental’. Unfortunately, this description comes later in the work, when her writing style turns and she writes to herself more than she writes for an imagined audience. At this time she leans heavily into assumptions, doesn’t complete her thoughts, and doesn’t explain the conclusions she reached. This is one.
In the entry for year 73, day three hundred and twelve, she even makes a definitive statement and oath, with the intent of strengthening her words and her ability to use this practice, driving her Wolf of a husband into a Path where she intends to trap him indefinitely. She even swears it true. We do not have access to Hazel and so we’ve turned to the use of other practices and we have verified it is True.
Hazel’s Paradox: There is something fundamental to what the Paths are, leading and following, fleeing and pursuing, that tips the hazards of the Path and other qualities of a Path toward or away from individuals. This is fundamental, it is True and we have yet to reproduce it.
Year Thirty-Nine, Day Seventy-Six
It was a queer thing, to be alone and experiencing the quiet. I had developed a habit of collecting friends along the way and the recent paths had not afforded me that opportunity. It had been nearly a week since my last encounter with my Wolf of a husband, and I had barely seen a soul, unless I counted Key.
The incident weeks ago had been sobering, and I was not yet recovered, if I were to speak purely in terms of inner fortitude. I should have very much liked a shoulder to cry on, yet there was none available, and I was not accustomed to that. I resolved myself to turn my focus outward, for I had entered strange territories and I was mindful of the fact I was in something of a desert or a briar patch.
The paths I found myself walking were dense with riddles and patterns and progress proved slow, yet at the same time, there were scarce opportunities to resupply or find new food. I had filled up every container I had with water three days earlier, and half of those containers were now empty. I had to imagine I was forging forward through a desert not of grains of sand, but of riddles. Here and there I would find reprieve, a new path, a new set of particulars and patterns, but the oasis would prove to be little more than a mirage. Soon enough, however, I inevitably encountered the first barrier to progression, locked behind a fiendish riddle with the question spelled out in patterns and themes.
The evening prior I had arrived here, at a place I tentatively term the Settling Stir. On first arrival, given I was in no hurry, I was very careful to observe. I felt and still feel now that the entryway is nearly always safe, and these nonsense places like to wait until a visitors steps forward onto it before things set into motion.
The world I saw appeared to be a quaint town, indulging the evening hours where doors were shut and everyone was inside. In certain places, chalky snow settled on black construction, black signs, and piled up high. In some places it stuck on, mottled, and in others it fell away, leaving symbols and messages on the sign – a quill in a cauldron, a brush, a pair of scissors. I saw no danger, but Key took interest in fat crows and one black cat sitting leisurely on rooftops and clotheslines, letting the snow pile above them.
When I did venture forward, however, the world waited until I had taken five paces before abruptly changing. My hair and dress were sent astir in a way I very much would have minded, had I any male company, and snow was replaced with black soot, and those constructions and signs that had been black had become white instead, bearing different symbols. Where the cold had numbed, the soot made me choke, and I had to cover my lower face. Birds and cats were gone, but now I heard dogs barking madly and angrily, and I do admit I felt some trepidation.
A quick and careful peering through windows I had to wipe clean suggested there were marks on the wall, as if objects had been held there and the soot thrown against the wall, before the object was pulled away, leaving black smudges surrounding clean spots on the wall, including a knife, a doll, a goblet, and scissors.
Once I realized to my abject dismay that it was yet another place I must decipher, I retraced my steps, experiencing that startled shift into the snowy world, seated myself very slowly and carefully. I kept my inside-out coat on, which still carried its protection and summer warmth, then wrapped myself in blankets, knees drawn up to my chest, and placed my angry lantern beneath my arched knees, where it warmed me up, and drew Key close to me. I did not sleep for many hours, and thought to myself for quite a while before deciding this path wasn’t one that changed on its own. If I did not give it an excuse, it most likely would not harm me.
There must be categories for these places. I’m certainly not the type of person who could come up with a set of clever and scientific terms but because I don’t have a scientist with me, I must make do myself. Here I must imagine that there are places that run, places that walk, places that stalk, and places that demand a sit and a think.
The Settling Stir is a sitting and thinking place. I do not imagine it will come alive and eat me. I would have to go back and read to remind myself, but I do believe that for all the places that looked like they required a sit and a think but they were really stalking, there must surely have been signs.
That queer protection that had been given to me by the Statue Narrows settled around me, and my skin did slowly turn to stone, protecting me further from the chill. Only my one eye remained open for a short time longer, breaking the stone when I blinked.
Editor’s Note: Hazel’s instincts are one of her strengths and despite the fact she is not a Finder by creed and was not tutored by one, she has firmly developed the manner of system that many families and mentors will pass on to children and apprentices. Finding oneself on a strange Path to which one doesn’t know the rules is always a danger of the highest order, and one of Hazel’s most remarkable achievements is that she was able to encounter so many new locations and survive throughout.
Hazel here begins to construct another one of her systems that she’ll later be using as a set of shorthand terms to quickly assess new locations and explain them to others. These terms or ones like it are in use by Finder families across the world today, as a way of instructing children and quickly grasping the nature of the Paths.
This also continues a growing trend of anthropomorphizing the Paths or parts of the Paths, something that some groups and families have taken to heart.
Now, having woken and provided Key with some food and water, I was left with little to do except decipher this place so I might carry on down the path. In my notebook, I made careful note of everything I could find. I noted the signs and the impressions on the wall, tabulated everything, and I found my first parallel. In the white winter, there was a store with scissors on the sign, and a home in black soot had a scissors-shaped break in the glass, which allowed the soot to blow in and stain much of that kitchen.
“What a curious kitchen,” I remarked gaily to myself, to fill the silence. Soot and snow did much to dampen many sounds, and Key, sweet as she was, did not carry much of a conversation. I spoke to myself more than I usually did as I explored, remarking on that kitchen that was unlike any I’d seen before, so tidy and wild in decoration at the same time. Not far from the kitchen, sharing the same pipes for water, the indoor bathroom had fixtures of the sort I might expect in a hotel or an upscale home, but the home itself wasn’t anything too special.
“Don’t forget the scissors, Hazel dear,” I scolded myself.
Sure now that I had to find scissors to fit the gap in the window, I returned to the store. Every set number of full steps I took outside a building made the world turn inside out, black to white, soot to snow, or back again. It was amusing at first, clothing and hair flying, Key hiding inside the front flap of my coat, but after several stubbed toes and falls, I must admit it lost its whimsical charm. Here and there, things were different in one world over another. Both worlds had their impressions on walls and both worlds had their signage. I began with the scissors, and I venture to say that I searched that house with vigor, top to bottom, emptying every drawer. It wasn’t until I was walking around the property that I saw the bird perched on a clothesline. The snow was too dazzling to allow a shadow to be cast, sparkling in the gas flames of streetlamps, but when I ducked under the clothesline, the shadow of the bird fell against the surface of my dress, and it certainly wasn’t a bird, but scissors! Imagine that.
“Hazel, you silly woman,” I remarked. “You must pay attention to the whole picture.”
On my next circuit through the area, I made note of animals and other odd items that differed from one world to another. What I soon discovered was that each property had objects and animals inside the bounds defined by fences or hedgerow. Each object belonging to a property, such as the one with the scissors on the signboard, would cast a shadow appropriate to that sign.
“It’s a subtle trick to be playing on a visitor!” I find myself exclaiming, with only my kitten Key there to hear me. “Inside the houses this tends to be hard to see and outside everything is layered in soot or snow!”
I knew I could bring ‘scissors’ over to the one house, yet I recalled my ongoing suspicion that scissors were a bad omen that preceded loss, in the same manner that ribbons, the moon, the sun, and stars tend to mean things out here.
Editor’s Note: Hazel’s instincts and attention to details hold true here. All of this is established knowledge of symbols among Finders or practitioners in general.
A stuffed toy in one house casts a shadow of an ink pot and feather, and I then have to find a place to put the toy so it meets the spot on the wall. In the doing, I tear the wall asunder, and clear away wall, hedgerow, footpath, fence, and the signpost with the inkpot.
This neatly unravels our riddle. Two properties are now joined together, bounded in now by the same fences and hedgerows, with a skull on a pedestal out front. The next placement of an item so the shadow meets an imprint on the wall casts away another sign, and puts two properties under the banner of the scissors. Now fully aware I want to eliminate the scissors, I busied myself finding what I needed. Edged things like scissors and axe mean different forms of danger, however, and I do take the extra care, laying out some preparations and tools. A wolf trap I meant for my husband, a wire snare, and a bit of destructive practice I came upon when trying to map out that city street that demolished itself around me.
The paper trembled so fiercely as I set it down I was afraid of it. I knew I was taking excessive caution for only a suspicion, but who was there to judge me except Key? Even if Key had been able to speak, holding her tongue out of feline reluctance, which I very much doubt, I do think she liked the warm interior of my jacket to snuggle within, for I had turned it inside out on a sunny Path and I had trapped the warmth and sun within.
If a reader of these words might think me foolish, I can say I was not. If they would call me victorious instead, I did not and do not feel that way. All of which is to say that my instinct proved right. Not very long after I started trying to find the right position by the window for a candlestick, a man with skin like stained glass came up behind me, ready to bludgeon me. He was stopped short by the snare of razor wire, which dug into his neck, but the glass and the fine metal that framed it would not cut as a throat should. I threw my arms around him and hugged his arms against his side, weighing him down, in vain and foolish hope that I could choke him or make the wire draw tight enough he could not free himself. Yet he threw me aside and down to the ground.
The paper I had laid down felt that disturbance and it acted. Walls, ceiling, floor, and every object in the room proceeded to dash themselves to pieces. I kicked out at his leg to disturb his balance, and my leg was gouged as punishment, but it did knock him over, and a moment later, a half of a bookshelf that was hurling itself across the room collided with him. The wire ensured that the collision took his head from his body.
I feel compelled to say there is no joy in violence. Yet, at the same time, I feel there is no shame in defending oneself. I felt very calm as I picked myself up, found the wall which had the scissors mark on it, and positioned the stuffed animal so it would cast the right shadow. With so much destruction already done, the sign of the scissors needed to do little else except fall over and crack in two.
I carried on in much that manner, with the goal of being in snow when the last place remained. Each shadow I introduced to a matching impression on the wall stripped that place of its signage and identity, and made it part of one of its neighbors. I much preferred the idea of cold to that of choking on soot, so I put my all into ensuring a winter sign remained standing.
Presently my activities brought me to the end of town, and I did see an ominous figure that was standing by the side of the road with arms folded. I did think to myself that from the manner by which he carried himself he might be a weary fellow traveler, but that his style of dress felt more noble to me. He was dressed mostly in blues, with lapels and collar painted with the clouds and blues of a sunny midday, but the remainder of his coat, vest, and pants were the dark blue of an evening sky, sparkling with studs to mark the stars.
In my decades traveling these nonsense places, I had seen many natives with odd characteristics, yet it was the fellow before me that left me most dumbfounded. His head was absent, and in its place was a glaring orb of fire, many times brighter than at torch. Tongues of flame did regularly curl away from that sphere and failed to ignite what they touched, but they most certainly were hot. I stood nowhere close to him yet I was forced to lean away from him to avoid allowing the heat to singe my skin, and the appearance of a tongue of flame in my direction gave me but a moment’s notice to expect the wash of hot air. When we stood so far apart a quaint home could be placed between us without us having to step out of the way, no less!
He bowed slightly upon seeing me, and as he rose to a standing position he withdrew a decorated disc from within his coat jacket and doffed it as a mask. It was a sun, steel painted in chipped, gay orange and yellow. The front sported two eyeholes and a wide smile with many overlarge but ordinary teeth. The sun’s rays were mounted at the disc’s edges, each one bent into wavy lines with sharp points. No string tied that mask to the front of his neckless head, yet it stubbornly remained in place. The heat of the metal was sufficient to make the thinnest parts of the painted metal mask glow bright.
Editor’s Note: The Page of Suns. When discussing the Architect theory of the Paths and the variations on that theory, the Page of Suns often appears. He may appear on many Paths, separate from the rules, always male with the sun motif, and the demeanor Hazel describes here. When so many things on the Paths are subject to the eye of the beholder, the Page of Suns almost always has the same mask. The Page of Suns appears on as many lists of Architects as the Wolf.
Ominous indeed. Hazel’s word choice is apt indeed. The Page of Suns is theorized to appear when someone approaches the unprecedented or when one is about to fall victim to the Paths. The unprecedented action may be an action with wide-reaching implications, a discovery, a record, or a force defeated.
It is the understanding of the practitioner community, supported by some scrying and other details, on making it to year thirty-nine, day seventy-six, Hazel becomes the one free practitioner who has spent the longest time on the Paths. This of course emphasizes the free part of that, as many others have been stuck on the Paths, unable to progress or leave an area, and it emphasizes the label practitioner, as yet more practitioners have become something Other and thus no longer qualify as practitioners. The theory that this is about Hazel’s time on the Paths is backed by what the Page of Suns actually says when he addresses Hazel.
“Hazel,” he greeted me from afar, making no attempt to draw near. I did find his voice remarkable in its ordinariness, considering his appearance. “You have been at this for a while.”
Upon hearing that I did feel affronted for reasons I couldn’t specify, and I pulled my coat off, turning it back right side out, to poor Key’s dismay. The full warmth of a summer’s day did reach out around me, melting the snow that the masked man’s heat didn’t touch. I went one step further and I did slide my hands into the pockets.
A faint part of me did worry that this man’s presence would overwhelm the benefits I had gathered up around me as I’d traveled these realms. But the protections did hold, and as stinging cold winds flirted with the steady blast of heat that poured off this man, I could walk through it with little inconvenience, except that my hair flew madly around me as the rapidly changing temperatures whipped up the wind. The world around us became soot and then snow again.
“I dare say I am making fine time considering I know so little of this particular place of soot and snow,” I replied, in an arch tone.
“I dare say you’re right,” he replied, and I felt he might be mocking me. Then he went on to tell me, “You’ve been walking through these dreaming paths for thirty-nine years.”
Mollified, I told him, “and I’ve slept and woken seventy-six times, I believe.”
“Let’s say it is so,” he answered, with that same tone that I couldn’t help but interpret as him having a private laugh at my expense. “Would you like to return home?”
I was startled by the idea, as I had left home far behind me, and I hadn’t even allowed myself to think of it.
What use a home, after all of this? What could every fixture, nail and board of that house and home represent, that wouldn’t be overshadowed by a spot of blood on the floor by the door leading to my Minnie’s bedroom.
I looked away, unable to form a response, with the full knowledge I was doing so rudely. I told myself he had been rude first.
“The house no longer stands.”
I swiftly turned to look at him, startled.
“Time has passed,” he did elaborate.
“I should imagine,” I replied, trying to seem composed but finding myself breathless instead. I’d heard so many fanciful stories of those who had been spirited away to places and who returned to find no time had passed. I’d told Minnie such stories. “I would not go home. Not yet, I do think. Would you instead help me find a way to bring my daughter to me? I should love to show her so many of these places and fantastical people.”
“I would not,” he answered me. “I could not, for that matter, and you should know that in all these varied places, I know of more than a hundred different Lost who would promise you that they can bring your daughter back to you, and there isn’t a single such offer you should accept.”
“Not a one?”
“None that I know, and I know most if not all.”
I felt a tear slip its way down my cheek, faster than I could pull my hand from my pocket to stop it or hide it, and the wind around me carried it aside, so it did not touch me or my coat. It touched the ground instead, and there, it rippled outward as a glowing circle that expanded to a radius about two paces across. It held firm for several seconds, blocking the splinters and chips of wood from nearby buildings my puzzle-solving had demolished.
How queer, a tattered scrap of magic I hadn’t known I had collected, that I’d carried away with me. From what location had that been derived? I now wonder. But that line of thought certainly wasn’t foremost in my mind at that moment.
“But you do not know all of those creatures or powers in these places who could grant me such a wish, sun-faced man?”
“I do not.”
“Then I do think I shall carry on,” I told him.
“When you meet such a thing, you could ask them if they know the Page of Suns. If they do not, then that is no guarantee at all that the wish will give you what you desire.”
“If they do not know you and I ask them to bring Minnie back to me, only to regret it, do you think you could remember to tell the next person in my circumstance?”
“You are the only one in your specific circumstance, but I grasp the essence of what you want. You may make your attempt and if you fail, it will make the next person’s task easier. But you should know I do not appear before everyone, Hazel.”
“Why then did you appear before me?”
“In part because I wanted to see what you might do.”
With that said, he stepped aside. The shimmer of heated air that wept away from him, the stir of dust and wind, and the clouds in the sky all moved with him. I stood on a path with snow on either side of me, a path stretching into the horizon, the landscape flat on either side. Sitting high and heavy in the sky was a great cube with dull gray sides, turning slowly, and it made a dull low sound like a rumble deep in the earth, its corners and sides scraping against the sky.
I did not know how I hadn’t heard it before.
“I intend to continue my journey, Page of Suns.”
“To find someone who might be able to bring Minnie to you?” he asked. “This specific conviction didn’t exist before your conversation with me.”
“Not spoken out loud, even to trusted traveling companions, but I’ve held it in my heart, I believe. It feels as though traveling forward to that… construction, it would be the end of the journey.”
“It would be the midpoint of a journey.”
“Then I suspect my journey will be considerably longer than it has been, fortune allowing, if it includes that thing. I do not feel comfortable approaching that thing, and I do not think I will feel comfortable doing so anytime soon. I’ll carry on as I have been, at least for now.”
I went back down the path to pick up Key, and when I turned back to tell the Page of Suns that he wasn’t nearly as odious a person as I had initially thought he was, I found him gone.
I carried on, carrying Key as she protested at the lack of summer day’s warmth inside my coat. I completed the puzzle, removing the last obstacles that kept me from carrying on down the road, but instead of walking down the straight road that pointed directly to that construction, I found a side path and turned aside, wading through knee deep snow.
Editor’s Note: Much has been made of the construction, as Hazel calls it, and the fact it is the midpoint of a journey.
There is little to elaborate on here. Commentary on Hazel’s decision is better fit elsewhere, and discussion of the Page of Suns is more thoroughly covered in other works, including Architects and Gadsen’s Page of Suns, PSBN: 9029819018435.
Perhaps one day I or one of the people to pick up my work as I picked up my father’s will be able to elaborate on this section, and make sense of this. The number of Finders who have seen these constructions number by the handful, and as far as we know, none but Hazel have actually reached one. But that comes later.
It was not a very encouraging thing, to set off on my way through this place I had heard so much about. The dismissive little brat who claimed to come from a whole family of people who explored these nonsense places had mentioned it, I could well recall, and not fondly, and I had been warned by the backwards woman that this was where the Wolf made his lair.
I had to admit to some confusion over the fact that so many had referred to my husband as a Wolf, and I knew well that he pursued me, but he supposedly lurked here as well. I harbored concerns that this promised a chance meeting with him, and I had little idea what to expect.
My good companions were so patient with me, following behind and keeping their voices quiet. The steady thuds of the man in the cage’s movement were not so quiet, but I could hardly fault the poor soul that. If a man could heave his knee-high, square cage about quietly, bringing it onto its side, then onto its roof, then another side, over and over, he did try.
The jungle child, even, held back her words. I had to wonder if she was intimidated, but I could not ask, for she had not learned to speak, even with my nightly lessons.
Girls’ smocks, frocks, church dresses and nightclothes were scattered everywhere, shifting underfoot with every step, or wrapped around tree trunks. Tatters of cloth and stray ribbons flew from every branch. Most were bloodstained, or soiled by dirt or other filth, and there was no sign of the owners.
So very oppressive was the atmosphere that I had difficulty drawing a full breath into my lungs.
Editor’s Note: Indeed, sixty years into her journey, Hazel does reach the Forest Ribbon Trail. But she does not enter it as most do and comes in from the sides, partway down the trail.
Efforts have been made to find the ‘dismissive little brat’ she refers to but did not write on in earlier installments, with no luck. It is this editor’s experience that many families will publicly deny any relationship to such a child, but privately claim to be the family that child was from, who had the opportunity to come across Hazel on the Paths.
We did not have to travel very long at all before we found the path. It snapped this way and that like the ribbons tied to the branches did, but when I set my foot down, it did hold steady, and became as any path I had walked back on Earth. The bushes did rustle, as if the Wolf himself was moving through them, and I heard a wealth of scared noises and crying sounds, all in the voices of little girls, on either side of the path.
To a mother, there was no more terrible sound than that, and I did truly consider myself a mother still, even if I had walked these paths for six years for every year I had been a mother to my child.
I touched the jungle child’s head as she passed, and she did not snarl nor snap as she usually might. The man in the cage joined us, as did the sweating Belly Jelly Man and the stilt legged foal.
“Dear friends, you do not have to come with me. This is a terrible place, and I must think it’s possible to retreat to another, safer path than this. I would not think any less of you, and my heart might in fact rest easier if I were to know you were somewhere safe.”
My companions did clamor to assure me they would stay by my side, which brought me nearly to the point of open tears. The stilt legged foal leaned down to nuzzle at me and snort hot air into my hair, and even the jungle child clung to me.
“Alright, but you must let me protect you. I’ve collected little bits of magic here and there, and if the terrible Wolf is who I fear he is, then I suspect he’ll want me over any of you.”
“But Hazel!” the man in the cage protested. “What sort of men would we be if we made you stand in front of us?”
“You are not all men, you silly creature,” I told him. “One of you is a man, yes, but you’re trapped in a cage that is much too small for you.”
“But I have grown strong, tumbling everywhere I go inside my little cage.”
“That you have, but strength matters little if you are not prepared to use it. No.”
“Then I- I shall-!” the Belly Jelly Man quavered in voice, as he wobbled in body.
“You, sir, quiver and tremble in fear in times we’re completely safe, and I would not ask you to face something truly fearsome.”
I made a point of pausing. I set my hand on the jungle child’s head and she did snap at me this time. My protections did slow time enough that I could remove my hands from the way in time “One of you is neither adult nor male, which I dare say are important things to be possessed of if one wishes to qualify to be called a man, and the last of you is a very silly young horse who can barely walk, with legs longer than I am tall.”
The stilt legged foal breathed into my hair yet again, in answer.
“I must lead the way, and if you should tell me different, I will not budge from where I stand. I have lost too many companions along the way.”
It did take some doing, and I had to stand my ground, arms folded, chin raised, before my companions did eventually accede. Truly, I do not think any of them wished to put themselves into danger’s way.
We walked down the path, taunted by that terrible, heart-wrenching sound of girls crying out in pain, sobbing from fear, or calling out for help.
The ribbons became more bloodstained as we progressed, and when we came upon the clearing, I must say the red ribbons had been warning enough that I wasn’t at all surprised to find the Wolf there.
A fire burned, and a single short pace away, a stump had been shorn at the top, and laid with a young girl’s bloodstained smock as a tablecloth. At one end of the stump, toe of his left boot nearly in the fire, was my Wolf of a Husband. He leaned to his right, arm resting on the stump, as he partook of the raw meat laid there. Sitting across that same stump was a young girl wearing perhaps the only intact dress we’d seen yet, with no staining or spoiling.
It struck me that she was of a size that every dress we’d seen could fit her, not that she would wish to wear it.
My Wolf of a husband looked up at me, but he did not rise, give chase, or cease eating.
“Who is this child?” I asked him.
“Does it matter?” he asked, with the tone of a man who could leap up to strike at me any moment. Even now, sixty years after the fact, I hated that a part of me cringed at that.
“Hello, Hazel,” the child said, her tone bright. She showed no fear or worry when it came to my husband.
“Hello,” I told her. “Might I have your name?”
“You could if I had one to give. Had you started at the beginning, I could be by your side, you could name me, and then you could sacrifice me.”
“I beg your pardon, but I do not think I could sacrifice a child.”
“You came in partway. This is meant to be a moment of respite, to have you let your guard down. After a first, terrible confrontation with the Wolf, you would venture this far, past difficult challenges and around certain rules, and then you would meet the Wolf a second time, for the respite,” the child instructed me, brightly. “You could ask him things and come to know him better, and then when it came time for the final meeting, it would be worse for you would feel sorry for him for having known him.”
“I don’t wish to know him better and I was married to him for ten years, or some version of him.”
“I do not think I could feel sorry for him.”
“You could,” the child told me. “A few specific words from him would provide a seed for that sympathy to grow, and by the time of a third meeting, it would not only spark a thought where you could feel sorry for him, but you would want him to devour you.”
“I cannot imagine that.”
“You’re right, Hazel,” my Wolf of a husband told me, around bites of raw meat. The faint crying and shouts in the background went quiet when he spoke, breaking off into choked and muffled whimpers.
I had not known him to ever say those words.
Mouth full, he explained “What the child describes is the way things were meant to be, but it was spoiled. Nobody makes it this far, and those like you who stumble in here can’t reach the third part without having passed through the first.”
“The Child?” I asked.
“Even the finest ribbons can become tangled,” The Child replied, voice gay and cheerful. I had no idea if the tangled ribbons she spoke of meant herself or if they meant what my Wolf of a husband had said, about the ways through.
I might have asked, but my Wolf of a husband stood, and I took a step to stand between him and my companions.
“Go, Hazel,” he told me. “I’ll kill this child and then I’ll come hunt you.”
“No,” I told him. I put a hand out to reach for The Child, bidding her to come to me, so I might protect her.
She did not come to me.
“Run,” my Wolf of a husband told me. “I shouldn’t even need to chase you at this point. All you do now is run. You aren’t looking for a way to bring Minnie back. You aren’t exploring. If you were, you’d go somewhere that matters, as scary as it could be. Keep running, keep wandering aimlessly, and I won’t even need to get my hands on you to destroy you.”
“Why won’t you just stop?”
“Why won’t you?” he asked. “Let yourself die at my hands.”
“We’re meant to survive,” I told him. “To try, to strive, to make a mark on this world.”
“We’re also meant to suffer and die. It’s my job to speed that along for you.”
I shook my head at him, defiant, even if I couldn’t find words I was sure were truth.
“I don’t need to chase you at this point. You’ve become a coward. But I will chase you all the same. I will lift you up and cast you down onto the rocks of these strange places and I will render you something broken, and then I will find the worst torments for you that these little realms can conjure up, and I will throw what remains of you into the midst of that.”
“How did you become this?”
“I have always been this, and this has always been us. There has always been a Wolf waiting on the paths. You want to bring Minnie back?”
“But you run instead. You explore, you tell yourself you’re helping others, but it’s all a form of running. I will do all the things I said to you, Hazel, breaking you and casting you into torment. And then when I am done, I will find Minnie in the realms of Death and drag her out from there.”
My hand clutched at my collar. “If I gave up, would you leave her in peace?”
“What would dissuade you?”
“Nothing. You should have run when I first told you. Then you wouldn’t have heard me say these words.”
He bent down to the stump with the serving of raw meat piled haphazardly on it, picked up a knife.
I whistled, tearing at the scarf I wore at my neck at the same time. I hurled myself at him, moving as fast as the wind, and the torn scarf unfolded, reaching wide.
In vain. He struck the Child with the blunt end of the knife, in the same place he had struck Minnie. I caught her before she hit the ground, and pulled her away from him.
It was the stilt legged foal who intervened, putting a leg in my way, forcing me to stop so I wouldn’t crash into it and break that thin limb. The Jungle Child grabbed at me as well, and with my forward movement now thoroughly arrested, I allowed myself to be dragged away. The first step was reluctant and unwilling, the second compliant, the third willful.
I let my Wolf of a husband sit himself down to resume his meal, baffled and alarmed that the Child had died so. Whatever did that mean? It seemed to me that she belonged in the same company as the Wolf, the Page of Suns, and the Queen of Ends.
Editor’s Note: Here we close this section. Hazel has inadvertently stumbled onto her own list of Architects. The Architect theory suggests that certain prominent Others act as pillars of the Paths and may be the originators of it, but each theorist maintains their own lists and Hazel seems to do the same. While the theory has been debunked, we do know there are certain Others who take on a certain prominence and tend to revolve around Finders. The Wolf, the Page of Suns, Jacques, and the Queen of Ends, among others.
Hazel neatly identifies several, but seems rather certain the Child is one, and changes to start capitalizing it partway through the conversation. It sets Hazel’s list apart from others, but it should be noted the idea of the Child’s inclusion on the list is somewhat rare, for after all, the Child is typically dead early into most Finder careers and they don’t see the Child return. Hazel’s hypothesis came after the Architect Theory had been largely dismissed by the Finder community, and the diehard adherents of the theory have other structures they have fixated on.
Arguments can be made about the Child being counted among the key Paths fixtures. Many of these arguments can be found in Architects.
My newest and perhaps last collection of traveling companions joined me on the way up the path. Birds took flight from hidden places with every step I took, and each carried traces of the same scraps of magic I had carried away with me after visiting these little realms. Birds shed tears and feathers, and each tear that touched earth became a circle of protection that lasted only a few moments. Feathers passed through my companions and I yet would cut my enemies like a sword’s edge. I had not eaten, but anyone who felt my ill will would feel the hunger I should, not I.
Which was all to say I had taken every preparation as I ventured into the unknown.
The construction hung low in the sky and it lowered slowly as we walked. We made no haste but we didn’t dally either. The grating roar as it scraped up against the sky grew louder as we drew nearer. I kept my hands in my pockets to keep protections secure, not only against the noise, but against my traveling companions.
The Page of Suns and Jacques walked on either side of me. The Page of Suns appeared much as he had on our first meeting, but he had dressed up a touch, His waistcoat portraying stars swirling in a way I’d never known stars to do, dense toward the center.
Jacques, by contrast, appeared as he ever did, long hair in a ponytail, a homespun shirt and suspenders, his feet bare. He was less talkative than he usually was.
Behind me was the Finder. She wore my appearance, but with starker colors, her skin faintly tinted in azure hues, faintly see-through. But she had all the rewards from traveling I did. She appeared to be my ally, this time around, and the very fact that her every step also bid birds to take flight and also produced tears and feathers, well, I dare say that was a fine thing.
And of course, the Queen of Ends was out there, off to the side of the road we walked down. She waded through this place, head and shoulders visible aboveground, her narrow and tall crown scraping the sky and parting clouds. Hills and mountains cracked as she walked against them.
“I do recall you once telling me that this place is a midpoint in a journey.”
“It is,” the Page of Suns told me.
“Does that then mean that I have another ninety-three years walking the paths, to finish that journey?”
“It does not.”
“Are you about to pontificate on the difference between time and distance once again, Page?”
“No. In this instance, by either measure, I believe you’ve left the midpoint behind you.”
“But this place is the middle?”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I told him, not wanting to give him the satisfaction if satisfaction was his aim. And I did keep it in mind, truly.
“We cannot follow you in,” the Queen of Ends told me, as she continued to march forward, landscape shattering against her collarbone and neck. Boulders larger than I rolled across my way, but I was protected.
“Is this goodbye then?” I asked, in utter dismay. This hadn’t been told to me before now.
“It isn’t, not necessarily,” Jacques assured me. “Provided you survive.”
“Will you travel beyond, and meet me once I’m through?” I asked. “I do think we have so much more to do and talk about.”
“There is no through,” Jacques told me.
I felt some alarm at that. “Whatever do you mean?”
“You’ll see,” he answered, being evasive in a different manner than his usual.
Our walk down the road saw that roaring construction dip lower and lower. It met the stone path, and that path ceased to be stone. Water rippled and crashed past us in a sudden and disorienting wave.
The Finder behind me touched my back and kept me walking forward on the path that was now shallow water. There was nothing beneath the water, but I could walk in the water because it was shallow, and if I had fallen through, then it couldn’t have been shallow water.
The cube had ceased rotating and had settled into the ground. The path stretched forward to one face of it, and on that face was a cast iron door. My feet now splashed with every step, the birds still taking flight, some settling on the water’s surface to float there.
The Page of Suns, the Queen of Ends, the Finder, and Jacques all stopped roughly a hundred paces from the door. I walked the final length alone, feeling not a little like a convict walking to the gallows.
The door was heavy and I had to press myself against it with all my strength to push the door open. It forced me to squeeze past, stumbling into the room, allowing the door to close itself behind me.
The room was as white as bone, and Jacques had been right. There was no way through. There was only a vague bulge standing out from the the wall opposite me, that stirred with a dull roar in the same way this construction had.
Editor’s Note: Hazel is the first and only practitioner we know of to enter these non-Path spaces. The entrance is the exit, there is no continuity. We don’t know much more because she’s scant with her notes and explaining her reasoning, especially later.
“Hello?” I asked, and my voice did echo in the room as if I were at the bottom of a well.
I wanted to tell myself this was a ‘sitting still’ place. I did just that, remaining where I was, my back to the door, watching and waiting, taking in every detail. The room was too empty to have a means of tracking time, and I knew too well that if there was no such means, then time would do things as it saw fit. Most importantly, I saw nothing that ticked steadily as if it was seeking a destination, no rope that burned nor any markings across the sky that followed the moon. I knew I had time, or more specifically, a freedom from its constraints.
Yet waiting did not amount to much at all. The corners of the room were crisp, and the walls tidy and even, except for that bulge across from me, resembling a rug thrown over something large, but it hung off the wall. It sat ajar, not holding any particular shape.
I stepped away from the door, a short experimental step, and birds did take flight. They scattered, doing a circuit around the room, shedding tears and feathers. Bird and feather were swallowed up by the white walls. Leaving us alone.
The bulge in the wall tore, and a figure peeled away from it, a blur in a vaguely human shape. A man’s shape.
That man moved unevenly, as if he barely understood the mechanics of walking. He reached out, and he bid a pedestal to rise from the ground, stopping at about the level of the heart.
There, he set a fish, tied to a rock with a rope, and he released it. It sank, swimming to no avail, but it did not drop to a lower position in the air.
A pillar appeared in another corner of the room. The man made of hazy shadow remained where he was.
“Sir,” I addressed him. “Do you speak?”
He did not move or speak.
I reached into my coat, for the emergency pocket. I withdrew the broken bread, peeled back more of the paper, and tore off a chunk, before extending the broken end toward him.
He did not partake. Oh, how my heart bounded with fear and alarm. Even my Wolf of a husband had been compelled to take of the bread and talk with me until we’d finished it. I was so used to keeping an enemy at bay, I could not think at all!
I was fortunate he was not aggressive. His head turned to watch me as I explored the room.
I didn’t know enough to know what I was meant to do.
“Make another?” I asked.
He did not move.
I walked over, then gestured, ready to leap back in a moment if he reached for me or attacked.
He raised a second pillar. There, he set another fish, chained to the pillar. With a touch, he dissolved the fish into tiny bubbles. Those bubbles rose up, sank, then rose up from the pedestal, chained.
One swelled in size, the bubble popping, and as it did, it crowded the others away. They faded.
The blur of a man did not wait. He walked another few paces, then created a third pillar. A fish chained to the pillar struggled, flailed, and then to my abject horror, a pointed bone pried its way from chin, chest, and stomach, standing away from the fish’s body at an angle, gobbets of flesh and some guts stringing between the bone and the open wound. It swam about, as much as the chain would allow.
Another. On the fourth pillar, he set a fish with a bone jutting from its lower body bent head down until bone pierced chin, roof of mouth, and brain. The pillar shuddered, and then dissolved. Chunks floated into the air, keeping to a rough column shape, but now stretching to ceiling.
I realized what the shadow man was about, and set to work answering his riddle.
Editor’s Note: Perhaps the most maddening of the entries, Hazel describes what she does but does not unravel the riddle for us. My grandfather’s remarks here were a tirade against Hazel, in the earliest editions, and I do sympathize with him, but I don’t see the need to delve into such things. We’ll sum up what we can here.
On my first pedestal, I placed figurines that I had carved, chronicling my various companions, so I might have them with me. I did not place all of them, but I placed some, and set them in proper order. With the magic granted to me for finishing the Settling Stir, I altered the shadows for added effect.
Editor’s Note: The consensus seems to be that Hazel has illustrated important connections, mirroring the rope tying the fish down. If we’re talking in a distilled language of the Paths, then connections tie one down, as important as they are, and Finders who are reckless with the Paths they run and the boons they accumulate may have trouble holding onto connections. She picks out friends and uses shadow, presumably, to paint the ties.
I hurried over to the next pedestal, excited now, and I did notice the man was no longer shadowy, but vague in shape, a man but neuter, noseless, eyeless. The birds that materialized to scatter out of my way did not seem to bother him at all.
At this second pillar, parallel to the pillar where the fish dissolved into bubbles, I pulled my hand mirror out of my bag. I caught my reflection in the mirror, and inserted a key to lock it in place. I moved on, pained that I had to leave it behind, even for a short time.
Editor’s Note: Because Hazel carries a wealth of items at this point, and because she has no less than five hand mirrors, I feel it important to note that she is almost assuredly referring to her Fated Mirror. It was a powerful item she picked up on year 74, day 116, that she then had to work to disable the curse. The mirror lets her view her past self, future self, and her current self as others see her. She has used it several times to great effect, viewing her future to know she’ll be dead, then averting that future.
The reason for the Finder Community consensus on the Fated Mirror being what she uses here is that she refers to no other mirror as hers, nor does she carry any other mirror in her bag. A boon Hazel bears lets her carry any number of things with no difficulty, but some items disappear forever. She cherishes the Fated Mirror because it allows her to view herself back when she was a mother to Minnie, and sometimes catches Minnie in the frame.
Consensus is split here, but this editor and his colleagues primarily believe this pillar illustrates individuality and Self. The reflection makes sense.
Upon the third pillar, I spill my blood from a wound on my hand, and then leave the Wriggling Knife atop the pillar. Knife and blood, to represent the duality. The fish with the protruding bone sat opposite it. I was certain that was right.
Now the man was bereft of clothing, but he had the necessary details.
Editor’s Note: Sacrifice in both senses of the word. Those who have walked the Forest Ribbon Trail know this well. Hazel however has only crossed it, but it is good she knows what to convey.
Upon the fourth, I placed this very book, which I would reclaim later, of course. But at the time I was prepared to be forced to leave it behind, and I viewed it as possibly worth the sacrifice. I would miss it dearly but I would be so glad all the same. A match to the fish with the bone piercing its skull.
Editor’s Note: This one remains harder to interpret than the others. We believe she considered the book and the logs of her travels a representation of Paths.
We finished our last pillars at the same time. The riddle deciphered, I took off my coat and shook it with care, so I would not unleash errant magic. I did not want magic, I only wished for dust.
Oh, how different our displays were. For me, it was a thin layer of dust. What I feared and suspected most, of course, was to disappear. That I would leave and leave nothing. What other end could there be?
His, on the other hand, oh, what a nasty sight it was. Fish were gathered in a cage, and that cage was writ in boiling blackness that resembled diseased flesh. They were choked out from within, and they killed themselves trying to swim through the gaps. The wicked construction of the cage shredded them.
The man, now dressed in a fashion similar to mine, walked over to my pedestal.
“You may call me Pisces,” he told me.
“Would that an ending could be this easy.”
“Yes,” I answered him, being very careful with my words. “I suppose if I had to choose, I’d take mine.”
Something in that room changed, and I felt it respond to me.
Editor’s Note: The test is passed, knowledge of practice is sufficient. It appears to be a summary of all she has learned as a Finder. An exam for her, like those given to those students of higher education that she envied so much.
Umbrella in hand, I walked to the entrance, and then across the middle of the room, I drew a wavy line, carving a furrow into the surface. I stopped when I was between our second pillars, and I drew the Child up as a sculpture, with will alone.
At the third I drew the Wolf. At the fourth I drew the Page of Suns. At the fifth, the Queen of Ends. I thought it a fine set. Each of us with our images at one side of the room, the Paths between us.
I do not know if Pisces thought it a fine thing too, or if he was frightened of what he had made. The pillar he had wrought with the twisted cage was swelling, and I was reluctant to extend my will to it. Perhaps he thought it both.
In any event, that heavy door opened of its own avail, or of Pisces’s avail. He offered me an arm, and I knew now that I could trust him. I collected my things, and then I walked with him like I had once walked with my husband, before he had revealed the Wolf within. I put my arms both wrapped around his one, and laid my head against his shoulder.
My companions were not waiting for me on my emergence.
Editor’s Note: We have not been able to locate Pisces with our best efforts, with one obvious explanation covered in a later entry. But death on the Paths is not always an end, and we do not know if he is a construction of the room. Not enough information is provided to convey why Hazel was willing to extend that trust. If this were the last entry, we might surmise Hazel was bespelled, but their relationship continues with no dangerous event for years.
This marks the beginning of the end. Hazel’s entries become even more scattered and sporadic, shy on description, to the extent we suspect she is deliberately omitting the clearer explanations. She spends five years in the company of Pisces and does not devote much time to her diary.
I had intuited the layout of these realms enough to know we were close to the top end of the figure eight we were tracing. We had had our turn at visting the realms I was more familiar with, but I had not had anything especially wonderful or inspiring to show him. The closest might have been our visit with old companions I had left behind, which included the dull professor, the belly jelly man, and the marzipan ape, who I had bewildered by thanking for the two instances of help he had given me, which confused him so, for he only recalled the one.
We moved on so that Pisces might have his turn.
Pisces was not one to hint or hold things over my head, but I had known he was anticipating what was coming next from his demeanor. I knew him too well for him to hide it.
What I found was his group of fellow explorers of these realms, working hard at another sort of construction. Pisces explained it to me as a means of accessing the mechanisms of the universe itself, and I saw them work, adjusting the finer rules of time, physics, and spirit. The full construction and project were hundreds of years from being completed, but I knew full well that time was a trickster force. I had not aged a day while in these realms.
Editor’s Note: My father once remarked he would have given up his firstborn for details on these constructions, to me, his firstborn. I agree and I do not fault him for it. A valuable experience, reduced down to a few lines of text, bereft of description. She makes more mention in future entries, with scattered details, but little enthusiasm and clarity.
These words are hard to write, so I will be brief. Pisces seemed bothered and bade me to stay where I was. I did politely oblige, for he had listened to orders he must have thought of as nonsense, and it was my obligation to do him the same kindness— not that I thought of his request as nonsense.
He did not spend much time at this business. His good nature was quieted when he came back to me, and he told me that we would have to return quickly. I obliged. We had meandered and taken our time in doing a loop through the locations I knew best, returned to the room where we had met, and then ventured into areas exclusive to him and his fellows with the same leisure. There was no such thing now. We moved with haste, we took every shortcut, we ignored all natives and creatures we encountered.
I do think Pisces wished to ferry me back to that room. But we were walking down a garden path when he was no longer with me. I kept up my pace, though things were certainly harder, hurrying now, to return to the room.
I slowed my pace as I came within sight of the room, on that path where stone turned to water. The blighted cage that he had constructed for the pillar had swelled, and it had turned that space inside out, twisting everything as it did so.
Oh, how I did wail, once I realized what had happened. Pisces lost, yes, but all the rest too.
My grief surpassed my grief for dear Minnie, and it was not nearly enough.
…and explanations few.
It is said a Finder will disconnect from our world as they pick up enough boons and practices, or surround themselves with Lost and Lost things, but little sense can be made of Hazel’s actions late in her quest. We shall endeavor to keep trying, and it is likely our approach will be a steady progress of unraveling what she did early on, to see if we can find the thread to pull that unravels the knot. Another possibility is that some brave soul will stumble onto the right answer in the right moment. Several Finders have seen the construction but were unable to reach it. What might happen if someone were to access it, or to find this fabled place where they might have access to the levers and cogs of reality?
In conversations with colleagues in recent years, I’ve asked what might happen that could shake the world as Hazel did, that would not be merely retracing her footsteps? Invariably the response from my peers points to the growing power of the corporate Finder group, but I do find myself wondering what might come of things…
Miss stood off to one side, a low branch hiding her face, allowing the two girls to handle the discussion. She kept the paper close, absorbing the contents.
Lucy looked Miss’s way. Trying to decide what to ask for, how to approach this discussion. Lis did as well, but for other reasons. Lis was aware of enough, especially plans like this, to have a sense of what Miss would be doing.
If there was a chance, it would require the support of the same individuals who despoiled her dream in the first place.
How badly did she want this?
She thought of being bound, and not the tidy, sleeping kind of bondage by Seal. Of countless Others in similar circumstance. Of what the practice had become, and the fact it was on a trajectory with no sign of slowing or stopping. Just the opposite.
Standing where she did, she was the only one who saw the little boy with black skin and golden hair, wearing a cape patterned with stars.
She hadn’t realized she’d made a decision until the Page of Suns had come to mark it.
“Let’s do something that isn’t a main chapter, that’ll be easy, a way to kick back a bit during the holidays” the author thought.
Anyway, this is a thing. Sorry to do it on a cliffhanger but I didn’t want to tackle a story chapter while I was thoroughly distracted by Christmas. Hope you can make some sense of it!
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I’m not seeing any complaints over there. This is Amazing.
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You just wrote a thrilling, fascinating, complete short story as our Christmas present.
Thanks you Wildbow.
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You spoil us, Wildbow. Thank you.
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Wildbow, this is one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received
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My god, I can hardly imagine how you could have done this imagined book more justice than with this chapter.
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I am in awe at how well this is written – the secrets hinted between the lines, the riveting narrative of Hazel, and that Cliffhanger.. Peak Pale. Hope your holidays are bountiful and bright, ‘Bow.
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From the last Avery’s chapter, I found myself can’t stop thinking about this little piece of Pactverse’s setting. Yeah, the main storyline is good, but 100 Years Lost? This is truly a remarkable idea!
I’m really thankful for you continuing this side story.
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I considered if Miss was Hazel, at the end, but… it doesn’t convince me. They may have met, though.
This was a great chapter. I love the Lost; I wonder if Hazel’s companions survive still.
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Yeah, Miss doesn’t need to be Hazel, or even connected to her. I can see Miss’s decision at the end being paired with the 100 Years Lost extracts just to make it clear how monumental the Page of Suns’ appearance is while it’s still fresh in our minds.
If ‘Bow had waited people might have started to be on the lookout for him. Expecting him to show up on a Path when Avery goes there, or something like that. Doing it like that feels more surprising and immediately impactful.
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I think that, given Miss’ Page of Suns is completely different from Hazel’s, Hazel is the one person we can be certain Miss definitely isn’t.
(Not that I think Miss is particularly likely to turn out to be someone we know about transformed, at this stage.)
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One of the reasons why I wasn’t convinced after I had the idea. Hazel might have been the Practitioner whose stumble led Miss to take her first step, but I’m not convinced of that either.
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IIRC didn’t Miss say that she discovered the detour while walking the Forest Ribbon Trail? It seems like that’s the actual “intended” path to follow, to allow you to access the second and third meetings with the Wolf described in this chapter. If so, then I think it would either be proof that Miss and Hazel are different people, or that Miss went back to the Forest Ribbon Trail at some point.
I sort of wonder what sort of boon completing the full Forest Ribbon Trail would give you, if you can manage to survive reaching the point where you genuinely want to let the Wolf eat you.
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Dammmnnn…. This is epic.
So, based on the transition, we have evidence that Miss is (in all likelyhood) Hazel. Or… hazel was the one who fell off the path making way for Miss. They are… linked.
Other theories from the paths:
I think the Wolf, Page, Child and Queen of the dead are Judges (Carmine, Aurum, Alabaster and Sable, respectively). I’m not sure about the roles of Jacques. Or at least… the fulfil similar roles.
The 5th fishbowl is people showing their greatest fear. Hazel fears to disappear and Pisces fear was… it seemed like corruption, an image of demons, and it sure sounds like demons or the abyss ate some core piece of the paths (and took Pisces with it).
I…. hypothesize that Pisces may have been an angel. Or… angel adjacent. A being of Order and construction, trying to gain access to the controls of the universe in order to fix things… and failing. And… the exam was basically a question of… is Hazel fit to be a part of that. Is she also meant to be an architect. Is she competent enough to be doing that.
At some point, Hazel realized that’s what he was, and that’s how she trusted him (nsgre nyy, gehfgvat natryf jbexrq fb jryy sbe wbunaarf).
Trying to get to the “rulebook of the universe” and change what Karma IS sounds very much a Miss thing to do. I wonder if this where she got the idea.
um um um… other things….
Hazel appears to have ridiculously high Karma. Things just don’t want to stick to her, and Karma is part of that. She seems to think its because she fed her husband to the paths, and the darkness that should fall on her instead fell to him… but I can’t help but think it was important that he was chasing her. They were already on a journey together. He was already the aggressor in that journey.
Obstacles would be thrown in his way to protect her, because both of them already had pre defined roles as they entered the paths (presumably his power energy got eaten by the wolf? not sure).
The Page of Suns seems cool. Pisces seems like an AMAZING “big good”, and now he is gone. This was amazing. Thank you for christmas story episodes Wildbow. Merry Christmas.
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Also, the appearance and just sheer PRESENCE of the page of suns is amazing, despite how little gets said. Damn fine.
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I thought Pisces is an Architect-adjacent too!
Huh. Did Avery make one of the Architects into her Familiar? Snowdrop didn’t seem like some cosmic being when we saw her perspective in the interlude where she accidentally picked a fight with brownies, but then, she wasn’t really doing Path stuff at the time, either. I wonder what impact that’d have on her Practice – especially given how they’re going to be building a Path adjacent to Kennet.
Pretty sure “The Child” is the equivalent of the Alabaster Doe. It’s the template from which all Boon Companions are printed, but Snowdrop isn’t the same as the Child, she’s just an other created by the Child as part of its standard duties. (same as how Lucy had to have domain over creating other while she was using the Alcazar ritual on the furs)
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There’s broad parallels, but I don’t think that the Architects are analogous to the Judges. For one thing, the Judges are regional figures. The Alabaster in Ontario, Canada is a completely different Other to the Alabaster in Queensland, Australia, or the Alabaster in Western Europe. It seems like the Architects are a lot less related to real-world geography, since they all dwell in the extra-dimensional space of the Paths.
I think it’s entirely possible that Snowdrop is just how the Child appeared to Avery – remember, Lost Others have different appearances to different people, and the defining trait of the Architects is that they often appear to Finders at some point during their careers. Avery’s Wolf was an evil old granny, while John’s Wolf was a male Practitioner-analog, and Brie’s Wolf was a palette-swapped Yalda.
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I think we must return to canonical inspirations to understand the Child. The concept of the Forest Ribbon Trail has been admitted to be inspired by the delicious vidya “The Path”, upon which the Wolf is the archetype of an event that led to someone growing up – i.e, losing their innocence, often painfully. In that light, the Child can be thought as an archetype of that innocence. Where there is a Wolf, there is a Child to be sacrificed. It must be sacrificed to the Wolf in order for the Wolf to do its job.
In path Practice, the archetype of the Child in the FRT is (literally) anthropomorphized into a sacrificial, usually virginal, animal boon companion. The Finder will then leave it to the wolf to complete the path. That doesn’t mean any such boon companion is the Child, or has the powers the Child has, as an archetype. Nah, Snowdrop isn’t a goddess in disguise. It only means the boon companion was a way to channel that archetype, and probably only exists because that archetype needs to exist for the path to work. In effect, what you said, but refined.
The Child still recognizes all of those sacrificed boon companions as parts of itself, of course. You’re creating a boon companion by channeling an archetype, after all.
One does wonder about the extended FRT. Does the Child need to die in it? Can the Wolf and the Child coexist? What happens in a full FRT run? I find those questions absolutely fascinating.
One does also wonder about entering the FRT without an animal companion, by all the cheats that could exist. What would happen if you took a virginal human baby and entered the FRT with it? Modified the ritual to enter without an animal companion at all? Would the Child manifest itself more freely? Provide more insight? Could you do an extended FRT run?
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Some other, random thoughts, now that I think about it:
The fixation of the Wolf on, and indeed pursuit of, Avery is easily explained, now. She has yet to sacrifice the Child. She has met the Wolf, the event where the Child must be sacrificed, but she got away without. The conceptual resonance is enough that she will be pursued in other paths, and indeed even in regular dreams. Something must give, and if the Child isn’t sacrificed to the Wolf, then Avery would do the trick quite nicely.
I believe it means Avery will eventually do a full FRT run. We know that killing the Child is a necessity for a “normal” FRT run. And no-one wants Snowdrop to die. That could mean, eventually, that we’ll get a chapter where Avery does FRT “correctly”.
It tickles my fancy something fierce that the Path that is first introduced to most Finders in north America is heavily implied to be run improperly. The single Path that everyone knows, and everyone is failing at it. Now that’s an irony I can appreciate.
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Making a powerful being your Familiar is supposed to be very dangerous, and Practitioners attempting such a thing will try to set up firm boundaries between them as part of the ritual, to avoid being overwhelmed. Avery deliberately went for a very open and undefined connection with Snowdrop, this was called out during their ritual. If Snowdrop were secretly a cosmic Architect, I think Avery would have exploded/been consumed pretty much instantly.
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This chapter is really cool!
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oh wow, hazels story was BEAUTIFUL. baffling and mysterious and confusing towards the end, which must be what all of those frustrated finders must have felt. im glad the latest edition has a kinder, less sexist author bc WOW she isnt silly or stupid at all. that poor woman
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“My father once remarked he would have given up his firstborn for details on these constructions, to me, his firstborn.”
Something about this line makes me laugh every time I read it.
Leave it to Wildbow to write a full-blown Alice In Wonderland/Wizard of Oz type story in an attempt to take a break. I’m sure given more time, it would have been much shorter.
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I think it’s so appropriate that Miss is the person following in Hazel’s shoes, and that her decision is given similar weight by the witness of the Page of the Sun. Because more than every Practioner from a Finder family that’s tried to follow in Hazel’s shoes, it’s Miss who’s most like her.
She is a faceless woman, with no means by which to directly shape the world, sneered at by the powers that be, whose child was murdered by a terrible man who then took on an Aspect of violence and brutality. She has been beaten, bruised, and bloodied, and stands at a crossroads where she wants nothing so much as to run away and leave her pain behind. To bring her child back from the dead, she would have to do something unprecedented and deeply uncertain.
These Practicioners who would trade their firstborns for knowledge were never going to be the inheritors of Hazel’s path. But in Miss, I think Hazel would see a kindred spirit.
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Linking to the FRT- the practitioners were willing to sacrifice their own child for success.
In contrast, Miss was willing to protect Lucy, Verona and Avery (And their Family!) even at the cost of her own safety, and the success of her plan (we all know that Miss COULD have been deployed somewhere more important at the end of summer break… but she put Jasmine first).
This… seems super important.
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Yeah! Miss cares, and that’s why she’d make such a good keystone for Kennet.
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Hazel is one heck of a escape-the-room gamer. Plenty of material here for “100 Years Lost”, the surrealistic puzzle game, starring Hazel and featuring cameos of Avery and Snowdrop.
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If Hazel is correct about the Child, then Avery’s choice of Familiar becomes a lot more potent…
Love the chapter!
What is the code? Is there a code?
I mean squares and strokes, and Roman-looking numerals but surely not Roman numerals. Probably squares and strokes measure something for years and days, but I have no idea at all about romans.
Squares/strokes are just the same number again – each square is worth 4, each stroke is worth 1.
Not totally sure about the Xs and Is yet. The total number of Xs and Is is usually just the number in question, and they’re grouped together by fives – but there’s one X instead of nothing when the number is 0, and when the number is 76 it seems like the remainder on division by 5 is 4 instead of 1! I’m also not totally sure what determines which are X and which are I, if anything.
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Oops, missed your comment below.
An I is a normal day. An X is a day when her Wolf of a husband made an appearance.
Ah I see more now! There are as much Is and Xs as days, grouped in fives as is sensible for tallying, though I don’t know what I vs. X marks. Maybe X is something violent (day 0 starts as an X) and I is something restful? Or a new Path entered? IDK, maybe it’s still decipherable in light of more evidence and sharp eyes!
I don’t think the pattern is consistent.
For example: Year 1 day 15.
The big title has the year number.
The smaller title has the number 15 inscribed as “3*4 + 3” (3 squares, 3 lines)
Then we have 15 XIXI things. This implies that the XIXI refer to days.
Contrast this to Year 39, day 76.
Here the big title has the year, enscribed as 94+3 (9 squares, 3 lines),
the small title has the day (19 squares = 194 is 76)….
But there are 39 XIXI afterwards. This implies that the XIXI refer to YEARS.
in ALL other cases, the XIXI match up with the number of days, not the number of years.
And in the Y39 D76 case, the XIXI are preceeded by “…”, implying that Hazel has not drawn all the characters.
To me this suggests that the Y39 D76 case SHOULD have 76 XIXI, but that it doesn’t because that would be too long, hence some have been left out.
except that doesn’t work either, because 76 is 1 mod 5, while 39 is 4 mod 5, and what we see on the header clearly ends with four characters in the last group (“IIII”) …
So that doesn’t work either.
A) WB made a type?
B) Hazel’s encoding is inconsistent.
C) I don’t actually understand what’s going on. (most likely option).
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Caught up again and…this is really cool! I wanted to hear more about Hazel as soon as she was mentioned, and had been wondering when the Wolf would reappear in the story. The tie-in at the end with Miss’ decision being witnessed by the Page of Suns was a surprise – I was not expecting anything back in Kennet this chapter but the parallels between Hazel and Miss are really neat.
Seeing Miss’ decision and Maricica’s return as well makes me really excited for what comes next! Now we just need to hear what happened to Gilkey…
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