The Latten Legend is an epic poem-in-process, with the first two libera available now in a single, 200-page volume accompanied by a two-casette soundtrack–available now via Cave Evil.
Drawing clear influences from foundational figures in the genre like Ariosto, de Troyes and Chaucer as well as more modern writers like Balzac, Lord Dunsany and Gene Wolfe, the Legend is a dense but highly readable fantasy narrative about “the people and cultures of the late Precambrian era, with a focus on the calamitous plague they endured at the beginning of their supercontinent’s dissolution and dismemberment.”
Anonymous author/composer Some Fool proves to be a deft worldbuilder and considerate fantasist, rendering the familiar-but-strange world of Rodinia with surprising detail and subtle humor. The soundtrack rides a line between new age-indebted ambient and classic dungeon synth, its glassy midi textures and damaged field recordings a fitting complement to the Legend’s off-kilter story of faith, disease, and cultural conflict.
BRUISER is excited to feature the fourth canto of the Latten Legend in full:
1 The Rodinians saw four distinct suns—
Four moons, too—All with their own distinctive
Character. How could it be otherwise?
Each, as well, eternally abided
In disparate stages of mortal life:
Self-absorbed Abraym, a clairvoyant child;
Nomadic Athemay, nearly mature;
Valiant Abragini; and Commutaff,
Eldest, an aggressive conservative.
2 The day we’re about to observe occurred
At the peak of the Child’s reign, with all the
Signs of that most verdant of seasons in
Evidence throughout the flowering Isle.
It takes a true maniac to laud the
Marsh in its most fecund state—So believe
Me when I tell you: The festivals in
Cracti were exuberant occasions,
And the Gangday was chief among their feasts.
3 By the hour of Janor, all the eager
Cracticsh were out and sporting pointed caps—
An indicator this day’s events would
Diverge from the conventional routine.
Most eschewed shoes, so many toes poked through
Holes in their cary-cloth hosen: These they
Preferred striped in a limited range of
Ecchymotic hues, and adhered to their
Sashes with Possum tendon or loose threads.
4 In lightly-embroidered falding kirtels
And their cleanest worsted sclavines,
The town’s adults assembled for the ritual
Commandeering of the largest copper
Cauldron available, courtesy the
Village volunteer fire brigade, who kept
It fired continuously to make great
Quantities of a sparkling drink brewed from
The desiccated drupes of swamp dahoon.
5 This liquid was transferred to a well-scoured
Wheelbarrow, into which they immersed not
Only fraxinella and dulse, but a
Gelatinous zoogleal Mothercube
Which could ferment twenty gallons at an
Astonishing tempo. Bucket-bringers
Took care to keep the quivering mass’s
Bath fresh, and liberally ladled out draughts
To all who from home brought their own bowl.
6 Taylors, Tanners, Coopers, Websters, Millers,
Baxters, and all the less industrious
Families likewise, drained their bowls en route
To the morning’s opening spectacle:
Here old Aymard, Leodegar, and Herve,
The community’s three blindest seniors,
Armed with cumbrous mahogany cudgels,
Are thrust in a waist-deep trough with a greased
Up—And fairly bewildered—Cockadrill.
7 And young men cheer when the blind ones strike
The squealing squamate, and everyone cheers when
They contrive to strike each other, and when
The poor squealer falls at last completely
Silent, one and all head together to
The village’s furthest border, to trace
The outer boundary of their township—
And this was done in an atmosphere of
Boisterous pride, and much jubilation.
8 And as they perambulate, the youngest
Cractish are seized unawares and loudly
Knocked against trees and large rocks—
Not any conspicuous natural marker is
Spared an impact of that kind. And this was
Done to establish firmly, in the child’s
Memories, Cracti’s precise dimensions.
It was whimsical work: Boils, bunions and
Toothaches were forgotten while it lasted.
9 The only ones exempt from attendance
Are the newly-pregnant, left behind with
Loud rhombuses and extra-long spears to
Ensure no nosing animals disturbed
The stocks of plucked Limpkin and Plover wings
To be roasted after the rogation
And nibbled all afternoon, along with
Oil-fried doughs, syrup-soaked breads, bitter
Bog-pickles, and other handily-sized snacks.
10 And once Cracti’s every border had been
Traced in footprints, the rest of the day was
Spent in perfect idleness, nursing drinks.
The nimblest played skittles and shinty,
The more corpulent played ninepenny marl,
And the nervous rolled dice of every shape
And hue, wagering outrageous favors
That would never be considered outside
The Gangday’s halcyon celebration.
11 Over one particularly soggy
Patch of pennygrass—Well-flooded now, thanks
To last weeks’ storms—a vaulted seat’s set up:
Not ornate, but built quickly, and outfit
With a hinge that dumps off the one seated
Right where she’d be sure to get the most soaked,
If the pressure-sensitive mechanism
Hidden in a lead bell is triggered by
A sealed bag of beans heaved accurately.
12 All day long Cractish individuals
Must work up their courage, for it’s just too
Easy and fun to look down on those who
Indefinitely postpone a go at
This old test of mettle: To ascend the
Ladder leading to that seat and, from there,
Taunt anyone wanting to take a shot
At completely befouling your outfit—Which
Could be quite a crowd if you’re thought proud.
13 A steadfast but somewhat unofficial
Tradition involved Dunstan Smith, always-
Bellowing bulky banger of tongs, prone
To interrupting others—Known, too, to
Pass on calumnious gossip without
Discretion—loudly proclaiming his most
Humble willingness to let his neighbors
Hurl the first aspersions—And beanbags—at
Him, Cracti’s best and heaviest man.
14 Of course, it’s Dunstan that builds the trick seat
Every festival, and he’s got it rigged
Such that the more one weighs, the harder it
Is to ring the bell that dumps them off–So
He skewers every resident he sees
Mercilessly, cackling as they struggle
To ring the bell with enough force–He goads
Them all on until they taunt him back as
Viciously as they can, and it’s great fun.
15 By the time Dunstan’s loud nude arse has been
Dropped in the muck—For he sets his outfit
Aside prior to climbing up—there’s been
Much uproarious defamation of
Character, both ways, and one gets a taste
For that sort of activity once the
Well of deep grievances has been, by
Riotous laughter, safely uncovered, But
Don’t think bells won’t toll for meek folk, too!
16 The only good governor—The sole one
At all worth enduring—is a chief who
Brings Prosperity to all their charges,
Even those inclined to trust such civil
Ministers only reluctantly. The
Truly secure sovereign doesn’t simply share
Their wealth, they bestow Security, the
Prerequisite for Contentment: A king
Who isn’t friends with the friendless is suspect.
17 Placid Phocas intuited all this
Naturally—And, if that alone weren’t
Astonishing enough, he practiced this
Kind of philosophy without pressure
Or prompting from his constituents. He was
Simply not comfortable dwelling on
Past accomplishments—Knowing, if they’re to
Blossom, towns require the prudence of a
Gardener, not a warrior’s ardor.
18 And when it came to fostering accord,
Phocas conserved his energy, never
Quick to persuade someone away from their
Position, but keen to listen, and so
Discern discreetly what unmet needs might
Have provoked that citizen’s frustration.
Some leaders treat complaints as an attack
On their person—Phocas prized these gripes as
Hidden paths to people’s deeper troubles.
19 And what’s more: No one had ever in his
Life seen him panic, or lose his temper,
Or raise his voice louder than one or two
Ticks above a stage-whisper—So when it
Came time for him to climb up that ladder,
His under-rehearsed attempts at mocking
Beanbag-tossers inevitably proved
Especially entertaining—And his
Dunking, so undeserved, produced much mirth.
20 And when wearied by sport, sun, or laughter,
One could sit at long tables hauled under
A certain cypress dome, and find piled high
Oysters, Quahogs, Whelks, and other Molluscs
Harvested all throughout Farlas, now shucked
And slurped raw, their empty shells tossed over
The shoulder and snatched up by free-ranging
Toddlers, who delight in adding them to
The shin-high midden ringing the clearing.
21 Everybody under twelve has their face
Painted to look like a grandparent’s, and
Before the afternoon’s half-over some
Adults will have already donned rustic
Masks resembling familiar animals,
Unable to bridle their excitement
For the celebration’s conclusion,
After the wizened dwarfs are put to bed,
And the very last dreg of strong drink swigged.
22 But before that can happen, there will be
A lot of dancing—Who makes the music?
Mainly Bisena and her half-sister,
Aquilina, who alternate honking
A shawm and rattling their beaded anklets with
Grapevines, hit-it-throughs, and high-front-clicks.
At first folks gather round just to gawk, but
Anyone who stares long finds their own limbs
Twitching in sympathy to the girls’ beat.
23 Will you blame me if I spend a stanza
In rapt admiration of Bisena
And her half-sister’s rustic comeliness?
Best, perhaps, not to chance it: So I, too,
Am dancing—Over Cracti’s most striking
Noses, rising like Nessus’s towers
Atop nostrils wide and inviting; lips
Of dark watered silk; and bright smiles blessed
By an incisor in pleasant misalignment.
24 Though it’s the (As of late, seldom present)
Beekeeper’s eldest whose strikingly thick
Eyebrows—At least three shades darker than the
Elflocks she keeps lustrous with clubmoss and wax—
Captured every last Cractish lad’s fancy—
And at least one other’s fancy besides.
There was no counting the times the smitten’d
Offered to search her plaits for gold coins, or
Sought her thoughts on a batch of distilled mash.
25 But I’ll move on now, on the off chance you’re
Rolling your eyes—Might it be true what they
Say, that the dahoon brew is so potent
Some get tipsy from simply describing it?
Maybe I ought to lie down. A quick
Restorative mid-day nap is not frowned
Upon in Cracti—On Gangday it’s quite
Often an absolute necessity,
Lest one’s vigor flag prior to midnight.
26 Smart Cractish had a crude system: Bauline,
For instance, wrapped three and a half ribbons
Round the wrist of the hand she held her bowl
With, discarding one on each trip back to
The mucilaginous Mothercube. When
Only the last reminder remained, she
Tottered—A shade paler than usual—
Back to her cottage, flopped on her back, and
Squinted at a fissure in the rafters.
27 (Now, back then tools and furniture were
Made to last forever, handed down to one’s
Descendants—They’d yet to grasp the wisdom
Of planned obsolescence. Homes, however,
Were meant to serve, at most, one-and-a-half
Generations, torn down and rebuilt not
Unlike the way the crops got rotated.)
This cleft was thin, but slowly lengthening—
Easily ignored, except when abed.
28 It was far from the home’s only flaw—Just
The one more ominous than endearing.
No swamp cottage fully free of faults could
Exist, but this abode’s seemed ideal
For a set of imperfections. Over
The years Bauline’d grown accustomed to these
Defects, as a tree might envelop a
Headstone or fence, and her heart fled notions
Of twisting her trunk in new directions.
29 And while everyone was engaged in these
Erward and his three boon companions snuck
Behind Vika’s father’s now abandoned
Apiary—Fat Outi warily
Scanning their flanks, intent to catch the first
Clue if they were followed, while Lefwin the
Crafty carefully retrieved his most prized
Possession from inside an empty hive.
30 It was, in all truth, possibly the most
Valuable thing in the whole village:
A thick illuminated folio
Of evident age Lefwin said he stole
From a bog-witch—Not so hard to believe
Given the activities depicted
In its strikingly-rendered images,
As real to those rascals as the works of
Zeuxis, who painted grapes birds tried to taste.
31 So Cractish were occupied in these and
Divers other ways when a sudden bone-
Curdling scream set everyone with working
Legs running to where fair Aquilina
And her half-sister had been performing
Exploring ribald incidents in the
Scriptures, and now stood pointing towards the
Canopy aghast, paralyzed by fear.
32 As each neighbor arrived and followed the
Girls’ outstretched fingers, they too were struck dumb
By the sight of a bearded stranger who
Peered at them from at least a rod above
The soil, poised as if reclining on a
Cushioned couch of wicker set atop a
Stout tower—Drawing somehow steadily
Closer with a swelling snorting like that
Made by heavy-laden beasts of burden.