The Festival of the Ocean Spirits (Part 2)

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The Twenty-Sixth of Tal, Sixteen Seventy-Four

Oh how my body aches this morning and uncle is still drunk from the festivities that went on near to dawn. It is a Pagri tradition to return to ones bed just before the sun has crested. Something about how they’ve killed the conjured fire spirit and that the sun would embody it, some how rekindling the god-spirit into life. I really don’t know, nor do I care to listen to dogma and neolithic superstitions. The Pagri sound just like the followers of The Shining Lord, they believe that the sun is the Lord of Light.

The festival was fine once the Pagri had finished with their damned rituals. Honestly they were inconveniencing me to begin with you would think they would put aside the ritual and get to killing me quickly. I would have preferred that. I was escorted from my home, my great house with its walls and army of servant. The litter I was placed in was an ornately carved affair, almost fit for a god. It is normally about half an hour to walk to town, it took an hour while in the veiled sedan chair. I almost don’t know if I should take that as an insult or a compliment. Any attempt to speak with the Pagri chairmen were met with stony silence, If I was to go to my death I would wish to know at least in part the sacrifice I was made.

My people were a sea of masks and feathers. Dressed garish and gaily, I could scarce recognize them. When I went to disembark from the litter I was signaled to stop as uncle stepped beside me. At first I did not recognize him, like the greater portion of the population his features hidden behind a mask. The mask was a caricature of an eagle, a plate of beaten gold with a razor-sharp beak hid his face so that only his green eyes could be seen, the plate was wreathed with feathers that cascaded down and hid his short brown hair.

I must say that it was a shock when he grabbed me around the waist and handed me down to his valet. Recognition had yet to set in and I nearly slapped him for the familiarity of the gesture. Why he didn’t take me by the hand I do not know, I can only assume that it was a power play of sorts or to assert his dominion and ownership of my person. Hundreds of flowers had to die for the soft blanket of flowers I was set on, thousands more for the path that lead to the ocean.

Songs and cries erupted from the crowd, nattering on in the harsh Pagri tongue. Dozens of small wooden boats — scarcely larger than my outstretched hand — dotted the crystalline waters, fire burning in their oaken hearts. The blind priest took me by the hand and led me into the waves. To my dismay the garb they had adorned me in became quite transparent once wet. People shouted for silence, it’s surprising how unorganized this tribe is first the fire and now a chaotic tussle for silence.

A group joined us, I assume they were priest as well. From what I understand the Pagri have a bit of a caste system and while one can move a bit between the castes only the priest caste is impermeable. Young men and women garbed nearly identical to me, the sole difference was the long veil that hid their features. A wooden bowl piled high with burning coals was thrust into my hands. I now understand that it symbolized the fire spirit they had woken, this fire being the same flame that they had used to kindle that winter ritual.

The veiled initiates began a slow somber dance as the sound of drums and pipes filled the air. Dressed in his rough robes and soaked to the skin the blind priest was joined by an old gnarled woman. They began a litany in their grating language, how they didn’t stumble over the words is beyond me, their rough and discordant chanting became a song.

The silver flicker of a knife in the dying light and a strong hand grasped my shoulder. When I attempted to scream a wet amber stained hand was clamped over my mouth. The blade bit into my flesh an inch beneath my mark, I do hope that it wont scar. It would be an annoyance to explain this story time and again. The flames sputtered as drops of my blood fell from the knife onto the hot coals.

While I stood there attempting to decipher this ritualized act my eyes fell upon him. The man from the Temple of The Starry Heavens, the man who had laid hands upon me and had left me bruised. His final day. He appeared drugged as he stood there between two police officers In chest high water; A severe looking woman with greying brown hair and a stout man who smiled as he watched the ceremony.

Boisterous hands gripped me at the shoulders and around the waist and I was pulled beneath the rippling waters. I was so shocked when I was dragged beneath that I didn’t fight. I swallowed a lungful of cold sea water before instinct kicked in and I began to twist and struggle against those rapacious hands. What I now know was that they were attempting to help me right myself.

My lungs burned and my eyes stung but I saw what happened next. One of the white veiled dancers approached the trio and the man smiled stupidly at him. A flash of silver saw the knife still glistening with my blood ripple across the mans throat. A horrifying spray of gore covered the male dancer, dying the veil an ugly russet colour.

The spirits have their sacrifice, will it be enough? Will that death bring the paradoxical slumber and waking?

Evandrus, Son of Mars

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The Twenty-Fifth of Tal, Sixteen Seventy-Four, The Royal Palace

Today one of the spirits from the Pagri pantheon dies. One of the dozens of spirits of fire is quenched in the ocean of glass along the crystal coast. This spirit of fire dies and soon returns to its slumber, it awaits the Pagri to wake it again. As that spirit dies it rouses one of the ocean spirits from a century long sleep. Today another fire has died, but it will never wake again; Today my mother has followed my father into death.

The queen is dead. As the Pagri mourn the death of their spirit so do I mourn the death of my mother. The Pagri celebrate their ocean spirit and soon the people shall celebrate me, their prince. I would almost say that I hate them, my people. They will wreath my nation in roses and ivy but, not even a day ago they demanded I rescind my claim to the throne and allow my father’s cousin to be named heir. The same people who cried that it was impossible when I was declared a Son of Mars. They would have me give them into the hands of a woman who did not know them and was untested. A woman who bore them no loyalty.

The Destroyers of The Sons of Mars. Their name is a curse and ash in my mouth. A cult formed nearly two hundred years ago, born from the fiery womb of the Shining Lord. I find it quite funny actually, Mars is the fire and the iron that defends the Children of The Starry Heavens, The Sons of Mars were hunted and killed, all of them. Every man, woman, and child that bore his symbol was killed by iron and flame. Cleansed and purified. That very thought leaves me sick.

There has never been a Star-born child bore to my blood and yet I stand here I stand with the mark of Mars upon my hand. An impossibility. I have been shielded from my kind, I have only ever met three of them and it was brief. They were called to verify the symbol that blazed upon my hand and then a year later to identify the symbols that encircle my wrist. I am marked a true born Son of Mars, a warrior and protector, my duty is to protect my people. I will do all that I can to reach that goal.

It is a surprised to find that I am not alone, a few of the Children of the Heavens rule, they are an extreme minority but it shows we are growing. I have heard that the heir along the crystal sea, where the Pagri killed their god-spirit, is a Child of Venus; a Child of the Golden Morning. That is an interesting prospect, a Lord born of Venus. While I am sure that Venus-Born have had such rank in the tribes or in foreign lands this will soon be a first in our kingdom. A Saturn-Born Lord rules in the south but in three years or maybe four he will be dead and to my knowledge has no heir, I should pay him a visit and ensure some form of succession in his lands. Then there is my beloved Cynaric the fleet-minded Mercury-Born, after my coronation I shall appoint him to my cabinet as part of my military council.

I may visit the Venus heir and make an offer for their hand, as I understand it they are still virgin — as confirmed by their participants in the ritual — a decidedly unheard of achievement and I would be liar if I said that  wasn’t an attractive asset. Honestly I could demand it as a Son of Mars and their king I could demand that they lie with me and I take that which is rightfully mine, but I am not a beast. I will make an offer and it will be their choice, I care not if they are male or female. If they would have me I would take them for mine.

Such a marriage would be a beneficial alliance, the remains of the tribes would see it as giving in to the demands of the Starry Heavens. On the other side the Church of The Cleansing Fire would be furious and would scourge on the fury and hatred of the extremist sects. The thought of that should make me cringe away from the very idea, my people could be harmed but right now I am wounded and I would see my enemy bleed. The last time I went to a service on a holy day the Hierophant of Shining Fire retold the death of the final Son of Mars.

He was captured and chained to an obelisk of black stone before the church, an obelisk which to my fury still stands. It was decided that he would be sacrificed to the Lord of Life and Light, but not during the day, no, they decided they would insult the deities of his Star-Born pantheon. He was sacrificed in the dark of the night as the gods watched. The gods stood resolute as they watched their child’s throat being slashed. They stood quietly as he exsanguinated and did not interfere.

The chains of iron that held him fast to that stone edifice sit in their reliquary. Seventeen vials of his blood sit on seventeen of their altars. The Destroyers of The Sons of Mars won and lost that night. Just as he breathed his final breath I was born that night.

Evandrus, Son of Iron-Banded Mars, Crown Prince.

Hierophant of Shining Fire: This is a religious position of authority, probably analogous of a Cardinal from Catholicism. I’ll have to do more research to confirm that unless someone in the comments would like to weigh in on the subject.

Exsanguinated: To bleed to death or have all of ones blood drained.

Child of the Golden Morning: This is just a flowery way of saying Child of Venus.

Destroyers of The Sons of Mars: An extreme cult within the worship of the Shining Lord that hunted the Sons of Mars to extinction. Their actions were not sanctioned by the church but went unopposed.

The Festival of the Ocean Spirits (Part 1)

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The Twenty-Fifth of Tal, Sixteen Seventy-Four

Given half a chance I would kill the Pagri, burn them clear through for this insult. Rend and tear, I would remove them from all existence given half a chance for what they ‘request’. More like blackmail if you ask me. And Uncle has agreed to it! That man! That pig! If it would amount to anything I would anoint a knife with the venom concealed half forgotten among my perfumes and unguents. The Pagri have asked that I play a role in the ritual they would perform to rouse their ocean spirit and quell and kill the fire-born god they roused during winter.

I shall play the part of the virgin sacrifice drowned and whose death knell wakes the long sleeping god-spirit. Uncle could not refuse them, to do so would be to acknowledge a stain on my virtue. I have never enjoyed politics, I find it to be a dance created by bored consorts at court looking for some form of entertainment. Like cousin Roman who is Lord Consort to Lord Lyon, a very nice but severe woman; I would rather not have her in my house but I really must invite her and her house for the winter solstice, she has invited Uncle and I for the harvest in a two months time.

I have seen copies of the letters Roman sent to Lord Maes last winter and they were quite provocative. While I do despise politics that does not mean that I do not know how to play the game. Getting copies was easy to be honest, I merely asked Lord Lyon for copies of the letters and of cousin Roman’s demeanor leading up to the rendezvous under the guise of asking to know the signs for when I have my own consort. She was quite amenable and sent them right away. Cousin Roman was locked up in one of their more distant estates for months as a punishment, foolish man.

The servants came dressed in full livery. I had thought that to be shocking, it is very infrequently that our servants are bedecked as such, the less formal uniform is easier and much quicker to don in the early hours. I was escorted to my rooms and quickly stripped without even the thinnest veil of modesty as a Pagri Chieftain and Uncle discussed the ritual.

My palms were painted in the deep amber hues of fire and the soles of my feet painted with a dark primal blue which slowly spiraled up my legs becoming light as it rose. I was anointed with oils and pigments and cloaked in somber perfumes. It was at that moment that two of the Pagri tribesmen pulled me to the floor, the usually plush carpet rough against my nakedness. The Pagri priest whom I had ignored until then rose and maneuvered himself above me, he wore a rough blindfold over his eyes. He chanted in the harsh Pagri tongue, of which I know little, I was held pinioned through the process by the two tribesmen; I would rip out their eyes given half a chance for this injustice. The Pagri will burn for this insult if I have to embody this fire spirit itself.

With the blind priest’s ritual finished I was dressed in a white tunic provided by the Pagri, it was surprisingly unsoiled and very soft. I was just relieved to have some form of shield between myself and the wolfish eyes of the Pagri. A coronet of budding flowers in an array of colours was placed on my brow, feathers worked into my short hair, and a belt of glittering ribbons girded my waist. A woman entered the room with hair of burning copper, she ignored the men and pulled me aside. She muttered quietly in a foreign tongue, much to quiet for me to heed, and began to paint my face like an Alazian whore with paint on my lips and kohl limning my eyes.

It was then, while this sorceress woman of paint and powder hid my true face behind a veil of cosmetics, that uncle mentioned the escaped prisoner. The man who assaulted me, I still bear the bruises, I flinched at his name and the woman smeared kohl across my forehead which started the whole process again. Foolish woman, it took long enough the first time.

Simple Assault, Attempted Rape, Attempted Coercion, Assault of a Lord Heir, Interference in the Affairs of a Noble House, Treason, and, finally, Attempted Line Theft. The charges laid against that man, the latter three charges are enough to call for his death. Hell, the charge of Attempted Line Theft is enough to call for his life and appropriate reparations from his family, in blood. It is almost assured that they attempted to pay a wergild. Mind you wergild is not completely legal anymore, it hasn’t been for centuries, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the family attempted to pay one to save their own skin.

The charges were an exaggeration at best; I mean, Line Theft, really? That isn’t even possibly, is it? He is not of the Gentry. It matters not. I would not care to dwell. Duty calls. I must greet my people in this thin gossamer tunic and crowned with flowers like a fairy queen.

The Fairy Court hides beneath the waves if one were to look there. A child’s tale one would think.

Alazian – Pronounced Ah-LAY-gin, they are a nation/ethnicity from the deserts far to the south.

Wergild - Also known as “man price”, was a value placed on every being and piece of property. If property was stolen, or someone was injured or killed, the guilty person would have to pay weregild as restitution to the victim’s family or to the owner of the property.