BOOK 3: Mythos
RELEVANT INFO: The following illustrations were discovered in the Scofield Compendium with no indication of where they originated and further tests on the age of the parchment they were printed on and their source have proven inconclusive. The story written on the back of each print seems to have been scrawled hastily by an apprehensive hand.
Who can say who or what accumulated the bricks from which the first people were masoned together. They may have fallen from on high like stars or been fired from the clays found deep below— or the rakish wind may have carved them from the local mountains purely on accident. Whatever the process, when that final keystone was placed into the heads of our universal ancestors, they found that they could see, really see, at last. They could feel the age in their mortared feet as they looked upon a woodland that had grown tall and dense around them over the many years that they had stood half-formed. The trees rustled in a wind that these newfangled mortals could finally sense, cooly, against their naked backs.
In response, these people huddled together for warmth. Soon, they came to know and trust each other. For some time they bathed in the nearby river and shared souls over meals plucked from the canopy above. By the time the wind was blowing a true winter breath— much colder than that of the first days— some children had bolstered the primeval clan.
A mother, called Koriptra, seeing the chill shiver her heirs even as they hid from the wind behind the thick column-trunks of the forest floor, felled the first tree. From it she built a barricade to keep away the cold. And when the wind retaliated, attacking from all directions then enlisting rain and snow as aids for its bitter battle, more trees came crashing to the earth at her hand, shuddering everything, so to be crafted into defensive walls and roofs. She could not be stopped until her children were housed and warm.
She had built a shelter of corpses— formed from dried and dissected husks that had bled sap when hacked at the base. Many who watched felt a horror and loss, for the trees had been their first welcomers to the world back when the adobe skin of humanity had dried. And yet, when Koriptra, the Mother, invited them all inside, they could not help but languish in the heat of the hearth. And when the Mother invited them to join in prayer before a feast, and said with bowed head, “do no cry for the trees, for they are not of the earth as we are— they have not the silkiness of soil found on our flesh nor the terra cotta toughness found in our bones. Theirs is a supple sacrifice, eased by their otherness, which we must insist on with the grit of stone which is our origin,” many found themselves nodding in stoic agreement once she had finished.
So it was that more and more trees were sundered and sullied for the sake of warmth and comfort. The people built lives in structures that were dead and dying— where rot was common and its remedy only replacement by more freshly-murdered matter. And when, later on, the stonecutters returned from the distant mountains with menhirs and marble blocks, these were celebrated for their sturdy semblance to the rocky hearts of mankind. Thus the castles and workhouses were constructed ever after from the moribund and spiritless.
Looking upon all of this, an eremite called Dentreides decided to return to what little woods were left, to the glade where their brothers and sisters had been cobbled together. Here they whispered softly to the trees that had watched those first bricks of humanity lain and bound together. They whispered their worries for the world as they leaned against the ragged bark. Suddenly, from above fruit fell, and as it hit the ground it tore apart to reveal the black pit-stone within. After some time for thought, Dentreides picked up the fruit. They thanked the tree with a bow. Then Dentreides sat within the center of the glade and supped upon the gift— tearing first at its thin skin, then the yielding meat beneath, and finally swallowing in one decisive action the pit-stone that remained. As they did so they mused, in half-prayer, on silken soil and tough terra cotta.
Dentreides sat for some time. They sat through the wind. They sat through its minions, the rain and snow. They sat and pondered on the nature of the trees. They sat and pondered on what growth was— pondered on what living was. They sat and felt the pit-stone tremble within them at that thought. They sat and trembled back.
The children of the children of that old Mother whom had felled the first tree found themselves lost near those first woods, on an escapade of youth. They tumbled passed the remaining column-trunks of that yesterworld, mystified by the shade of the canopy— a screening from the dangerous elements that they had come only to know from the stiff and heavy cadaver-structures of their faraway homes. The group clambered deeper and deeper into the woods until eventually, the party stumbled upon the old clearing.
There was Dentreides, still. But the hermit was hardly recognizable. The pit-stone had pressed ligneous boughs through each of their toes, which splayed like the slithering roots of mangroves across the entire clearing. Their arms too gave way too to burly boles, which erupted from Dentreides’ tissues toward the sky and were cladded sporadically with a fleshy, alabaster bark. Branches sprouted high and low, tipped with dark leaves— the same slate-gray of the ancient eremite’s long gone hair. Their torso and countenance had merged into one vast and resolute trunk, wider at the base than the spans of all the children put together.
Dentreides spoke. Their eyes bored dusky through the pitted rind of their rhytidome.
Their mouth a gnarled knot.
The children slumped to ground, shuddering.
“Oh, sir,” one cried, “what horror has happened to you?”
“No horror, only growth,” replied the arboreal wight.
“But sir— what is left of you, if anything? How can you live like this?"
“Perhaps I am not entirely me, but I live more than I ever have. I live and grow through trust in the pit-stone. When I was chilled by the wind, it enveloped me in insulating cork. When I was thirsty, it fused its phloem to my veins and taught me to drink from the aquifers. When I was hungry, it reached to the sky and forged fruit from sunlight.”
“So, sir, are you some God of the Trees?” One child cried in awe.
“Do you plan to command us in the same way you have come to rule this wooden other-matter?” piped another, trembling.
“No, no,” replied Dentreides raspily, “I am not in charge here. The pit-stone is prompted by invisible goals, and it is fervent in their accomplishment. I simply reside within an edificial entity which is determined to go on; and by lending myself to it— and to it I do give regularly: give away comfort, give away blood, give away fealty— as recompense, it has incorporated me into its mission and gives back. I do not know exactly where the pit-stone will take me, but I know to trust that it is a worthy destination.”
Dentreides, wizened and weary, did not respond after this. The children, shaken deeply by the encounter, ran back to where they had come from— seeking the comfort of the old Mother Koriptra and her slowly decomposing house, or that of the pleasure parlors and worship dens clad in uncaring and inanimate stone. In the generations hence, as those structures went on rotting and lifeless: the pit-stone, with crawling tendrils of vivacious yearning, creeps ever closer— determined to restore life to a people who think themselves descendant from unfeeling brick and clay.