Ash

  • All-Father

    Wednesday guided his wolf—now a huge and charcoal-gray beast with green eyes—over to Shadow. Shadow’s mount caracoled away from it, and Shadow stroked its neck and told it not to be afraid. Its tiger tail swished, aggressively. It occurred to Shadow that there was another wolf, a twin to the one that Wednesday was riding, keeping pace with them in the sand dunes, just a moment out of sight.

    “Do you know me, Shadow?” said Wednesday. He rode his wolf with his head high. His right eye glittered and flashed, his left eye was dull. He wore a cloak with a deep, monklike cowl, and his face stared out from the shadows. “I told you I would tell you my names. This is what they call me. I am called Glad-of-War, Grim, Raider, and Third. I am One-Eyed. I am called Highest, and True-Guesser. I am Grimnir, and I am the Hooded One. I am All-Father, and I am Gondlir Wand-Bearer. I have as many names as there are winds, as many titles as there are ways to die. My ravens are Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory; my wolves are Freki and Geri; my horse is the gallows.” Two ghostly-gray ravens, like transparent skins of birds, landed on Wednesday’s shoulders, pushed their beaks into the side of Wednesday’s head as if tasting his mind, and flapped out into the world once more.

    Oak leaves and ash, honey mead, wolf musk, a flutter of black feathers, and bronze fennel.

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  • Alviss

    The peculiar-looking man was of average height, but of an odd shape: Shadow had heard of men who were barrel-chested before, but had no image to accompany the metaphor. This man was barrel-chested, and he had legs like, yes, like tree trunks, and hands like, exactly, ham hocks. He wore a black parka with a hood, several sweaters, thick dungarees, and, incongruously, in the winter and with those clothes, a pair of white tennis shoes, which were the same size and shape as shoeboxes. His fingers resembled sausages, with flat, squared-off fingertips.

    “That’s some hum you got,” said Shadow from the driver’s seat.

    “Sorry,” said the peculiar young man, in a deep, deep voice, embarrassed. He stopped humming.

    “No, I enjoyed it,” said Shadow. “Don’t stop.”

    The peculiar young man hesitated, then commenced to hum once more, his voice as deep and reverberant as before. This time there were words interspersed in the humming. “Down down down,” he sang, so deeply that the windows rattled. “Down down down, down down, down down.”

    Thick, tangled, and strong: ash and oak, elm and pine, reaching down, down, and deeper down into earth.

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  • Djinn

    An ancient, free-willed race created from the essence of Fire, much as man was created from Earth. They prowled the land at night, vanishing with the first rays of dawn. Myths surrounding the Djinn paint them as many things: benevolent champions of mankind and slaves to mad sorcerers, malicious incubi / succubi and energy vampires, or malevolent harbingers of madness and disease. The Djinn are ruled by Iblis, the Prince of Darkness, who bears unspeakable contempt for man.

    The scent of black smoke, of crackling flames, and smoldering ashes.

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  • Elli’s Song

    “Most shows,” said Rukh after a time, “would end here, for what could they possibly present after a genuine unicorn? But Mommy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival holds one more mystery yet – a demon more destructive than the dragon, more monstrous than the manticore, more hideous than the harpy, and certainly more universal than the unicorn.” He waved his hand toward the last wagon and the black hangings began to wriggle open, though there was no one pulling them. “Behold her!” Rukh cried. “Behold the last, the Very End! Behold Elli!” 

    Inside the cage, it was darker than the evening, and cold stirred behind the bars like a live thing. Something moved in the cold, and the unicorn saw Elli – an old, bony, ragged woman who crouched in the cage rocking and warming herself before a fire that was not there. She looked so frail that the weight of the darkness should have crushed her, and so helpless and alone that the watchers should have rushed forward in pity to free her. Instead, they began to back silently away, for all the world as though Elli were stalking them. But she was not even looking at them. She sat in the dark and creaked a song to herself in a voice that sounded like a saw going through a tree, and like a tree getting ready to fall.

    'What is plucked will grow again,
    What is slain lives on,
    What is stolen will remain –
    What is gone is gone.'

    “She doesn’t look like much, does she?” Rukh asked. “But no hero can stand before her, no god can wrestle her down, no magic can keep her out – or in, for she’s no prisoner of ours. Even while we exhibit her here, she is walking among you, touching and taking. For Elli is Old Age.”

    The cold of the cage reached out to the unicorn, and wherever it touched her she grew lame and feeble. She felt herself withering, loosening, felt her beauty leaving her with her breath. Ugliness swung from her mane, dragged down her head, stripped her tail, gaunted her body, ate up her coat, and ravaged her mind with remembrance of what she had once been. Somewhere nearby, the harpy made her low, eager sound, but the unicorn would gladly have huddled in the shadow of her bronze wings to hide from this last demon. Elli’s song sawed away at her heart.

    'What is sea-born dies on land,
    Soft is trod upon.
    What is given burns the hand –
    What is gone is gone.'

    The horrors of entropy, death, and decay: desiccated black mosses, vetiver, olibanum, patchouli, and ashes.

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  • Glass Eye

    “How’d you lose your eye?”

    Wednesday shoveled half a dozen pieces of bacon into his mouth, chewed, wiped the fat from his lips with the back of his hand. “Didn’t lose it,” he said. “I still know exactly where it is.”

     

    The depths of Mímisbrunnr: mugwort and frankincense, grey amber and ash.

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  • King Haggard

    His eyes were the same color as the horns of the Red Bull. He was taller than Schmendrick, and though his face was bitterly lined there was nothing fond or foolish in it. It was a pike’s face: the jaws long and cold, the cheeks hard, the lean neck alive with power.

    Dry cedar, bitter balsam, and ashes.

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  • Plutonian

    Once the world’s greatest, most beloved superhero, he has now become its greatest villain — a capricious and vengeful god who haunts the skies and toys daily with six billion lives.

    Soapy cleanliness sullied by blood and ashes.

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  • Roses, Pearls and Diamonds

    The youngest, who was the very picture of her father for courtesy and sweetness of temper, was withal one of the most beautiful girls ever seen. As people naturally love their own likeness, this mother even doted on her eldest daughter and at the same time had a horrible aversion for the youngest–she made her eat in the kitchen and work continually.

    Among other things, this poor child was forced twice a day to draw water above a mile and a-half off the house, and bring home a pitcher full of it. One day, as she was at this fountain, there came to her a poor woman, who begged of her to let her drink. 

    “Oh! ay, with all my heart, Goody,” said this pretty little girl; and rinsing immediately the pitcher, she took up some water from the clearest place of the fountain, and gave it to her, holding up the pitcher all the while, that she might drink the easier. 

    The good woman, having drunk, said to her: 

    You are so very pretty, my dear, so good and so mannerly, that I cannot help giving you a gift.” For this was a fairy, who had taken the form of a poor country woman, to see how far the civility and good manners of this pretty girl would go. “I will give you for a gift,” continued the Fairy, “that, at every word you speak, there shall come out of your mouth either a flower or a jewel.” 

    When this pretty girl came home her mother scolded her for staying so long at the fountain. 

    “I beg your pardon, mamma,” said the poor girl, “for not making more haste.” 

    And in speaking these words there came out of her mouth two roses, two pearls, and two diamonds.

    Red roses, dazzling crystalline musks, and pearlescent coconut-tinged orris.

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  • The Blood Must Flow

    “It is only a gesture,” he said, turning back to Shadow. “But gestures mean everything. The death of one dog symbolizes the death of all dogs. Nine men they gave to me, but they stood for all the men, all the blood, all the power. It just wasn’t enough. One day, the blood stopped flowing. Belief without blood only takes us so far. The blood must flow.”

    “I saw you die,” said Shadow.

    “In the god business,” said the figure—and now Shadow was certain it was Wednesday, nobody else had that rasp, that deep cynical joy in words, “it’s not the death that matters. It’s the opportunity for resurrection. And when the blood flows . . .”

    Three days on the tree, three days in the underworld, three days to find your way back: ash, oak, and elm; vetiver, dragon’s blood resin, and cypress; frankincense, copal, and chamomile.

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  • The Horned God

    Lord of the cycle of death and resurrection, he is the personification of the rhythms of order found deep in the cycles of nature. He is the embodiment of virility and male fecundity and shepherd of souls to the afterlife.

    Ash and white cedar, frankincense and acacia, holly and oak, verbena and nettle.

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  • The Magician’s Wand

    Energy, will, and the manifested Word of the Magus. It is the generative process, the act of creation: ash, rowan, oak, and elder wood, polished with sweet resins but handworn, glowing with inner fire.

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