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It is the bottomless well at the bottom of the world.   As I write this, in these fleeting moments of clarity, it begins to dawn on me that I should have kept a record of how many days I have spent here. At Brokenbow, they warned us that the Abyss would steal our memories should we gaze into it. They neglected to mention that the first thing you forget is how long you've been staring.   Above the pit, the stubborn rime-encrusted ayrlands sigh, and shrug off their burdens. Tired and shivering, they knock at death's door with a sheepish beggarly pride. Not all made it this far, and there's something to be respected in going the distance. Their exhausted brethren lay in pulverized dirtmounds, caught like half-chewed rotleaf between the decaying teeth of the Devil's Maw.   It cries out: Why do you tremble, my children? Is this what we came all this weary way to see?   For myself, I see only a cold and black stillness that gazes not back, but past. Witness now: It cares not for you, gahl. Your flesh could not sate its hunger. Nor would all the ashes of the thousand ayrles. It yearns for something more distant - not even yet a glimmer in the firmament, but approaching all the same. Still, it cares not for you. It cares. But not for you.   Is it an eye that breathes, or a mouth that beholds? Nethergazers shall find naught else but the Truth of All Things: that the vultures cannot taste virtue. The sinful and the godly alike shall be born anew, free and guiltless. Here in the black embrace, there is no need for judgment, and much less forgiveness. Go now, pilgrim, knowing this. Be not afraid to fall, and seize what would be yours. Or stay if you lack the will. There's no shame in that either.   The Lacunites of Pandaemonium say this is a place for healing. I used to think they were wrong, but lately it seems I cannot articulate why.  
I heard a fellow came back from Pandaemonium last Fall. Folk say he had a sharp temper before, but now his eyes smoulder when he gets angry. And not figurative smoulderin', like some kind of shaven brute from the romance yarns, I mean smoking, smokin'. Like a drip of hog-fat wot fell into the cookfire. Hmm, but I know he's not the only one with the 'gaze. That's why I don't keep any mirrors in any of the guest-rooms. Hell's bells, I fear to even polish the plates!   The Reflector told me the mad buggers can't stand to see their image. Drives 'em into a frenzy, and if he says it, then that's the minted truth.
— Yolanda Nieves, Innkeeper at Brokenbow

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Cover image: by Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis (PD)


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