Blythe’s Keep

Blythe’s Keep rests atop a precipice, other stonework peeking through the tall grass beneath the fortified tower, the rugged slope giving way to a half-broken cliff. The cliff descends steeply to the well-traveled road below, giving anyone at its crest a commanding view of the lowland. The road holds traces of ancient highways, massive paving stones laid snugly together, broad leafy trees spaced alongside to shade the path.

Some distance past the cliff, a tributary of those paving stones wend away from the highway, climbing the gentle slopes which rise to the keep’s cliff face. Their old course now lies buried by landslide and overgrowth, and whatever they led to—older than the keep, without a doubt—remains hidden as well. The main highway continues on, undisturbed.

The keep is recent, in the comparative ages of laid stone. Built under the direction of the warrior called Blythe, it rises about five stories from the clifftop and is still broad at its tapered peak. The remains of its sloped roof peek above the weary crenelations of the roof’s edge. From its position at the top of the cliff, any occupant of the keep could interdict traffic along the road as they wished. They could, similarly, prevent anyone from interfering with travelers upon that road.

The stories about Blythe generally agree that he was an affable bandit who rose to prominence by winning over the people living in the lowlands around the cliff and its hills. With their allegiance, he levied tolls on any who passed along the highway that ran below his cliffs, while also running off his more violent or less restrained competitors. The money he gathered with the support of the local folk went into maintaining the road, buying better tools for the locals, and building the beginnings of the watchtower which would become his keep.

It’s also well known that Blythe had an acquaintance, Insuza, with an interest in the old, dead, and arcane. Her particular expertise varies by the retelling, but it’s always considerable. Stories vary on the nature of their relationship: lovers in some tales, comrades in arms in others, sometimes both, sometimes merely professionally connected. Regardless, in every story about his keep, Insuza was consulted early and often during its construction. Something about the keep, something about where it was built—and perhaps what lay beneath it—drew her like a moth to the flame.

At some point, however, she disappeared. The keep was finished, and only Blythe remained. Blythe died a petty lordling, with his own fortified tower that he rarely left, but without any heirs to his name. All agree that he was lonely, that he slept poorly, and that it was best not to mention Insuza in his presence.

Antiquarians argue about what could possibly have driven the involvement of Insuza, and collectors of old tales disagree about what happened to her. Some point to the ancient stones which stick out like jutting teeth from beneath the tower’s feet, and say that Blythe found ruins when he laid the foundations of his keep. According to them, Insuza’s expertise was requested to know where it might be safe to build. When her knowledge was no longer needed, they say, she departed.

Others agree that ruins were found, but say that Blythe and Insuza ventured down into them only to find something horrid. Here the tales diverge once more; one branch believes Insuza emerged from the ruins, while the other claims she was lost below. Regardless, all agree that Blythe blocked off access to the ruins and set himself to guard them with his keep, perhaps patiently waiting for Insuza’s return from her research elsewhere… or dreading the moment when she’d come knocking from below, in some more horrible form.

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