Oak

  • 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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  • Kill-Devil

    “Rum punch is not improperly called Kill-Devil; for thousands lose their lives by its means. When newcomers use it to the least excess, they expose themselves to imminent peril, for it heats the blood and brings on fevers, which in a very few hours send them to their graves.”

    Sugar cane, molasses, oak wood, and honey.

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  • Lawful

    Rigid oak, blue chamomile, rhubarb, and fig leaf.

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  • Mad Sweeney

    “Coin tricks is it?” asked Sweeney, his chin raising, his scruffy beard bristling. “Why, if it’s coin tricks we’re doing, watch this.”

    He took an empty glass from the table. Then he reached out and took a large coin, golden and shining, from the air. He dropped it into the glass. He took another gold coin from the air and tossed it into the glass, where it clinked against the first. He took a coin from the candle flame of a candle on the wall, another from his beard, a third from Shadow’s empty left hand, and dropped them, one by one, into the glass. Then he curled his fingrs over the glass, and blew hard, and several more golden coins dropped into the glass from his hand. He tipped the glass of sticky coins into his jacket pocket, and then tapped the pocket to show, unmistakably, that it was empty.

    “There,” he said. “That’s a coin trick for you.”

    Barrel-aged whiskey and oak.

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  • The Antikythera Mechanism

    Bronze gears spin inside a polished wooden case, and an entire universe dances within.

    Teakwood, oak, black vanilla, and tobacco.

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  • The Blood Garden

    Vast open tents have been erected further down the lane. Ornately carved wooden poles support swaths of drooping black lace and blood-crusted burgundy velvet. Grapevines and ivy creep over the beams in the tent and curl like cocoons around bodies that hang upside-down in the caliginous gloom of the tents. Within the shadows, pale figures recline on divans covered in moldering, frayed fabric. As you pass, a feral, white-haired man hoists a tall-stemmed crystal glass of deep red liquid in a toast to you.

    Blood accord, bitter clove, English ivy, Tempranillo grape, red currant, oak, leather, blackberry leaf, and ginger lily.

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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 Forest of the Empress

    A verdant grove of evergreens, the promise of peace, quiet, and refuge within the heart of Nature’s embrace: clusters of clubmoss huddle silently under a gently shadowed canopy of silver fir, blue spruce, red cedar, cypress, and live oak.

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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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  • The Ninth Cage

    The unicorn hardly heard him. She turned and turned in her prison, her body shrinking from the touch of the iron bars all around her. No creature of man’s night loves cold iron, and while the unicorn could endure its presence, the murderous smell of it seemed to turn her bones to sand and her blood to rain. The bars of her cage must have had some sort of spell on them, for they never stopped whispering evilly to one another in clawed, pattering voices.

    A claustrophobic blend of iron and oak.

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  • Witch-Cursed Castle

    You whom Haggard holds in thrall,
    Share his feast and share his fall.
    You shall see your fortune flower
    Till the torrent takes the tower.
    Yet none but one of Hagsgate town
    May bring the castle swirling down.

    Beyond the town, darker than dark, King Haggard’s castle teetered like a lunatic on stilts, and beyond the castle the sea slid. Drinn stopped him as he raised his glass. “Not that toast, my friend. Will you drink to a woe fifty years old? It is that long since our sorrow fell, when King Haggard built his castle by the sea.”

    “When the witch built it, I think.” Schmendrick wagged a finger at him. “Credit where it’s due, after all.”

    “Ah, you know that story,” Drinn said. “Then you must also know that Haggard refused to pay the witch when her task was completed.”

    The magician nodded. “Aye,” and she cursed him for his greed – cursed the castle, rather. “But what had that to do with Hagsgate? The town had done the witch no wrong.”

    “No,” Drinn replied. “But neither had it done her any good. She could not unmake the castle – or would not, for she fancied herself an artistic sort and boasted that her work was years ahead of its time. Anyway, she came to the elders of Hagsgate and demanded that they force Haggard to pay what was due her. ‘Look at me and see yourselves,’ she rasped. ‘That’s the true test of a town, or of a king. A lord who cheats an ugly old witch will cheat his own folk by and by. Stop him while you can, before you grow used to him.’” Drinn sipped his wine and thoughtfully filled Schmendrick’s glass once more.

    “Haggard paid her no money,” he went on, “and Hagsgate, alas, paid her no heed. She was treated politely and referred to the proper authorities, whereupon she flew into a fury and screamed that in our eagerness to make no enemies at all, we had now made two.” He paused, covering his eyes with lids so thin that Molly was sure he could see through them, like a bird. With his eyes closed, he said, “It was then that she cursed Haggard’s castle, and cursed our town as well. Thus his greed brought ruin upon us all.”

    In the sighing silence, Molly Grue’s voice came down like a hammer on a horseshoe, as though she were again berating poor Captain Cully. “Haggard’s less at fault than you yourselves,” she mocked the folk of Hagsgate, “for he was only one thief, and you were many. You earned your trouble by your own avarice, not your king’s.”

    Drinn opened his eyes and gave her an angry look. “We earned nothing,” he protested. “It was our parents and grandparents whom the witch asked for help, and I’ll grant you that they were as much to blame as Haggard, in their way. We would have handled the matter quite differently.” And every middle-aged face in the room scowled at every older face.

    One of the old men spoke up in a voice that wheezed and miaowed. “You would have done just as we did. There were crops to harvest and stock to tend, as there still are. There was Haggard to live with, as there still is. We know very well how you would have behaved. You are our children.”

    Weed-strewn oak, opoponax, wet stone, creaking redwood, and desolate olibanum.

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  • Woman Dragging Her Aroused Lover Across a Bridge

    Sweet amber and rosewood, wet oak beams, smoky vanilla husk, ambrette seed, and hinoki wood.

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