Oracles of Kurnugi

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Every bedtime story told to a child at night, every book read in a quiet corner, and every story shown on a screen has its place here. – Virgil

Kurnugi is human imagination. Every story ever told exists there, from the first tale spoken when the first people wondered what likes beyond the horizon to the latest award-winning movie. When the Greek god Hermes delivers a message to Henry, summoning him to Kurnugi he finds himself caught up in a struggle for the fate of human imagination.

See how it all began in the story Message of Fate or get a preview of Delphi below.

 

Hermes flew down into the heart of the volcano. Henry followed on his heels. The heat hit him with the force of a Mack Truck. It made the desert feel like an unusually warm winter day. He almost gagged at the smell of sulfur. He couldn’t breathe, and the image of Hermes kept fading in his mind. Half of the time, Henry wasn’t sure if he was flying or falling. The smoke was so thick he couldn’t see. His eyes burned. He started to cough just as he slammed into a slab of rock. He sprawled on his back and screamed, though he didn’t know if it was from the pain of the impact or from the rock searing his skin. He’d never felt anything so hot. He tried to form an image in his mind of anyone, of anywhere desperately hoping the sandals would take him away, but the heat and gases of the volcano clouded his mind. He still heard the metal sound, but he couldn’t tell what direction it came from. If he just lay there, he knew he would die, so he did the first thing that came to mind. He started to roll. He half expected to pitch himself into the lava, but at least if he did, the pain would end.

Suddenly, the heat vanished, and Henry was lying on a cold stone floor. The air was clean, but he could barely breathe. His back screamed at him, and he wondered if he’d burned away all his skin. He felt even worse than he had when he’d been dying as a half bird.

“Hermes!” a deep voice bellowed through the room.

Henry tried to lift his head, but his neck wouldn’t respond. He didn’t even have the strength to roll on his side to see who was yelling. A shadow came to stand over him, but his vision couldn’t focus enough to see who it was.

“Are you ok?” Hermes’ voice asked softly. Then louder. “What?”

Heavy, irregular steps came into the room. Whoever it was shook the ground as he walked. There was a sharp gasp and the shadow over Henry vanished. He heard the scuttling of feet. He tried to focus on the sound, but his mind was swimming.

“You brought a mortal in through the central corridor?” The deep voice emphasized every word.

“Well, it’s the fastest way in.”

“Yes, if you require no air to breath and can stand the heat coming from the heart of the earth. Foolish child. Fortunately for you, he still has the spark of life. Carry him to that table. I will do what I can.”

Henry cringed when the arms came around him and touched his ruined flesh. Tears welled up in his eyes. It hurt so much he wasn’t sure if he screamed. When his wits came back to him, another shadow stood over him, this one broader than the first. It lifted a large object over its head. Henry just had time to wonder what it was doing when the shadow brought the object down on his chest. Bones splintered. Henry would’ve screamed but the impact forced the air out of his lungs. Again and again, he shadow smashed into Henry. He felt himself fading. The figure carried something red and glowing. It put the light down on Henry, and he felt awareness returning. He tried to take a breath, but his body wouldn’t respond. The figure moved out of Henry’s sight, and a second later, air rushed through him, though it wasn’t he that drew breath.

The shadow kept coming down on him, and each time brought a fresh wave of pain. Henry had no sense of himself other than that pain. Three or four times the shadowed figure hit him before disappearing to bring another light to place on Henry. Shortly afterward, he’d feel air moving through him. Then the pain would begin again. It happened so many times Henry lost count. After hours or days or years, the shadow came down on him again, and he screamed. It was only then that he realized he could breathe for himself again.

“Good,” the deep voice said.

It was breathing heavily. Henry wanted to ask what was so good about this world of agony, but his tongue had stopped working. The shadow continued his work. Every time it hit him, Henry screamed. After a little while, it stopped and Henry heard the sound of metal scraping on stone followed by a long breath.

“What are you doing, Hephaestus?” Hermes’ voice asked. “He’s not finished yet.”

“Even I can’t work so long without ceasing, Hermes,” the great smith said. “He will no longer die from the wounds you brought on him, but I need rest and so does he. I dislike working on living flesh. I’ve no ability to dull the pain, and his mind can’t take much more. Once he’s had a chance to recover, I’ll finish.”

Henry lay on that slab, unable to move or talk and barely able to breath. He could almost feel the pain coursing through him. His chest throbbed, and he couldn’t feel his arms or legs at all. After a time that felt far too short, Hephaestus came back to him. The first couple of times the smith brought his hammer down, Henry didn’t feel anything. Abruptly, pain shot through his left leg. He tried to move it, but it was chained down. This time, it seemed there was no need to stop after a few hits, and Hephaestus kept on relentlessly. When Henry thought he could bare the pain no more, the work moved to his right leg. From there it went to one arm, and then the other. Finally, when his voice was too hoarse to scream anymore, the hammer came down on his head. Every time it hit, it cut a strained scream short.

“Stop,” Henry cried out. “Please stop!”

“Almost,” the shadow said.

The hammer came down once. Twice. Ten times. Twenty. Then it was done. Cool water poured in Henry’s eyes and washed the blurriness away. There was a series of clicking sounds as the restraints at his arms and legs fell away. Henry sat up and examined himself. He was completely naked, but there wasn’t a mark on him. Even the scrapes and bruises he’d accumulated over the past several days were gone. He looked around and saw he was in a room made of polished obsidian. He had been placed on a steel table, and a forge burned at one end of the room. Hermes huddled in a corner. Henry glared at him, and the messenger god tried to take a step back.

“How was I supposed to know mortals couldn’t fly into a volcano?” he asked.