Far Off Unhappy Webnovel


Chapter 18: Lampade

By Renko Doremi Rodenburg

Hades was a place like no other. A cavernous realm, where ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ blurred together. Dark, but not in a way that impeded sight. Morana had found herself washing up on the beach, from the dark waters of chaos that she had been cast into when her physical manifestation died.

She wasn’t happy. The anger from the series of humiliations she had suffered in the Lands Lost had mostly cooled down into the icy hate that only lampades could keep in their heart, laying dormant until she could enact her revenge. But she missed two of her fingers, and had no idea if that injury could be healed. Furthermore, she had to wander the Paths of the Dead without any of her equipment. No amulets to ward off shades, no sigils to invoke the power of her mother or her patron. Worst of all, she didn’t have her lantern or her mirror. Her sickle she could do without, but the lack of her lamp and her mirror made her vulnerable.

And of course it was annoying that she was still naked. Carver had ripped her clothes to shreds when he dragged her through the undergrowth of that damned forest, and she hadn’t found anything to replace them with. Not that it would have mattered- ordinary matter from the Lands Lost or any other realm in the Materium, real or unreal, wouldn’t have stuck with her when she had been decapitated and cast back into chaos anyway. She needed cloth woven from strands of fate, silk from the great dark spiders that roamed the boundaries between Asphodel and Tartarus. She needed to find her way to the palace of Hades.

She found the Paths of the Dead without much incident. At times a tunnel that bore through bedrock, and at times a path surrounded by coiling growths of dark trees, it was lit by the sickly green glow of pale fire burning in lamps made of green nephrite. A road into Hades proper. As she walked, she had to occasionally hide from groups of newly dead shades wandering in the dark without guides. The newly dead had an annoying penchant of arrogantly thinking they were entitled to things, and she didn’t feel like explaining that ‘young, naked and helpless lampade women’ were not exactly part of their eternal reward.

While hiding from one such group behind something that had gotten trapped halfway between a stalagmite and an Ionic pillar, she saw one shade push another that it had been bickering with down the Paths where they crossed a cliff, down into the Nothing.

She hated mortals. The world would be better off if they just all died already and left the beautiful fields, meadows and forests in the many realms of the Materium to her and her sisters, she often thought.

Of course, she had been mortal once. Her devotion to Hecate in life had drawn her soul to the Three-In-One after death, who had devoured her. She had bypassed the normal transmigration of souls, and had been reformed as a lampade in her womb.

Hecate had been a good mother to her in death where in life she’d had none, with a crowd of sisters who were all just like her. When she had come of age they had all chosen deities to align themselves with, some staying with Hecate, some becoming bringers of death under Thanatos. She had become a messenger and diplomat for the court of Hades, the Wealthy One who ruled most of the dark realm.

After wandering for hours while pondering these things she finally reached one of the rivers that surrounded the heartlands of Hades. The roiling, roaring noise and smell of sulfur had announced the Phlegeton ahead of time, but it was still a surprise to turn a corner and be suddenly confronted with the immense stream of fire flowing through a massive gash in the bedrock.

Rickety bridges spanned across the river as far as Morana could see. Some were most abandoned, others were crowded, and with any regularity she saw shades toppling over the ropes of too-crowded bridges, and into the torrent of flames.

Shades who suffered that fate would not see heaven or hell, but instead got recycled into the flames of the Phlegeton itself. For some, that would be a kindness. For most all of them, it was the end of their journey.

Though her bridge was empty, save for some shades at the far end- who would no doubt hurry into Hades, glad to leave the roaring fire behind- she felt anxious crossing it regardless. Falling into one of the rivers of the underworld was one of the few things that could end her otherwise perfect and permanent existence. And apparently being cut by magic fileting knives also did the job, she thought while looking at the stumps on her hand, green flames perpetually licking out of her wounds.

She hurried over the rickety bridge as fast as she could without making the rope-and-planks construction swing around too much, trying not to think about the sea of molten souls below. When she crossed it, she bolted for the trees. Here the lands of Hades began for real, and the odd, winding and chaotic layout of the Paths of the Dead made way for order as imposed by the Lord of the Dead. There were real trees, real grass and real meadows, though all shrouded in perpetual darkness and an eerie fog. It was home nonetheless. There was an ethereal beauty to the dark realm that you only really learned to appreciate after dying.

But she wasn’t quite home yet, and Hades was far from safe. The realms before the Halls of Judgement, where King Minos dwelt were wild and full of predators. Predators preying on hapless souls who had neglected the proper rites to ensure a safe travel to their hereafter. Or perhaps preyed on moronic lampades who had not only lost their lamps but even their clothes, she thought as a shiver went up her spine.

Scurrying from overgrowth to overgrowth, deftly balancing on the ball of her feet to avoid hurting herself on the thorny, spiny plants, she found a pond. Despite the sky being a distant, dark slab of rock, it reflected the moon. Full and bright, it turned the pond into alluring silver. Around it grew narcisses, their necks bent in sadness ever since Narcissus had escaped the dark realm.

With the Moon full, it was senseless to try and use it to call on Hecate. Her mother would probably only scold her anyway. Instead, she knelt and said a prayer to someone else entirely. She had no idea if she would answer- but she had a couple things going for her. She was polite in her prayer, a far cry from the casual tone she would have taken with her mother. Perhaps she overdid it a little, but Artemis was easy to anger and had smitten people for less than being impolite.

Nothing immediately happened, but the gods were subtle and rewarded patience. She took the time to try and wash her wounds with the water from the pond, and though it didn’t extinguish the pale fire, it did dull the aching pain in her hand. The water was pleasantly warm, especially for this time and place- the temperature was barely below what would turn water in the Materium to ice- so she bathed in it fully. As she was busy scrubbing her body clean off as much of the stench of the living as she could, a rustling in the bushes startled her.

Sinking into the pond up to her nose, she warily stared in the direction of the noise.

Out of the bushes came a unicorn. Her fur was matte gray, her legs long and slender. A beautiful creature, a far cry from the mere ‘horse with a horn’ that mortal art often portrayed them as. True unicorns compared to horses the way Borzoi Sightdogs compared to wolves- far more elegant and refined of form, fey-like in their stride. And like with Sightdogs, it was easy to forget they were by far the more dangerous of the two.

Morana knew she had nothing to fear, though.

“Hey,” she softly said, climbing out of the pond and onto a large rock, to not immediately get dirt on her body again. She raised her hands, and slowly approached the unicorn.

“Did your mistress send you to help me?” She whispered. The unicorn replied by kneeling in front of her.

And so it happened that when she finally made it to the Halls of Judgement, she did so riding the unicorn. It was quite uncomfortable- but at least it guaranteed her safe passage through the realm of shades. No-one would dare invoke the wrath of Artemis by laying a hand on one of her favored pets.

The unicorn carried her along the massive, winding roads near the Halls of Judgement, crowded with shades. They looked at her in awe as she passed by, and for a second Morana felt truly regal, before she realized the staring wasn’t from some sort of natural, commanding presence but because she was a drenched, naked nymph with strands of wet hair clinging to her body bouncing up and down on horseback.

She spat at a shade making a particularly gross face at her, her saliva chewing a grisly hole into the skin of his face. Screaming, he clawed at his melting skin as the crowd parted, afraid.

The main roads led into the Halls of Judgement, but she wasn’t here to be judged. Instead, she gently tugged at the unicorn’s manes to guide her in a different direction- surrounding the Halls were elevated parks from where disciples of Thanatos looked down on the crowds below.

As she climbed down from the unicorn’s back near a stone staircase decorated with grisly iconography warning shades to stay away, a voice greeted her.

“Well, isn’t that an erotic sight,” a woman wearing ragged robes and a cowl in a dreadful shade far darker than black said. Around her neck she wore a mirror, and attached to chains she had wrapped around her middle as a belt was a lantern made of black nephrite. In her hands she held a great and terrible scythe, one not designed to reap wheat, but people.

“I’m-” Morana started, but the other Lampade interrupted her.

“A Lampade, I can tell,” she said. “Since when does Artemis employ Lampades? Did her own nymphs run out?”

Morana shook her head. “I’m not of Artemis. I went through a great and humiliating amount of ordeals and ended up cast into the seas of chaos, naked and wounded. I called on Artemis to ferry me safely across the lands of the dead, knowing that-”

“Knowing that she pities helpless virgins more than anything,” the other Lampade snickered. “Who knew that there were upsides in being socially inept and quick of temper,” the Lampade said, laughing while removing her cowl.

“Maria,” Morana said, angry.

“Morana,” Maria replied. “I’m glad to see you too. Please, follow me. I’d love to hear all about these humiliating ordeals you went through.”

Morana sighed. She turned around, kissed the unicorn on her head and waved her goodbye. Then she followed Maria up the marble stairs. At the top, on one of the plateaus looking out over the fields and roads in front of the Halls of Judgement, was a lush garden. A far cry from the harsh vegetation of the outer realms of Hades, and unlike the hanging gardens of Autumnal Luson it was impeccably well maintained.

“I have guard duty for the next eight decades or so,” Maria said, leading Morana into the garden and to a small house next to a pond under a truly staggeringly large willow. An interstice, Morana realized. A piece of land designed to empathically connect to another. No doubt the other gardens of the other reapers keeping watch mirrored this one perfectly, tying them all to a single house.

“But I can’t complain. It’s nice to be away from the perpetual slaughter of the Consensus War for a while.”

She opened the door to her little house, and Morana’s hypothesis was proven correct. It was far larger on the inside, and two other Lampades sat eating dinner at a table carved from a single, gigantic slab of mahogany.

The Palace of the Deer God paled in comparison to even the smallest abodes provided by Hades. He was lovingly called the Wealthy One by his servants for a reason. The interior of Maria’s house- or guardpost, rather- radiated an affluence that would make any merchant or noble from Autumnal Luson blush.

“What do we have here?” One of Maria’s fellow reapers said, putting down a glass of wine and wiping grease from fried boar from her mouth.

Morana smiled. If there was one thing Morana missed when in the Autumnal Lands, it was animal products.

“This is a sister of mine,” Maria said. “Who will regale us with the tale of how she ended up naked, afraid and missing two fingers in exchange for dress and food.”

“Maria,” Morana said, angry. “Behave yourself.”

Maria danced and twirled as she approached her two friends. “Oh but I am behaving myself,” she said. “Is that not the way of the world? A meal for a weary traveler in exchange for a story?”

Morana groaned. “Really, Maria? Are you really going to do this?”

Maria nodded, and her two friends laughed.

“Then,” Morana said. “At least clothe me before I tell my story. It’s far from proper conduct to hold food and clothing hostage until you’ve had your story.”

“Aw,” Maria said. “But I suppose I have humiliated you enough, dragging you in naked. Vergere, can you get her a spare uniform?”

One of the two other Lampades got up from her chair. “Of course,” she said, and hurried out of the room through one of the many intricately carved hardwood doors surrounding the central hall of the building.

Not much later Morana sat at the table with the rest, now dressed in the dark rags of a reaper. Maria had introduced her friends as Jaina and Vergere, and fetched her a plate of roast boar and onions boiled in fat as well as a glass of wine. It had been ages since Morana had properly eaten, so she dug greedily into the food.

“Such a shame she immediately wants clothes,” Maria said. “She’s a messy eater, and quite adorable with grease running down her breasts.”

“Maria!” Morana yelled, angry. Angry enough that some of her saliva dripped onto her plate and chewed straight through it.

“Mind your manners,” Vergere said. “Control yourself.”

“I apologize,” Morana said. “I have spent a lot of time around mortals. Expressing my emotions like that is a good way to keep them in line.”

“Gross,” Jaina said.

“We have caustic saliva for a reason,” Morana complained.

Maria laughed. “See, my sister is a bit socially stunted. Still! She managed to make it all the way to messenger and envoy of Hades. Past the Halls she technically outranks us.”

It was true. The followers of Thanatos held no power inside Hades proper. She’d remember this, and come up with a way to get back at Maria later.

“Now I’m double curious,” Vergere said. “How exactly did an envoy end up the way you did? I don’t think I’ve seen one of us lose fingers before, either.”

Morana sighed. “I owe you a story,” she said, glaring at Maria. “So I’ll start at the beginning.”

Far Off Unhappy Things

Chapter 18: Morana’s Story

I have always been sentimental about the Autumnal Lands. Leftover melancholy from my mortal life. There’s something fascinating about a world lost in time, where things are forever the same. So when the Consensus War threatened to spill into these Lands Lost and our Lord wanted to pledge himself and his wealth to the Deer God’s cause, I jumped at the opportunity to be the envoy sent to Autumn.

The stagnancy of the Autumnal- and by extension the Spring, Summer and Winter- Lands is a reprieve from the terrifying onslaught of events, the ever present march of time. The unmoving clock is a hell to some, but a heaven to others. I cannot bear to see the place that brought me joy and suffering in equal measure be truly lost, changed into something I cannot recognize if another faction takes control. Worse yet, some would use it as a staging ground to attack the Materium proper, causing the War to spiral yet further out of control. The unmaking of Autumn might, in ages to come, be another fallen domino in a chain that leads to the unmaking of all.

So I set out with three lesser spirits in tow, to pledge the support of the Wealthy One to Prince Autumn, the Deer God. We brought him water from the Lethe for his magicians, and gold for him to fund his wars. I then stayed behind in Luson, to look for allies among the population.

Hm? Yes, there are a great many powerful beings who could be rallied to the defense of their realm, but I needed to tread with caution. Those with power often seek more power- and they might take advantage of the situation for selfish goals.

Among the nobles of Autumn I found a Mirror-Witch. A reflection of the true Mirror-Witch, from before the Lands were Lost. A reflection in turn of one of the seven we keep here in Tartarus. I sometimes wonder if we will never be truly rid of them, if their image has been etched into the very foundation of the universe. But alas, I overestimated myself.

Silence, do not laugh. I am telling a story.

The Mirror-Witch did not want my help, because the melancholy that has the entire Autumnal Lands in its grip had overcome her. Still, I knew she had six sisters and set out to find the next. This is where my story sours.

North of Luson lie forests where it is eternally night. Such magic would be unworkable everywhere else, but the nature of time is far different in the Lost Lands. Yes, it is not entirely unlike the faerie, yet another damnable mirror. In these black forests vampires make their courts, offspring of Yakinta, mirror of damned Azazel. Here the Rune-Witch dwelt, mirror of Arakiel.

I would never manage to get an audience with her. I was attacked by a huntsman with a magic blade, who cut off my fingers. Yes, a blade that cuts the soul as well as the body- I fear that if I cannot recover my fingers I might lose part of myself forever.

Yes, I too wonder if the soul can be healed. Not with medicine or water, but perhaps other ways exist.

The huntsman, whose name I caught to be ‘Carver,’ bound me in silver, mistaking me for something else entirely. He dragged me through thorns and growths until not just my clothes but my skin entirely had been ripped away from me. I passed out from pain, and awoke in a binder’s circle.

I see there is a limit to how much my suffering can amuse you, Maria. Yes, we’ll get to revenge later. Let me finish my story.

One of the vampire monarchs had bound me in a circle. Luna, Luna Walkenburg. She must be an inexperienced magician to give me her full name. But she made other mistakes. She thought my eternity to be akin to a vampire’s eternity- that I would get stuck in my ways. Mistook the subtle differences between our life in death and her undeath.

She wanted to break me and raise me as a maid.

Maria! I’m telling a story.

I escaped through guile and trickery, but got incapacitated in a fight. They moved me to a holding cell instead of a circle next, another fatal mistake.

No, I have not killed her yet. Let me finish!


Where was I? Ah, but trust me that her mistake will be fatal after all.

I escaped my cell once again, and killed one vampire guard with my bare hands. I took his blade and made my way outside, where I was accosted by yet more guards. My inexperience in true combat would be my temporary undoing, as I got decapitated and my soul was cast back into the sea of chaos.

I have learned important things, though. The vampire monarch could not have drawn the circle, and neither could the huntsman. The Rune-Witch must have done so, but to what extent their alliance stretches I know not. If Luna has informed her Witch that she had a Lampade of Hades bound in a circle and let her escape, then they will most certainly know I am coming back for them. This will not avail them, of course.

The story of me finding my way back through the realm of shades you already understand- what now, Maria?

Yes Maria, I was naked ever since I was bound.


2 thoughts on “Lampade”

  1. This is a collection of my thoughts on the new Ch 16, 17 and 18.
    I’m still thoroughly enjoying FOUT! It’s both interesting and exciting. Maxwell monologuing after shooting Alexis convinced me that he should be killed even before allying himself with Emain in Chapter 17. He’s a very entertaining bastard.
    Chapter 17 felt almost tailor-made to pander to my interests, featuring Reinhild, Vampire Things, and Carver. I was also shocked/delighted to see a character in a fantasy story actually suffering from the effects of a concussion! The line clarifying that Reinhild didn’t enjoy the curse on her that made her eat flesh also made me feel like the chapter had been aimed directly at me, although I know it wasn’t.
    All of the worldbuilding in Chapter 18 was very good. The line about the recently departed feeling entitled to things made a lot of sense and was a clever detail to add. The action in Chapter 17 was fun, and I enjoyed seeing more of Carver’s knife, plus seeing the refined concept of murder in Chapter 16.
    Emain’s characterization forces me to significantly reconsider my view of Clementine. I had definitely imagined her as a passive but benevolent font of wisdom. Reconsidering that also makes me less certain about what Clementine leaving reality actually meant for her. I’m sure that through Emain’s impact on the story we’ll learn more.

    Overall excellent + impressive and I’m still excited to see where things go from here!

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