The Shelf of Gifts

A gift from Blossomdrift to Lichencross, which once belonged to Beachbriar

The gift is a small glass jar filled with dried rose petals. As you unscrew the lid, the sweet pink frangrance touches your nose. The petals are small and crinkled, no longer soft and lush, but still carry something of a summer memory. The gift hopes to remind you of what can be saved and savoured even after time has moved on from it.

A gift from Holyviolet to Blossomdrift, which once belonged to Candlehum

A small clay pot of campanula, with starry purple flowers against the greenery. For a keeper who also blossoms, and who commemorates.

Bristletap’s shelf (entrusted to Applecap)

An item that once belonged to Applecap:

A carved penguin made of coal.
It was a gift from my Grandmother.
I lost it.
It was found.

Five other items on the shelf:

A carved wooden duck made of burnt wood.
A feather from the Complicated Owl.
A drawing of a ghost.
A hat from the wedding where the bride never appeared.
A tin of cough drops.

Candlehum’s shelf (entrusted to Holyviolet)

An item that once belonged to Holyviolet

There’s a white paper bag with a familiar orange, pink and brown logo in fat letters on the front. It’s a surprise to see it on his shelf, as last I’d seen the bag, Socrates was very carefully fastening it to his belt, so he could enjoy the rest of the donut holes I’d brought him from my world later on when he was hungry again. The bag is still fairly crisp, tho now empty except for traces of sugar and crumbs inside, and the faint sweet smell of baked goods. I know it’s mine because I’d doodled a grape cluster on the back to differentiate it from the bags I’d kept for home consumption. Perhaps Socrates shared the rest of the donut holes with Candlehum at some point, or gave him the rest in the bag in exchange for something? I shall have to ask Socrates, and perhaps we can do something together to commemorate and celebrate Candlehum’s shelf and life.

Five other items on the shelf

There’s the buzzing of a fly, zooming in close then just as quickly moving away. It sounds like a hot summer day near the Beacon, like a messenger darting in and out of the Portal with important news.

There’s a pot of campanula, purple flowers starry against the green. Candlehum worked at the historic Greenhouse, and probably brought this plant home to nurture or for company or perhaps a little bit of both.

There’s an eyeglass cloth, with the name of an optician from the City Center printed on the soft blue fabric. The merchants set up there with wondrous things from the length and breadth of Alongame. At some point someone must have learned about optics and glass grinding, perhaps even a scholar from the College. I wonder if Candlehum wore glasses, whether this was a free cloth that came with his first pair, or a remembrance from someone else. I wonder if he rubbed the fuzzy cloth between his fingers and thought fondly of the giver, or if he just liked the color and thought the size too impractical for his work or household use.

There’s an illuminated map of the City Of Splendors, along with parts of the neighboring areas. He must have gotten this from the College, which hands them out fairly freely, tho this one is particularly pretty, with colors and whimsical drawings.

There’s the scent of coconut and pineapple, scents I’d never encountered before in Alongame. It reminds me of sitting in the shade on a tropical beach, with the lapping crystal blue of the ocean dazzling the eye while the golden sands absorb and release the sun’s heat. I wonder where he got this from, whether he’s been through the Portal as well and took a well-deserved vacation, sipping pina coladas somewhere and relaxing.

Cornerchime’s shelf

A map, with a note attached

People travel through here, only some of them stay. This is a liminal space for many. If you decide not to stay, please leave something behind. The hills like to remember.

Notes on a development on Conebird‘s map

The hedge has grown. It hasn’t done so in years. 

It tracks a path due south, following the river in another world. Its leaves look strangely out of place. 

A watchtower is built for humans to track its growth.

A long dozen poem

Wind and Cold.
Sunshine reflecting diamonds in the snow.
Cheeks are red, heart is warm. In this silence there is calm.

A cairn, telling this story

A home.

It is perfectly tidy, but empty. How did the people who lived here choose what they left behind? The beds are made. The kitchen has full sets of crockery, but the pantry is empty. There is no decay, only dust and stillness. Like the house is waiting. 

The house has many rooms. Some are even unfinished, the windowframes unpainted, the skirting unglued. 

Ivy climbs up the side of the house facing the garden. The siding hints at the fact this was intentional. The garden is too overgrown to tell whether it was tended or left to nature’s will.

There is one shared space in the house. It is spartan. There are many shelves. A single book has been left on each one. 

Somehow, even when the temperature drops outside, the inside of the house is always a few degrees warmer, and it is never truly dark. 

The plants outside are drawn to this. The ivy is creeping in. A tree is growing through the cracks in the floor. This house was waiting for someone, it was left to wait for others. Nature has answered that call.

Bookfold’s shelf

A map with this note attached

If you’re hungry while traveling, the Open Garden next to the village is open to all; help yourself, but it’s poor manners to be too greedy. The only caution is to beware the Forgotten Road. Nobody knows where it leads or what’s on it, and the few who’ve been there all tell different stories, none of them good. If someone tells you they found treasure there and you should go too, don’t believe them.

Notes on an acquaintance

I met the Owlkeeper in the Silent Woods. At least, that’s what he called himself. He was a bit strange: dressed in dapper clothes, sitting in a tree, hands twitchy. He’s one of those people who talks a lot but says nothing; it was all small talk and evasive non-sequitors, like he was dropping riddles that might or might not have an answer. He said he was close friends with Tilleryard, and that they game weekly; but I suspect he’s also the kind of person who says he’s friends with everyone but nobody really knows him? I mean, he sits in a tree in woods that have a reputation for weird fae activity.

A long dozen poem

Open hands
The garden overflows with their bounty:
A gift from one life on this world to another life

Mushroom poems inspired by this long dozen sit on Vaseridge and Applecap‘s shelves

A cairn, telling this story

The cairn at the top of Grannytop Hill stood in the middle of the ring of standing stones, and told the story of “Granny” Applewood, who led the construction of the stones. She was skilled in astronomy and charted the heavens, and the path of sun and moon. The stones were to be a calendar to be used to mark planting & harvest times. 

However, the project was not without opposition. Halfway through construction, the mayor at the time abruptly pulled support, and did nothing to stop nasty rumors that the fae were somehow involved. Either that Granny was aided by them, or that the construction would draw their wrath. But Granny persisted, and later generations recognized the ring’s value. To this day, they are still used as an agricultural calendar.

However, the story of Granny herself was lost. Most people simply think that “Grannytop” refers to the fact that some of the stones look like old, hunched figures.

Lichencross’ shelf

A small glass jar has been gifted to Lichencross by Blossomdrift, which can be seen on the shelf of gifts.

Photos from a journey to the Astronomer’s Ridge on Scapelock‘s map
This Alongame saying

Never touch the pond, unless a succulent pumpkin is efficiently melted by bodies.

A mushroom poem, inspired by Blossomdrift‘s long dozen

inner expanse,
clouded and dark. the light banished and soul drenched.
return to your body, breathe. cry and feel and live and live

A long dozen poem

star-kissed ruin
forgotten by all but the sky and earth
you deserve more than we can give, sanctum of the soul

A kingfisher, which makes this sound whenever anyone is near
A map, with this note attached

When passing through town, the locals will tell you of a well known, comfortable hot spring just outside town. Wander uphill, following the crest of the nearby slope and you will find a beautiful meadow leading to pockets of peaceful ponds

A cairn, telling this story

This cairn of deep amethyst and silica tells the story of a miner struggling with depression. Having recently lost his partner to illness, he fell into an emotional state as deep and dark as the mine itself. His fellow miners banded together to ensure the man always had company when working, they shared stories and sung and encouraged the man to share his sorrows with the crew. As it turns out, the other miners had struggles of their own. As the first miner began to rise from depths, others felt weights lifted from them that they didn’t realise they shouldered, all benefited from the comradery and support, eve– 

*The particulars of the ending of this story have been lost. Unfortunately, after the mine was exhausted, the effort to seal the mine against future wanderers demolished the final two stones of the cairn. The story of the miners nevertheless is suspected to be the foundation of the town’s emotionally supportive culture.*

Blossomdrift’s shelf

A small glass jar has been gifted to Blossomdrift by Holyviolet, which can be seen on the shelf of gifts.

Blossomdrift has also been entrusted with Cloudsway‘s shelf

Notes on a constellation

The boat and the anchor, in memory of AA

A Night Falls poem

the tides flo, bright friends
drink coffee
may health reel in bitter harm
raise our feet

A winged creature, which makes this sound whenever anyone is near
Photos, taken at the end of a journey to the old witch’s hut and garden on Hearthgazer‘s map
A mushroom poem (inspired by Treewalker‘s long dozen)

soft thunderstorm
rumbles far away, feels close, warm, metallic
I wander towards it, damp with sweat, following myself

A cairn, telling this story

I saw them planting their garden on one of the small farms. It was early, no more than an hour past dawn, the dew still lingering bright on the grasses. Their garden was a rambling swathe of blooms, herbs, and seedling vegetables.

‘Your garden is beautiful,’ I said.

They turned their head and smiled at me, inclining their head slightly but making no vocal response. Extending one soil-smudged hand, they beckoned me in amongst the greening and blossoming.

I crouch with them to look at the plants. Delicate woodruff nestled amid bushy parsley and coriander, lending a sprinking of white star flowers. Bugleweed held blue flowers aloft on strong stems, stretching out its runners along the ground below. Peashoots clambered eagerly up towards the sunlight, tendrils grasping onto sticks to support their way.

As I leant over to catch the vanilla scent of sweet rocket, they noticed the map clutched in my hand and gestured a question.

I told them about the letter, about how I found the way here.

Recognition kindled in their eyes as I mentioned a name, and they picked up a basket beside them with packets of seeds stacked inside. The packets were formed of brown paper folded over, carefully annotated with the names of vegetables and herbs, and stamped also with your name. They picked one up to show me the tiny, carefully-saved seeds which rested inside. 

They poured out some seeds into my palm. Together we pushed them into the sun-warmed soil, covered them over, and pressed our hands to the earth in a shared spell. 

I told them about planting my own garden, about the anxiety of releasing control into the dark earth, about the bittersweet joy of putting down roots knowing they will be pulled up. I stopped talking then and we planted the seeds in the easy silence of the warming morning sunlight.

When the seeds were planted, we parted with a smile, and I took the winding path away through the thorn trees.

A long dozen poem

the sea sky
clouds break like waves – sun gone in shadow then
returns. breathe. gaze at the blue ’til you start to cry, or stop

A mushroom poem inspired by this sits on Vaseridge‘s shelf

A map, with this note attached

You can gather birdsong through Hawthornvale in the early morning, but remember to bring bread for the sparrows, cheese for the finches, and a kitkat for the magpie.

Hearthgazer’s shelf

A long dozen poem

Silver doe,
Obscured by mystic woods in pinkish fog.
Did it emerge from within or did I dream the gleam?

A cairn, telling this story

Where the farmland meets the tip of The Spear is an ancient tree with a hollow-hole. It is said that it once housed a family of rock-fae who used it to hide from a mountain golem, but stayed to care for the tree after it showed them this kindness. With the mountain golem long-since defeated and the tree enduring through all manner of strife, the fae left the hollow hole. It has since been taken over by generations of hardy birds with craggy beaks, said to be spirit-touched and noted to have a certain rockiness to them…

A map, with a note attached

Take great care when walking along The Spear and The Shield, the mountains protect the valleys and village to the north but they themselves are treacherous territory

Notes on an acquaintance

On the lower slope track of the East Mountains, along the trail to Ruin View Point, I encountered an old man walking towards me. Recognising me as a stranger, he called out ahead and greeted me warmly, asking who I was.

An affable fellow, I introduced myself and he told me his name was Eldan. He walked this path every morning to watch the sun rise in the West, over the Spear and Shield. 

I told him I too was heading there for the view, but of The Ruins, not the sunrise, although I was sad to have missed the latter and would make efforts to watch it another day. 

I mentioned Tilleryard, who had helped me come here, and he chuckled, knowing Tilleryard to have some renown in the village for their prize vegetables at the fete.

Though he had heard that Tilleryard had been making connections to my world, and had heard the name Hearthgazer muttered at the tavern, he knew little of me – that *I* could tell at least. Who knows what rumours spread when you aren’t there to correct them?

I offered Eldan a home-made cookie (peanut butter and chocolate chip – obviously I had packed MANY for my journey), and then told him I was a collector and teller of stories.

We had a wonderful conversation at the foot of a tree – with neither of us in a hurry to our destination it was a sunny moment of shared wonder and knowledge-trade.

Eldan, being the expert of this corner, kindly took me to the Ruin View Point even though he was redoubling his steps. At noon, from this spot, the light hits the ruins in such a way that they sparkle, and more of their mystical nature is revealed. At least, it is revealed to those who can interpret it. I am not yet there, but the view was breathtaking regardless.

I spoke to him of the Golden Hour – a concept he knows well in his rural setting, granted – but this time from within the city, where the glass and steel sparkle and reflect the setting sunlight. How, in the twilight, the electric lights begin to flicker on amongst the evening haze and create magic amongst the man-made.

Eventually, I scrawled out my cookie recipe for him, we made our goodbyes and I returned to my hearth-shelf to reflect.

Vaseridge’s shelf

Photos, taken at the end of a journey to the windmill on Mirrorbird‘s map
A kite, which makes this sound whenever anyone is near:
A mushroom poem, inspired by Duskrest‘s long dozen

Reach up spread out
We are but creatures between heaven and earth
Clouds flowing by just like time flowing by will never cease

A mushroom poem, inspired by Blossomdrift‘s long dozen

Horizon vast
The sunset loom weaves colours; emerge and fade
Don’t cry for what’s gone; savour what’s left; and face what’s to come

A mushroom poem, inspired by Bookfold‘s long dozen

What you can give
Is what will be totally taken from you
The circle of life keeps spinning but is never complete

A mushroom poem, inspired by Applecap‘s long dozen

Forgotten one
Had tears been shed for you when you were no more?
I dedicate my sweat and a moment’s peace to your life

Three long dozen poems

Clear blue skies
Rustling of breezes from I don’t know where
How many fishes wanted to live in a forest?

Rice dumplings
Eat them while they’re hot because they don’t last
Bro will eat the beautifully wrapped ones by Grandma

Bunny ears
Listen to the breeze over the water
Is it a threat or is it the thumping of my heart?

A map, with this note attached

An agrarian area with a hill. The old quarry is filled with water and gives you a scenic view but also known to be dangerous with toxic waters

A cairn, telling this story

At this cave, which is at the opening of a cave next to the quarry, there’s an old tale few know about today. This was the home of the brave men of Idriss who hid as they awaited an ambush on their enemies. As they hid there making weapons and crafting armour, they waited for the enemy forces to take over the village, assuming that the inhabitants had fled. Little did the invaders know that in the dead of the night they would be overcome by the brave men and women who would come out and slaughter their enemies and let their blood flow down the Kaidee river. Legend has it that the bodies were buried in the forests to the west. If you go into the cave today, you can still find traces of the iron weaponry that were forged and left behind. The story had been retold so many times that the truth is a remote reality for most, but if you can read runes, the diaries of the former inhabitants can be found of the walls of the cave.

Notes on an acquaintance

I was along the Firefly river when I saw him.

He was standing with his back facing me in the grain field, with some heavy breathing. The grain plants reached to his hip and the leaves were really green. He turned around to look back at me.

“Hi,” I said. “Hi,” he said in between breaths, peeking out from his straw hat.

“Give me a minute, I just have to pull out this bird stuck in the field. It’s a stupid bird and got itself caught in a rodent trap we set in the field,” he said.

“Hey my name is Elkpond,” he said, as he released the bird. The bird’s head was a bit tilted as it waddled away. “I’m just someone who doesn’t really have much to do so now I’m taking care of all the odd jobs. I’m kinda in between formal jobs so it’s nice to meet you, helps with the boredom you know? I just walk around all day and help whoever’s in need. They call me the scram master but honestly it’s just a fancy title for mucking around.”

“Oh Tilleryard? Yes I know her, she’s quite famous around here for being near the shelves a lot. Don’t really know her that well to be honest but I can bring you to her. Is she a librarian? Or a folklorists? She’s told me about you, vaseridge, said that you could be a visitor here but I didn’t know you’d just appear like that,” he explained. With a look up and down me he observed “Your clothes are… way too little for our climate. Hehe. I have a few pieces from when I was younger that could fit you, if you’re game. Do you want to go to my shed?” he asked.

We walked south to his shed, where he opened up a little wardrobe doors into a huge closet inside.
He bent down and pulled out a storage box, rummaging through it.

“Aha! Found it! I honestly haven’t worn these in years, I hope they’re not too different from the last time I remember them! Look and see if you can fit into these”, he handed me a pair of long pants and a fluffy coat made of feathers, “They’ll keep you warmer than that shirt and shorts you’re wearing”

I received them gratefully, and slowly felt the warmth building in me as the light feather coat rested on my shoulders.

“Hey Elkpond, I’m really grateful for this” I said, “I didn’t realise how cold I was until I put on this coat”. The coat had 2 layers, a fluffy undercoat which was soft against my skin, and a tougher outer layer with bigger feathers on the outside.

“You know once I gave a friend a leather bag. I really liked that bag when I got it, but my needs changed and the satchel no longer fit my needs. So I gave it to a friend who wanted to change herself to become someone new. She had gotten rid of all her things from before as she did not want to stay as who she was, and was in need of some new things. She now owned that bag for longer than I have, and I’m sure she has had great memories of going on marvelous adventures with that bag. Thank you for the clothes, and I’m going to honour your gift by making full use of the clothes you have given me” I said, as I beamed at him.

“Well then you better get going on adventures now!” He smiled with this wide cheeky signature grin. “I’ll need to make some food for one of the old retirees, catch you later!”

I bid him farewell as I stepped outside. I looked out and saw a dark cloud in the north, bringing with it a trail of rain. I was back at the Firefly river again, with a poncho on me. The rain will soon come, and the clothes will come in handy.