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Northridden

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You wake from in front of the fire and look around your library with suspicion. You're dreams had been troubled things filled with burning books and fireworks and it takes several minutes to stop peering into the shadows. It's only then that you notice how hungry you are. It's a little thing, a gentle gnawing in your stomach, but you make your way to the kitchen of your townhouse anyway. It won't hurt to eat something.

It's only when you notice Mr. Fire's lamplighters passing that you realize you've eaten everything in your ice box. The hunger still chews at you though and when you hear the tinkling bell of a roasted chestnut seller outside you run to the door without thinking. Once there you barely pause to slip on some shoes before you're out the door in your nightgown, chasing the sound of the bell. When you reach the woman she eyes you warily, but takes your handful of glim in exchange for a bag of freshly roasted nuts. You suspect she gave you more than you paid for, but they're gone by the time you return to your home.

Still the hunger gnaws.

Days later and it's still there. You've learned to ignore it, but it eats at you and invades your dreams. You dream of strange and terrible things now, dirigibles that go nowhere and drowning in deserts of loose sand. When you wake you find yourself muttering, “North, North, North.”

Slowly, so slowly you barely notice it, the Correspondence invades your dreams. You'd tried to give up your study of it when your dreams of a department at the University fell through, but you dabble with it still. Never before have you dreamed in it though, strange symbols you've never seen twisting through your mind as you sleep, but never clear when you awaken. You grow fearful to fall asleep. More fearful than usual that is.

The hunger grows worse with every passing day.

It's when you're sitting in Caligula's that the symbols start to become clear and you scrawl them onto the tabletop, headless of the danger. You stare and stare and just before the entire table bursts into flames you grasp the meaning. It's still buzzing through your head as the patrons band together to toss you from the coffee shop.

A betrayal beyond all others. and A terrible journey whose reward is only pain.

You know what this is now, but you don't know how to stop it. The hunger gnaws in your gut and the Correspondence burns behind your eyes. People avoid you in the street; those who can recognize the signs. You know what will happen next, if not the details, few talk of what happens to the who go North. You find yourself returning to the Forgotten Quarter, almost against your will, following paths you didn't know were there and reading inscriptions you had overlooked on your previous trips.

You're contemplating a trip to Zee, perhaps you can find a way out of this mess there, when one of the Masters approaches you. You don't know which one it is, but you feel a strange giddiness at It stands in front of you. You know why It's there and you agree to It's demands immediately. It shouldn't work, the hunger should still gnaw and the Correspondence still burn, but when the Master leaves so do they.

For the first time in months you sleep calmly and peacefully.