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Tales from the Fairy Chimneys

23 September, 2008 (22:09) | Travelogue


Fairy Chimneys, the quintessential Cappadocian feature, stand starkly against the clear sky.
The entire region was volcanic basalt, and, over centuries, wind and rain eroded these structures.
For more geolocial pictures of Turkey, click here.

During our journey through Cappadocia, we stumbled upon this odd manuscript that, in many ways, paralleled our own travels. I was really hoping to find some of the other chapters, but unfortunately, this was the only fragment. We got one of our hosts to translate it for me, though I’ve adjusted the words to fix the grammar and the names to protect the innocent.

Chapter Seven: The Land of Pretty Horses

The sun shone pale through the thin veil of cloth, casting an ashen light on the crumbling walls of the cavern. Despite being sore from the steady diet of adventures they had encountered on their quest, Squire Benjamin rose from his bedroll, splashed some water on his face, and pulled aside the flimsy barrier keeping the day at bay. Light broke through the opening like a falcon diving for its prey.

“Arise, Sir Matthew,” called Squire Benjamin. “We have ever so far to go today and morning has already captured Göreme.”

“Bah,” moaned Sir Matthew the Chaste, the round-eyed tiger of the Eastern Provinces, who defeated the Caliph and the Grand Vizier in a battle of wits, spared them his rightful spoils and claimed his title as a knight of the ominous table.1 “Tis too early to rise. We should just rest our gear in these caves and wait for the lords of this domain to summon us and give us our due.”

[ed. – 1The ominous table is a classic example of Western myth being incorporated locally. Rather than being ominous, it actually refers to the word omino, from which domino is derived, meaning a shape made up of a collection of equivalent squares, the number of squares being irrelevant to the title. Where Arthur’s knights created the round table, the Grand Vizier’s knights sought equality by creating a many sided table with enough sides for everyone and adaptable depending on the turnout for any given event. This ended up being less egalitarian, and more like a kindergarten class gathering their desks in a circle.]

“But sire!” the boy protested. “We gave our word as a nobleman that we would vacate this haven before midmorning!”

“You’re right, squire,” said Sir Matthew, gallantly throwing off the horse blanket he had purloined to keep him warm through the night. The leaves had already begun to change with the seasons, and given the heavy rains of the previous day, it was clear to the noble Sir Matthew that Winter was fast approaching, evil riding along side as always.”In this dire time of need, tis up to those of us gifted with greatness to shine like a beacon of morality!”

“Yes, sire!” cried Squire Benjamin, caught up in the moment.

“Let’s onward to victory!” shouted Sir Matthew the Chaste, slayer of Orgoth the ogre of the North, keeper of the sacred treaty of Galacia, and fourth in line for the throne of the Seven Dragon Lords. “But after breakfast, of course.”

“Of course, my liege.”

“And after sending a missive to the lords and ladies.”

“A brilliant plan, master.”

“Go forth, squire, and garner some of the local fare while I draft the epistle,” Sir Matthew ordered.

And so it was with that request that the quire and Sir Matthew the Chaste, the hero of Kvatch thrice over, set off on the 39th day of their journey across the many kingdoms.

The hamlet of Göreme was sleepy even on this sunny autumn morn. Though the markets were full of caravans of travelers, the side streets were quiet and lonesome. The sunlight had melted away the previous night’s rain and any sense of evil from what little shadow remained. Sir Matthew the Chaste, commander of the Sixth Fleet and proud wielder of the Elongated Lot-A-Lance of Lot-A-Cam.comTM, was still on his guard.

“I sense evil about,” whispered Sir Matthew.

“Your senses, as always, shame me,” replied Squire Benjamin, bristling with fear at the evil he hadn’t sensed.

“You must hone your skills like a smithy sharpens a sword: slowly, with patience, and in a huge pile of hot coals.” The boy tried to understand, but he knew such matters of grandeur were beyond the scope of his understanding.

They rounded a corner, Squire Benjamin cowering behind his steadfast lord. Sir Matthew the Chaste let out a defiant cry at the sight before him. The rooster and goat ran for cover, Evil remaining hidden despite Sir Matthew’s clever ploy.

“Ever on your guard, boy,” instructed Sir Matthew the Chaste and Just Now Relaxing, sheathing his sharpened wit. “That is the scout’s charge.”

“Yes, sire,” agreed Squire Benjamin, taking the advice to heart. “But if my senses are not good enough to see evil, how am I to fight it?”

Sir Matthew the Chaste, the grave director of the band titled Width, stopped dead in his tracks. “That, my boy, is a very astute observation.”

“Tis it?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Evil… does not conform to the rules of good,” explained Sir Matthew, seeming to figure out his conclusion even as he spoke. “Evil, by definition, breaks the law. And… through magic… Evil… breaks the laws of physics!”

“It does?” asked Squire Benjamin, raking his scalp dumbfoundedly.

“Yes! When a wizard casts a spell of invisibility, Evil is obscured from the eyes of good and noble knights like myself. It tisn’t fair!”

“Nay!” cried Squire Benjamin vehemently. “What isn’t?”

“Why magic, my boy. When evil wants to break the laws of physics, it turns to the dark arts. Yet me who oppose evil don’t have such options. Surely there must be a light art that opposes the dark arts…”

The pair fell silent as they began their ascent up the sharp hill before them. They remained this way nearly to the first ridge, each turning from thoughts of a solution to the beauty of the landscape and back again. Neither was on the look-out for evil, which would have been waiting around every curve, but, fortunately, wasn’t.

“Sire,” chimed the squire tepidly, “I’ve heard speak of a charm in the village. It wards evil, though I’m confused by its name and origin.”

Sir Matthew the Chaste, destroyer of cats, canine compatriot, and 17th level druid specializing in dryadic charm spells in a dead language not even he could speak, was suddenly paying attention. “Confused, you say?”

“Yes. They call it,” Squire Benjamin said, pausing for emphasis and lowering his voice, “the Evil Eye.” He waited for the proper reaction from Sir Matthew, but the knight merely waited. Squire Benjamin, unlike his liege, wasn’t much of a hero, but like every good squire, he honed his story-telling ability to better add to his sire’s story. Unfortunately, Sir Matthew preferred to live stories than listen to them, and rarely reacted like a proper audience should. With a sigh, the boy continued. “One of the servants said it is derived from the tales of the Medusa, though I could not work out how this evil figure spawned a good luck charm.”

“What a fascinating idea! We must procure one of these charms and learn its secrets immediately!” cried Sir Matthew, their primary quest set aside once again for an important step in preparation. He picked up his pace, charging up the mountain, only to suddenly stop and throw his arm across the boy’s chest. “Wait! What’s that sound?”

The duo stood rapt, waiting, hoping that Evil did not approach while they stood charmless and unwarded. Footfalls crunching on gravel could be heard echoing over the crest of the hill. They grew ever closer until a cloaked figure appeared silhouetted atop the ridge not a stone’s throw away.

“Draw your weapon, boy,” instructed Sir Matthew the Chaste, who slew a thousand condoms in the name of truth and justice. He stepped aside and put his hand on the boy’s back, thrusting him toward the figure as he continued. “It’s time you proved yourself a man by delaying Evil while I run and gain hold of a charm.”

Squire Benjamin stumbled forward, his hand clammy upon the hilt of his sheathed swiss army knife.

“What ho, good sir knight,” came the heavily accented voice in the native tongue of the boy and his master. Squire Benjamin’s knees began to tremble, and before the newcomer could take a step, the boy tumbles into the dust unconscious with fear. “Oh dear,” said the voice, the figure now picking up his pace. His hood fell, revealing the curly haired mop of the bard.2

[ed. – 2The bard was met in the previous chapter, a fellow traveler who sought respite in the neighboring cavern. According to the translator, he’s a little known figure, apparently of Western origins but who claimed the Scandinavian North as his home.]

“Dear God, man,” yelled Sir Matthew, now hurrying to aid his charge, the subtle hint of shame in his voice lost on the unconscious boy. To the bard, he said, “You cannot go around with a hood up like that. Someone might mistake you for an agent of Evil.”

“Me? Evil? I’m but a bard!?” The bard lifted the boy’s head and poured a drop from his skein into the parched quivering lips of the squire.

“You… saved me,” said Squire Benjamin dreamily, recognition instantly appearing as his eyes fluttered open.

“Hardly,” replied the bard. “You must’ve fainted from the heat.”

“How… embarrassing,” whispered the boy, peeling his hand from his knife shamefully.

“Indeed,” said Sir Matthew the Chaste, rolling his eyes. “Now if you’re done with your hysterics, we must be on our way.”

The boy pulled himself up and began to brush the dust off. “Before you go,” interjected the bard, “you wouldn’t happen to have encountered a House of Ishtar in your travels here?”

“That harlot goddess of the desert realms!?” Sir Matthew the Chaste, crusader of deltas and deserts, reached for his weapon. “Perhaps, heathen, you are an agent Evil!”

“Oh no,” laughed the bard, taking a step back, “you’ve got it all wrong. The only evil here is ignorance.”

“Ignorance!? Where?” Squire Benjamin gripped the bard’s arm in fear as Sir Mathew the Chaste, enemy of Ignorance and foe of false truths, darted about in search of his elusive enemy.

“As much as I appreciate the safe haven last night, I have heard the House of Ishtar is very hospitable to travelers, regardless of creed,” explained the bard.

“You can relax,” hollered Sir Matthew from across the ridge. “As usual, Ignorance has fled my noble blade.”

“Unfortunately,” Squire Benjamin said, straightening and calming as if on cue, “we haven’t encountered a House of Ishtar here. As you can see,” he continued, peeling a scroll open, “it’s not on our map of the region either.” The bard leaned in and looked over the parchment.

“I see. Well, I appreciate the help. Good luck on your journey.”

“You too, kind bard,” replied Sir Matthew the Chaste, wooer of ladies, bedder of none. “But be aware that if, during your visit to this house of ill repute, you should fall under the sway of that heathen religion, I shall be forced to cut you down should our paths cross again.”

With Evil averted once again, Sir Matthew and his charge began to ascend the hill once more.

As they reached the apex, pulling out the map for reference, Sir Matthew spoke. “Boy, did the villagers mention where we might procure one of these charms?”

“According to the map, sire, there’s a Shrine to the Old Ways if we skirt the Valley of the Swords I believe. You can see it over yonder.”

In the distance, indeed, a stream of caravans could be seen weaving its way up a trail to a series of tents and a labyrinth of cavernous shrines.

“Ah, over to the right of the Valley of the Swords,” said Sir Matthew, glancing at the map.

“No, sire,” said Squire Benjamin tepidly. “I believe it’s to the left of the Valley of Swords. If you look here, I think this is the valley to the left of the shrine.” He pointed to the wrong valley, but, not being a cartographer like his father and his father’s father, the boy had no idea how mistaken he was.

“You should know by know that as my squire you are expected to defer to my judgment.”

“Yes, sire,” said the boy, “but I swear the Valley of the Swords is over there… Or perhaps even further West.”

The knight grabbed the map, turned it 90 degrees and pointed to it. “You cannot read a map if you hold it incorrectly. The Valley of the Swords is to the North, not the West.”

“Ah,” said Squire Benjamin dejectedly.

“Now onward, into the breach!” cried Sir Matthew.

And with that order, the pair began their journey to the Shrine of the Old Ways, a site renowned in the region, nestled in the crook of the Valley of the Swords, and attracting pilgrims from miles around.

The colorful stalls were brimming with all manner of pilgrims from across the globe. There were all kinds of goods ranging from famed magic carpets to vintage lamps complete with guaranteed genie (only one wish left). Every stall had its own assortment of evil eye trinkets, but Sir Matthew the Chaste, discerning shopper and bargain hunter of the jungles of East, had seen this sort of tomfoolery before.

“What magic is this?”

“It is of the best quality. I have plenty. It is very popular, the heart shaped evil eye.” Squire Benjamin frowned at the merchant. He too was aware this wasn’t the subtle charm his master was looking for.

“I need something smaller, less conspicuous, and far more powerful.”

“Then how about this beautiful silver necklace? It’s handmade with the finest threads of silver and imbued with power of a thousand merchants.”

“It’s far too fancy. Do you have any charms against Evil?” asked Sir Matthew. The merchant laughed.

“Of course. Right here.”

There was thunder in the distance and the sky darkened as the merchant pulled aside a bead curtain to reveal his special stock. Small, circular evil eyes, glowing with the power Sir Matthew had been looking for.

“Yes! I want this one. But I need a simple chain.”

“As you wish,” said the merchant, a strange glow in his eyes. The first drops of rain began to fall and Squire Benjamin started squirming uncomfortably. Still, he held his tongue. “Here is a simple chain. Altogether, it’s merely eight pieces of gold.”

“Eight gold pieces!? Outrageous!” cried Sir Matthew. “I would not pay eight gold pieces for my squire!”

“Ah, but this wards evil. Does your squire do that?” said the merchant sinisterly.

“No, but he’s far more valuable than a mere charm.” The boy beamed at the compliment, but still stayed silent. “Boy, get my purse. We’ll pay a fair price.” The boy, knowing the trick, pulled only a gold piece or two from the purse.

“This is all we have sire,” said the boy. “We spent the last of it on breakfast.”

“Oh dear,” said the merchant, his face slipping into a frown. “That is only two gold pieces. Hardly the eight which this is worth.

“If, indeed, you are a good man, sir merchant, then you will understand why a noble knight such as myself needs this charm more dearly than you need eight gold pieces. And in that knowledge, you will choose to offer us this charm for the last of our coin.”

The merchant grumbled, but took the coins from the boy’s hand, carefully wrapping the charm in a sacred piece of parchment.

“Use it in health, knight. You’ll have no fight from me.”

Sir Matthew bowed deeply and took the charm. “You’ll be written of in the tales of my travels as a fellow hero merchant. What is your name?”

“I am Ahmed Carrick the Turk.”

“Remember that, boy,” said the Knight. With a flourish, they turned and walked into the rain.

There was a bounce in their step as they wandered down from the bazaar, through the myriad shrines exhibiting miracles of old. Even the torrid storm couldn’t stop their joy.

“We are now equipped to battle evil,” said Sir Matthew the Chaste, keeper of the Evil Eye, purveyor of the sacred charm. He brandished his newly acquired weapon above his head. The clouds parted and the rain abated. With a smile, the knight exclaimed,”You see squire, good triumphs over all.”

“Indeed, master.”

The bright light spilled across the Valley of Swords, and in the distance, Sire Matthew spotted an Evil Eye painted on a fairy chimney toward the other side of the valley. “Do you see that, boy?”

“See what, my lord?” asked Squire Benjamin, leaning out over the vista in search of what his master discerned.

“There, on that chimney. The eye.”

And in that moment, the boy saw it too, its gleaming blue visage wavering in the desert sun. “I see it, master! But what does it mean?”

“I don’t know, squire. Let’s investigate.”

Into the Valley of the Swords, where Evil had sought out its enemies as recently as a millennia ago, they clamored, chasing the Evil Eye. Through Rose Red, the vinyards, passed deep caverns and high vistas they went, never letting up in their search. And there, in the valley of the Swords, the pair met their fate for the first time.

This concludes Chapter Seven of Tales from the Fairy Chimneys. Our translator informed us that Chapter Eight is entitled The Valley of the Swords, but its text is long lost. Still, our own explorations of Cappadocia finds many of these events still commonplace today. It truly is a land of myth.

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