I must apologize for my disappearance; very out of the ordinary to leave The Warren so suddenly, I know. I have to assure you that it was a matter needing immediate attention—needing my immediate attention.
You may recall that I had a cough and trouble sleeping for a number of weeks leading up to my departure, a stubborn but minor illness I assumed. I should have known better.
It wasn’t until I woke after a bout of what I assumed was mere somnambulance, which is unusual but not in itself concerning. I found myself under the Tree In The Square, a place I felt drawn to during the preceding weeks, but upon waking I felt a weight lifted from my chest—my lungs to be exact.
I spent a day reveling in the sweet smell of the air as it filled my lungs to their full potential before it hit me. Hazy recollections, like dreams, lead me to realize what had truly been ailing me. I traced it back to an incident I, curiously, thought little of at the time. While taking a stroll, a tunnel bent ahead of me and exposed a glowing red cloud, which I now realize to be a luminiferous miasma that had been buried; trapped there. Who knows how long?
The bending of the tunnel had released it and it promptly took up residence inside my lungs. But I proved to be too willful a host and it found it could only control me when I was at my most unaware and vulnerable, while I slept. And even then it could only keep its hold over me for a time.
Its escape plan was quite clever, I must grant it that much. Since there is so little travel to The Surface it found another living thing, The Tree In The Square, which through its root system had contact with the deepest digging root systems of trees on The Surface. It was a direct highway if it could entice the tree to open the pores of its leaves wide enough to enter them. It did that by dousing the leaves in the sweet waters of the Deep Down. They opened to absorb the water and, after many failed attempts, the miasma was able to slip in as the pores opened.
I too have a connection to the same system through the small root I nourish near my listening chair, and I was able too…I’m not sure how best to describe it; intuit that the path the luminiferous miasma had taken. It had emerged in Savannah, Georgia, United States, The Surface. I knew I had precious little time before it would jump from the tree on the surface into a new, more mobile host.
I emerged on a small island in the shadow of the Talmadge Memorial Bridge. It is a fine bridge; I dare say I like it more than the cantilever truss bridge it has replaced. But I had work to do, no time to reflect on the bridge. I took a coracle stowed inside the tunnel entrance and launched it in the river under a blindingly bright moon. The adjustment to the light on The Surface never gets easier. But the breeze and soft lapping of the waves soothed me, even under the dire circumstances, and for a moment I found some small bit of peace.
I spent weeks gathering information in the coffee shops and pubs of Savannah. While I did come across an astounding number of leads for other questionable occurrences, I found no hint of the luminiferous miasma. Feeling my time was growing thin, I started following the flimsiest of leads. A patron of Planters Tavern complained of trespassers in a nearby wooded area. I decided to look into it.
To my surprise I was not even twenty yards into the wood before something truly strange caught my eye. Three figures moving through the dense foliage draped from head to toe in delicate red robes. I gave pursuit with delicately placed footsteps.
Deep within this thick pocket of wilderness on the outskirts of the city the three figures stepped under an oak tree, heavy with Spanish moss—and glowing red. I had found it. But who were these people? I moved as close as I safely could and tuned my ear towards the tree. I heard a far off muttering, indecipherable from where I was hunkered down, but the responses from the figures were clear.
Slowly the miasma’s plan revealed itself to me. These people were worshipping the miasma. It had led them to believe it was “The Tree of Knowledge” and that for their devotion they would learn one Pure Truth. They only needed to pass one last trial. It needed a human sacrifice.
A devious thing this miasma was! It was manipulating these people into bringing a new vessel directly to it, and afterwards it would have lackeys to carry out its will. But I had my own plan.
I had, over the past weeks, developed a strategy. I had constructed a false mouth of latex, it would go over my own and I would let the miasma enter me once more. But this time I had a little surprise planned. This false mouth was a small pouch inside my mouth, when it entered it would find itself trapped.
I waited for the cultists to leave and slipped the false mouth over my own. The ruse was a simple one, I walked near the tree as if I was completely unaware and set up a camp. I lit a small fire and feigned sleep beside it. As I expected the miasma saw an easy target and exited through the leaves of the tree. Through barely cracked eyes I watched it hover above my head and then forcefully plunge into my mouth between simulated breaths.
I felt the pocket fill and before it recovered from the sock of the surprise I clenched my mouth shut and trapped the luminiferous miasma inside.
I must say I did have some small bit of anxiety as I scrambled to find the container in my satchel. If the miasma had found a weakness in the latex I may once again become a vehicle for it and expose the citizenry of Savannah to its malicious will. The moments felt like hours as I fumbled for and pulled out a small red box made of old growth cedar with an iron clasp and hinges. These hardy, ancient materials always prove effective in holding weak spirits such as these.
With a quickness I pinched the false mouth between my fingers and flung it into the box, slamming the lid closed and securing the clasp.
I then cleaned up my camp and scrambled into the branches of the tree. Soon after the cultists returned with another, bound and hooded. Approximating the voice I had heard before I spoke to them as The Tree of Knowledge. I praised their resolve and commitment, and then stated they had proved their devotion. I did not need their sacrifice, it was only a test and they should release this person to accept their gift—one Pure Truth. It was the gift of empathy, I told them that they now had a special power to feel the needs of others and had a duty to help those in need.
I admit I manipulated them, but those so desperate to believe ought to believe in something worthwhile. I hope they use their “gift” well.
I appreciate your understanding of my unceremonious departure. I expect you will appreciate the urgency of the situation. And in light of the huge quantity of leads pointing to magical activity in Savannah, I suggest a closer eye on the city if eyes can be spared.