Himnaríki: My Memory Palace
[This is an article posted in conjunction with: How to Create a Memory Palace: A Complete and Thorough Manual, it is meant to be a live example for educational purposes, and nothing more.]
From the dark abyss of waters uncharted, a silver leviathan serpent opens its eyes: large pale pearls almost devoid of pupils or corneas. It slithers powerfully through the deep, where weak vestiges of sunlight just barely glint from its massive, smooth, armor-like, reflecting scales. A vortex is left in the wake of every breath blown from its gills as its arcuate fins frictionlessly slice through the water with more hydro-dynamicity than a bird would fly through air. Its gargantuan skull bobbing to and fro with effortless agility as it moves away from the shadows of the nethermost depths…into the blinding light of the world. It is born unto the warm light of day that stretches out over the world like the arms of a loving father, from its mother—the sea, bursting through the surface with a deep, booming, shrill cry that strikes the earth with a thundering quake.
Without wings, it hangs in the air for only a moment, before returning to the blackness of the arctic womb from whence it came.
The echoes of its monstrous cry are carried by the wind, ricocheting from the flaps of a great white hawk that, with wings spread wide if only for a glorious moment, would eclipse the sun—emitting a screech that would reach the heavens before falling onto your ears.
You find yourself standing atop a small glacier of reckoning that emits a slightly purplish hue, admiring the sight of the sea reptile near the horizon, as the last of its tailfin disappears from view, swallowed by the veil of dark ocean water that shimmers with the dazzlement of innumerable diamonds, spread like a glass blanket across the main.
Wooden poles and rusty steel shards of unidentifiable form protrude randomly from the ice. Cold nips at your nose, ears, and fingers but not enough to cause discomfort more than it merely serves to keep you awake—fully rapt in the moment.
You inhale deeply, savoring the crisp winds that blow from the north beyond.
You exhale slowly; a thick wisp of crystal grey vapor leaves your nostrils like the smoke of a calm and collected fire-breathing dragon.
Snow crunches beneath your feet as you turn around. Not a very far distance from you is a giant rock, almost the size of a small mountain, with a flat top on which stands the figure of what could be a house, but it’s too far up, and away to tell for sure.
The path to the rock is not easy, for the glacier on which you stand is floating in sub-zero water; alas, the pain you’ll feel, should you fall in, would be like a thousand whips cracking all at once, tearing away at your freezing flesh while you’d struggle in desperation for air, before without doubt: the beak of the sea serpent would find you.
Nevertheless, there is a way across: Small slabs of ice of varying jagged shapes and sizes float near each other like natural buoys in the tide, inadvertently creating an unorthodox bridge between where you are, and where you could go.
You carefully step down to the first shard, only to nearly fall off in sudden fright at this realization: there is a dead body entombed within the ice, within each buoy yet—that you’ve no choice but to cross if you are to find shelter.
Aghast, you narrow your eyes, wincing in awe as you witness the horrified expression of agony that is eternally locked into the cadaver’s face—he who was surely once a brave Viking warrior, but one who was not granted safe passage through these lands. His body is clad appropriately for the weather in brown animal fur, the hide of which turned grey to your eyes by the distortion of light in the ice that entombed him, like a murky glass coffin.
His flesh is flushed purplish-white with achromasia and frostbite. Coagulated blood had pooled underneath his skin in random and unnatural areas of his arms, hands, and face in swollen lumps, for some parts of his body had frozen faster than others upon dying a slow and tormenting death.
Shining brilliantly at his side, perfectly preserved in the sunlight is his sword, beautifully made, clean, and radiant. Surely, still sharp.
What also seems perfectly preserved are his long locks of blond hair and blue eyes. His blond matted locks are held still in a chaotic torrent. His eyes still seem radiant, as if they still withheld a soul—a lost soul that would never reach Valhalla, eternally doomed to this watery grave.
You snap your gaze away at that, lest his trapped soul would possess your own. You make the decision to carry onward, stepping tenderly upon each ice buoy: the bridge of lost souls. You pray not to slip and become either one of them or food for the nearby sea monster—for you refuse to look down.
Somehow, you make it to the foot of the great rock, making a final daring jump from the last remaining buoy. You put a hand on either knee, panting in relief as you take a moment to close your eyes, appreciating the fact that you’re still alive.
You open them.
A grunt escapes your lips as you involuntarily clench your abdomen: you stand before a wolf.
The wolf’s fur is white, and its eyes are dark brown, dark enough to be thought black at first glance. At first, you’re not exactly sure what to make of the wolf, because it neither growls nor bares its teeth at you; on the contrary: such a magnificent beast merely stares at you, sitting in absolute silence. So far, it shows neither fear nor malice, barren of any intent to strike or even run.
Your face is merely inches away from its own. Your breathing stops. You are unsure of how to defend yourself against it. It gazes into your eyes without sound or emotion.
After a tense moment of silence, the wolf hops away, trotting to the foot of a path that leads up the rock. It turns its head around, at you. You suddenly realize that the wolf is not your enemy; in fact, it is merely a threshold guardian that has merely been waiting for you, and only means to lead you to your destination.
Upon scaling the rock with the wolf as your guide, you find yourself before two flights of stone steps, separated by a single flat landing. On either side of the landing, there are lit torches in rusted steel holders. Their fires burn steadily, without interruption from the frost, fueled by charcoal and thick wooden shards over reddish-orange embers that are emitting slithering trails of smoke that would rise until it disappeared into the sky as its color would match the ashen color of the clouds. Before either of the two torches, there was built small square platforms; upon one of them resides a wolf, a twin of the one you followed.
The steps rose from the snow, ending just before a large house. The house is an upside-down longship built upon wooden stands and all the makings of architecture that would fortify it as a habitable home. The curvature of the ship would serve well for rain or snowfall that would slide down to the ground, overlapping rectangular slits of darkly tinted mosaic glass that each together contributed to one giant artistic depiction of Nordic men in battle with a dragon. To look at one piece of glass alone would not give you the full picture; they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
The wolf who led you trots ahead of you, up to its respective spot opposite the other wolf. Both stand watchful guard over the door.
You find yourself stepping out of the snow and off the rock, onto the first stone step. You make your way up the stairs, between the two torches and majestic white wolves sitting atwain.
You walk underneath of a wooden arch with the design of lions etched into it. Reaching the double door, you unhinge a rusted brass slide lock. Instantly, your body is engulfed by comforting heat, resonating from a fire pit just before you, in the center of a grand hall. Surrounding the fire is a rectangular dinner table, on which there lay all manner of delicious foods, ranging from fruits to cakes. Roasting over the fire is a boar; its flesh made crispy and golden-brown.
Standing to your left is a friendly face, dressed in the gear of an ancient Nordic warrior.
“Hail to thee,” they say to you.
“Where am I?” you ask.
“You are in the Hall of Knowledge,” they respond with a smile, before walking away.
The roof is held by thick wooden pillars from whence long sanguine drapes embroidered with gold threading hang. The floor is made of cobblestone, on which matching crimson rectangular carpet lines the row of wooden chairs of the dining table, donned with dossers.
Shadows dance upon the walls like pixies in jubilee, the room illuminated only by the orange aura of the flames. Hanging from the ceiling, in the center of the room adjacent to each other, are two circlet hearses made of steel that hold slow-burning white candles; a bit of wax hangs from them like icicles from a rooftop gutter, dripping lightly to the floor.
You turn to your right and begin making your way to one end of the great dining hall; you hear the thud of your own footsteps upon the stone as you walk, noticing varying manners of medieval weaponry that decorated the walls: from polished halberds and axes, to swords upon shields and bucklers that were once used in actual combat but now only serve to tell the history of the house, the stories of each great descendant who wielded them in the past. Throughout, there are wooden ambries that within contained fine dining ware, from beautifully painted dishes to goblets,
Throughout, there are wooden ambries that within contained fine dining ware, from beautifully painted dishes to goblets, hanops, and ewers. There are small wooden benches reinforced with steel that you could sit on, but choose not to—for you stand before a declining staircase that leads to a second floor by thirteen wooden stairs that descend from the cobblestone.
At the foot of the stairs, there is a steel-reinforced wooden double door with plating nailed into it in the shape of sea dragons, resembling the one that screeched outside.
The door shuts behind you with metallic clangor, and at last: you find yourself within a comfortable labyrinthine subterranean dwelling, adorned with crimson upholstery that would match the dining hall’s. Inside of this place, there are no openings for any natural light, particularly that of the sun; the only source of light is an array of candles set either along the walls or hanging from the ceilings. You hear the snap, crackle, and pop of all the flames around, smelling the damp odor of the moist rock.
The tenebrous radiance of the cobblestone passage is lined on either side with rooms that extend for as far as you’d will them to: each room is used for the curation of data that you’d like saved in your memory; the order of the rooms resemble the order in which you’d like to remember that information.
Dutifully patrolling the halls of your knowledge is an older woman. She is dressed in an old tunic and dress tailored to be formfitting to the curvature of her body. Her name is Minni, and she is the caretaker of your memories; she serves to keep memories dusted off and defragmented while you’re away, dealing with the harsh everyday demands and stress of the outer world.
“This is the Archive,” she tells you in a polite petite voice, as she migrates from room to room, attending to any moss that may grow in the minute cracks of the walls and ceiling. Or relighting any candles that may burn out, or run out of wax as time goes by, so that you may easily find your memories in the dark. She clears away any bugs, like silverfish that may nibble away at the parchment of the tomes or tokens that hold your memories in order to prevent them from becoming distorted or of lesser quality, ridding each room of any dust or cobwebs that may cloud the storage of your memories and thus your thinking.
She does everything she can to keep your memories fresh, organized, and well-indexed, either up-keeping or discarding what you ask.
She nags you, as if she were your mother, about the importance of returning to this place yourself and often—for she cannot maintain all of your memories on her own; she is growing old. Her bones creek with each step and her joints ache every time she reaches for a high shelf or is forced to lift something heavy. She may drop something and it may crack; if that happens, whatever you are trying to remember will be damaged and incomplete.
She pesters you with maternal worry, saying that there’s no such thing as you visiting often enough to help her, for she is lonely and could always use your company.
At the end of the underground labyrinth, its size limited only by your imagination, you come to a hidden stone door, embedded in the rock face. Only you know how to locate this door; its presence is secret even to Minni..and only you know the secret method of opening that door.
Before either side of the door are two great lions that sit in noble silence, their heads held high with pride; they guard the entrance with vicious claws and teeth extendable by powerful muscles capable of disemboweling any unwanted intruder.
They allow you to pass. The jagged door slides open with astonishing ease, despite its level of security, resembled by course rock that it’s made of and how it disappears into the wall when you’re not around.
Inside, you find yourself in a dark temple. The architecture is gothic, with many stone arches that span the reach of the room, which extends as far as your imagination will allow. The place glows with pale blue light from rectangular windows, stained the color of midnight, on either side. Hand-sculpted gargoyles, each unique in their own way, crafted with such realism that they appear to be lunging out at you, line either side of where you can walk.
The shadows in the room seem caste by weak candles that drip their wax into bullhorns that are decorated with dark sapphire jewels and hang from the walls. The shadows move up and down and along the walls in a most unnatural way, incongruent with the flickering of the candles. The shadows are alive, and welcome you into their dark abode with deep guttural echoes of the Gregorian- or Mongolian-like chant of an ominous tongue that you can’t understand, and can only barely hear at first if you listen closely. A single drum beats from chasms unfound, and the longer you stay within this forsaken place, the more likely you are to be overtaken by the will of such shadows, the forbidden intent of your id, sexual desires, and the hauntings of your past. They are the demons of your mind, and in this place, upon flat alters lie the tokens of memories, guilt, repressions, scars, and all manner of dark and forbidden thoughts that you wish you could get rid of…but can’t.
…because they are an undeniable part of who you are, and to try to rid yourself of them, to run from them is only to imbue them with more power. You at least keep them in control here, where you can return to this temple for introspection: the reflection of your wrongdoings, hedonism and debauchery, along with past hurts from whence you can derive fruits of serenity and wisdom in order to prevent such occurrences from ever happening again.
Suddenly, you realize that the lions outside of the temple are just as responsible for keeping the demons locked inside and under control as they are for keeping intruders out. It is their duty to make sure that you do not forget your pride, the code of honor that you stand for, and that the demons do not break free, corrupting your mind, heart, and soul…which would make you become someone or something that you don’t want to be, if not for yourself, then for the greater good of others.
The shadows creep closer still, and closer…and closer.
You loathe returning here to face them, to confront them. They too know it, bidding you a maliciously ridiculing welcome. They taunt you with vile snickering: poking fun at your deepest insecurities and scars, while tempting you to fall from your ideology or path in life.
…but you must return here, accepting them yet showing them that they are not in control, that all of the power of your consciousness belongs to you and you alone—that you are the king here, the emperor, and not a single one of them or anyone or anything anywhere both in your mind and in the outer world can challenge your rule. You acknowledge that they only have the power that you grant them, no matter how much they beckon for you to fall.
You dislike and even fear this place, but your courage holds, enabling you to face what you fear within yourself, what you hate within yourself, what you’ve done to others and to yourself as you’ve progressed through life. But to dwell too long on any one particular devil is to allow another to sneak up behind you and overwhelm you in the dark.
You cross through the temple of darkness, this hell of imagination and memory, passing each alter of pain, each stone monument of monstrosity making your way to the end of the corridor to a mirror. In this mirror, you see yourself, and the demons that are closing in, right behind you. They do not want you to leave; they revel in your misery, your mental anguish and inner torment. They beckon you to stay; you see in the mirror that one reaches out from behind you with a long spindly finger.
You see it, but pay no acknowledgement to it as you walk through the mirror—its glass suddenly enveloping your entire body as if it were liquid.
For a moment, you enter the void of yourself, a world of mirrors in which infinite space is compartmentalized by a 360-degree room of one-way mirrors that are all turned to face each other.
You continue walking forward, until the next mirror in front of you envelops you as another liquid door.
After completing the transition through the small world of mirrors, you find yourself outside, standing between two other great silent lions who stand guard of this back entrance. You are at the top of a mountain that you must have traveled through when you went through the underground archive and temple of darkness.
Just beyond you, you see that you are at cloud level, overlooking the vastness of beautiful woodland and a purplish-blue meadow below; the ashen sky holds the peaks of other mountains in view, blocking the horizon like jagged titans. You could reach out and touch the clouds if you so wished; the air is thin and your lungs are heavy.
In the distance, in the shadow of the mountains on the horizon, you see the silhouette of a winged dragon flying in the clouds, toward the meadow.
Before you is a thick archaic ruinous bridge that has been destroyed by thousands of years of exposure to the elements. Moss, mushrooms, and patches of grass grow from its cracks. The sound of water fills your ears as you realize that the bridge on which you stand is protecting you from the strong current of a waterfall.
The water itself is pure, clean, and blue—falling from beneath the remnants of the bridge.
You gather your courage, and jump.
You fall for what seems like forever, through a cloud, and almost begin to believe that you have just jumped to your death, but you land in a harmless pool deep enough to safely break your fall, carved out of the bedrock by the erosion of the waterfall.
You find yourself in a forest sanctuary as the rapids carry you away. The area around you is sprucing, abundant with healthy plants, herbs, and pine trees that line either bank of the river. You are soaking wet, though enjoying the ride noticing that on each tree you pass, there lies some sort of symbol embedded in the bark. Each symbol is a file of your memory, something you wanted to remember separately from whatever information you saved in the underground labyrinth of the Archive. As the river moves you through the forest, the order of each passing tree reflects the order in which you wanted to remember whatever information.
The river goes on for as long as you will it to; its depths are bountiful with glowing fish whose proteins radiate an eerie blue and green light in the dark, with a moving beauty akin to aurora borealis.
When you will it to, the river lessens to a mere stream as you find yourself exiting the forest sanctuary, and entering the purplish-blue meadow that you saw at the top of the mountain, before you jumped from its cliff.
You realize that the purplish color that was blurry from clouds was actually a field of blooming wild lavender flowers.
Breaking away from the stream, there is a dirt path that cuts through the flowers with a rickety wooden signpost that reads the name of each path you can take. The guardian of this land is the dragon that you saw before you jumped from the cliff. He bids you hello with a deep ancient voice.
He tells you that his name is Leiðbeinanda, and his title is Keeper of the Code. While you are here, it is his duty to advise you in matters of the heart and mind with archaic wisdom that can only be understood from the fields of inner peace, for there, in this state of mind, you have the balance necessary to think rationally and logically for all ambitions and questions of existentialism.
He pulls in his great wings and spins to an impressive halt upon the ground, quaking the very earth beneath your feet as his massive body does so.
“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter,” he says to you, as the earth settles from the weight of his landing. “Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself. A quote from Miyamoto Musashi.”
He can only see out of one eye, for the other is blind and pearl-colored like the sea dragon at the beginning of your adventure, with a jagged scar running down it through his cheek. Vertebrae bones spike from the base of his massive skull, all the way down to his long intimidating tail. His wings are a bit tattered, from his head are two horns that curve in and then outward away from his face—one of them was broken.
Leiðbeinanda could take you with his tongue and swallow you with a single gulp, or burn you to nothingness with the fire of his breath, but instead, he says:
“You have nothing to fear from me, young one.”
…as he looks down at you with the paternal kindness of a loving father, or grandfather.
“Come. Let us go to the code runes.”
You oblige him, as he humbles his impressive wings and begins to walk alongside you, on a path that the sign post reads: Code Runes.
“You can add as many guiding arrows and dirt paths as you like,” he tells you, “for these are the fields of inner peace…only accessible to those who would overcome their demons. You must go through them first, in order for me to allow you passage through here. On these plains you can do anything, anything at all: from practicing martial arts, asking me for advice, to simply being here for the sake of escaping physical pain. No matter what you do here, I’ll watch over you. Each path you either take or create here in your own mind can lead to a place or clearing that serves its own purpose, suited to your liking.”
He went on, “The stream of the river from whence you first entered this meadow continues north, eventually dispersing into a delta that flows back into the ocean, where Iris resides.”
“Iris?” you ask.
“Yes, you didn’t see her upon coming here? She is the guardian of the outer realm, the link between this world, and the one in which your physical body resides.”
“…I was afraid of her…”
“Pah! What for? At worst, she would ferry you back to the glacier of reckoning. No guardian poses a threat to you in this world, sire. We all submit obeisance to you, my king. We exist to serve you, so that you in turn serve others. A good king is truly the first servant of the land, foremost to his people. He is respected by the people not because of his rank or blood, but because he should suffer more than anyone in the kingdom, bearing the burden and fears that his people do not have to. They serve him to serve them. Live by this philosophy, and I and the other guardians shall serve you eternally: providing you strength when you are weak, light of wisdom when you are lost in darkness, and the reminder to always conduct yourself with honor, even if all entire outer world would misunderstand you. Serve them, and we shall always serve you. We dragons represent the year that you were born, the Chinese year of the dragon. The lions who guard you from your demons represent your month of birth, being July. And the wolves, they represent your totem, being a nomadic, majestic, and powerful spirit that travels, spreading stories of knowledge and wisdom for the greater good of the entire world.”
You walk for as long as you talk, mainly listening to the wisdom of the fatherly dragon.
To the east, there lies a mountain range of blank lands unknown, infinite space for you to build upon with your imagination over time. To the west, there lies the mountain that holds the halls of knowledge within, along with the temple of darkness. Beyond that is more infinite space. To the south, there is the forest sanctuary from whence the waterfall and glowing rapids carried you.
You travel north, passing Lavender Meadow, until you reach a rocky beach, where twenty-three smooth 20 ft. tall by 8 ft. wide stone tablets stand. The tablets are akin to Stonehenge, on which Nordic tribal engravings are carved into each rock, each symbol resembling a code of your ethos.