Evandrus At Sea

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Evandrus, Son of Mars. Crown Prince

The Second of Ara, Sixteen Seventy-Four,

The seasons turn and now we find ourselves back here. To the month of Ara. As always I dread Ara, my thoughts turn to the maudlin during this time. The Mourners are out in full force and the priests wax eternally on about The Daughter of Sunlight and the last Son of Mars. My forebears are dead. The last Son of Mars chained and murdered in the square. All for a story. No living tongue can tell what really happened all those years ago.

The last Daughter of Sunlight died ten years ago and the Lord of Light has yet to choose a successor. Neither the golden armour nor the ruby of faith have shown themselves. With her death the armour and ruby disappeared in an array of fantastic flame. It is only a short while before He chooses another. And that woman will be transformed, with burnished hair and eyes that reflect the sun. It is only a matter of time. Will she bring peace or will she bring misery?

But now I sail away from all of that, to the isle known as Striecial. An island with steep cliffs and dangerous underwater rock formations. The ring of underwater outcroppings have protected Striecial for centuries. Formed by magic’s own hand, they are Striecial’s last and only line of defense. The only way to make landfall is to either be extremely lucky in choosing the right path, have a specially trained sorcerer called a Sea Singer on board to bewitch the rocks and tides, or to be on a Striecialian vessel. Thankfully we do have a Sea Singer with us, but we will not need to utilize his skills. We will meet up with an escort from Striecial sometime in the night.

I do not believe that I shall be in Striecial for more than a handful of days. They are a nation of isolationists, preferring to communicate with foreigners and the world at large through their colonies. It is unlikely they will abide by our presence for very long. To my understanding they live their lives in the continual pursuit of magic. Systematically trying to understand and catalog it. They are also a nation without religion. A fascinating concept if I do say so. An atheist nation is a rare and strange gem.

That is not to say that I have never met atheists, I have met only a handful. To think that a nation of people would willingly choose to put religion aside, to choose not to define themselves wholly by gods and dogma. To uniformly profess disbelief, or more commonly, to choose to ignore the existence of deities to focus with one mind elsewhere. It is such a foreign concept to me. People who do not refute the existence of the Shining Lord, but people who don’t bother themselves with his existence and worship. I almost envy these people.

Just before I left on the Twenty-Fifth of Ivaris the Heirophant of Shining Fire came to me. He wished to speak to me, to waylay any fears or apprehension that I might have going into Striecial. Or as he said, “That dammed place of sorcery and heathenry.”

To be quite honest I had no fear crossing the ocean. I hold no fear in going to Striecial. Many are quick to blame Striecialian Sorcery for our missing troops. I’m not so sure, there have never been hostilities between us. They are our allies, or, well, near enough to be our allies. We have never had poor relations with them. We’ve always had cordial trade relations between our two peoples, though we do generally interact through their colonies on the continent.

In truth I plan to speak with the Striecialian Council, if it is at all possible. I hope that they might know of what power, or powers, that could spirit away a legion of men. Maybe browse through their libraries if so allowed. Though my advisers think otherwise and caution me against speaking with the Striecialians I can’t help but think that they hold the answer to this mystery. If not, I shudder at that thought. The Council are the premiere sorcerers of their nation. Striecial is the cradle of magic after all.

As I sit in my cabin below deck I can only wonder how my father did this. To my knowledge he never made a state visit, at least not to Striecial or to their colonies. He’d scarcely left the country, let alone the continent. I continually ask myself how did he deal with advisers at every turn nattering on with their opinions? Heirophants insulting you one moment and the next giving advice. Balancing along the delicate knife edge of religion and politics. I cannot endorse one over the other, this is not Fourteen Sixteen. My own father was far from religious, it was Mother who was always at chapel or cathedral. There are so very many religions and sects and cults in my nation.

Myth or Truth?

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The First of Ara, Sixteen Seventy-Four,

This month honors Ara and her sacrifice. Acolytes of her sect are wed to Ara at sunset on the Thirtieth of Ivaris every year. I can already hear their wailing cries, it’s usually by midday when I can hear them here on the estate. During this month they mourn her loss, the death of their wife. If I were a person of love, someone who isn’t selfish, I would see the sorrowful beauty of such a time. But, fortunately, I am not. I am a spiteful and wicked person who enjoys their sleep.

I hate this month and really it shouldn’t even be called a month. Fourteen days to hunt down and kill the Sons of Mars. I can’t believe that, I mean truly how many Sons of Mars could there have been? To say that all the Sons of Mars were hunted down, to every soul, in the span of a fortnight is insanity. That would be hundreds, if not thousands. I don’t care how big your army is, there is no way you could cull an entire race in a handful of days. I mean, really, mythology and legend has gone too far. To take it as a story and parable is just fine, but to take it as fact; That I cannot fathom.

Take the jungles far to the south for instance, great trees that pierce the sky. Myth claims them to have been giants cursed by the Shining Lord. Legends are regularly stretched and embellished. Obviously a man stumbled upon those trees and spun a tale. So too was a tale spun about the murder of the Sons of Mars. And all one needs to do is to look to the crown and know they failed. There on the throne sits a Son of Iron-Banded Mars. The Sword of Stars.

We are some distance from the town and yet this year their wailing has woken me up. It seems they have started early this year. In truth the early disturbance was a group of traveling mourners, though I did not find that out until much later. Apparently they are a new order within the sect. It seems they are on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting every chapel, convent, or temple of the Shining Lord. Something about plans to make the trek every year. I really don’t know but I don’t believe it could be possible to get to them all during Ara, unless they plan to sprout wings and fly.

Tam informed me that the servant boy, Alex, was the first to see them. Apparently he had been sent on an early morning errand for fresh produce and had passed them on the road. Gossip burns like a grass fire in any close or semi-closed environment. Naturally the entire staff knew within an hour of his return. The poor boy, it must have been a shock to him to find them on the road crying and screaming.

I have found this morning that I am no longer welcome in the kitchens. Welcome as an observer, yes, but not as a conversationalist. Mrs. Argall and the new housekeeper, Mrs. Ruane have become as thick as thieves it seems. The pair gossip back and forth and when I attempt to join their conversation they grow cold and refuse to acknowledge my words. Though I am happy to say that they have not forgotten who is their employer as they snapped to attentiveness with a quick array of orders.

It seems that Mrs. Ruane won Mrs. Argall over with her piety and devotion to the Shining Lord. As with all things involving the worship of the Lord of Light Mrs. Argall was thrilled. From what Tam said Mrs. Argall spoke of nothing else all morning. Now there are two religious fanatics who live in my home.

Tam says that Mrs. Ruane is trying to whip the staff into form, a task set to her by Cossett. That they are an embarrassment to a noble house, that the staff have no sense of decorum. To allow me to continue our familiarity was highly inappropriate. That is true, it is highly unusual for someone of my status to sit in the kitchens and gossip with the servants. Distracting them from their jobs and generally being a nuisance. I have lost a small place of comfort. If anything I have found Tam useful to inform me of the servants gossip. I at least have one friend left here in this birdcage.

At the morning meal a pervasive veil of gloom fell upon my day precipitated by the new housekeeper. As Mrs. Ruane directed the staff, Cosset and Uncle flirted back and forth in what could only be described as a stage whisper. Mrs. Ruane brought it upon herself to mention the Mourners on the road. That is how I have found my peaceful silence broken. Out of the kindness of his heart, and some not so subtle prompting from Cossett did Uncle dispatch a number of footmen and his varlet to invite them to stay on

the estate for the rest of Ara.
I held no qualms or enmity with the cult, up until they roomed just down the hall. There are more than fifteen guest rooms that could be used for them but, that would require opening and airing out rooms that have lain dormant since cousin Roman and Lord Lyon stayed with us. There is no need for the staff to do those duties when there are guest rooms already service and ready. And so shall the Mourners of Ara keep me awake with their wailing for the next fortnight. I’m sure the six of them have to sleep sometime, they can’t wail all night.

10Can you truly continue to mourn someone long since dead? Is that loyalty, blind faith, or mental deficiency? A tree is but a tree, nothing more and nothing less.

History Lesson: The Birth of the Daughter of Sunlight

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Below is a bit of a history lesson and as such it is not written from the viewpoint of the protagonist know as The Child of Venus

The Month of Ara, Sixteen Seventy-Four,

The first of Ara dawned bright and brisk, as it had done so many years ago. Few are caught unawares by Ara, for those who are the incessant wailing of the Mourners of Ara alerts them quite quickly. The month of Ara is a month founded several centuries ago commemorating the Hallow Ara, the Flame of Peace, Divine. Through her intervention the Bright Shining, the holy army of the Shining Lord’s church, and the Pagri set aside their arms and were able to strike a treaty.

It is said that Ara was so saddened by the violence and death that she sat in prayer for weeks, taking neither food nor drink. Her spirit burned and she wept for the fallen, soldiers and tribesmen alike. Even as she prayed the battle lines drew nearer.

As the story goes the Shining Lord visited Ara that night just before sunset and he gave her a gift. “I shall give you the tools for what you seek but, You, and you alone, shall be the answer to your prayers.” Were the only words he spoke. On the many feathered wings did his servitors descend upon the young woman as the Lord of Light disappeared. These beings of shimmering bronze whirled about her, a maelstrom of metal and feathers.

When they dispersed she was left alone with armour of gleaming gold. Though it had no helmet, the suit of armour was perfectly molded to her shape A thin, delicate chain collared her throat, a burning ruby set in the middle. The sounds of battle could be heard outside of the small convent and she didn’t hesitate. Faster than any man, and weaponless, she charged out into the fray.

Her mouse brown hair was transformed and burned with the Shining Lord’s dawn light as she raced into the horde. A sword swung toward her, intent on taking her head from her shoulders and had it not been for the divine might of the Lord of Light story would have ended. A shaft of dying sunlight burst into life in her hand and she parried the blade. She fought with the combined knowledge of all the faithful. In that instant she was not woman, she was as sexless as the blade she bore. And she bore it well. Cutting a brilliant swath between the two armies, both sides sounded the retreat. These were hardened military men being shown up by a woman. A ferocity unknown to the army of the Bright Shining.

At the sun’s dawning Ara was met with the leaders of the two armies. The Pagri Chieftan and three Prelates. Both fearful of this luminescent woman and what new side she fought on. A treaty was brokered under the cruel gaze of the Shining Lord and his new avatar. The Daughter of Sunlight.

The Pagri would stop worshiping their infernal Star Gods, the main point of contention, and would in turn hand over all Children of the Starry Heavens in their ranks to the church, in perpetuity. With the sole exception being the Son’s of Mars. It was a kindness Ara insisted upon. That the Pagri might have need to protect themselves, it was the one thing she asked for.

In return they would be allowed to worship their Pantheon of a Thousand Spirits. A host of nature spirits the tribes had worshiped for centuries. The Prelates allowed this because the Shining Lord had given man dominion over land, sea, and sky. Their tribal worship was not, in the eyes of the church, blasphemous. They were, in fact, worshiping the Lord of Light. Just in a number of his many and varied disguises.

The Shining Lord blessed that treaty. A treaty he, himself, created. For her help in bringing it to fruition Ara was named The Daughter of Sunlight. Honor bound never to bear children but, to ever be the bearer of peace.

It was a joyous occasion and the revelry that followed will live on in infamy. For the Daughter of the Sun saw only one bright dawning. As the parties wore on late into the evening Ara retired to the convent that was her home. She doffed her armour and found her bed, sinking into the familiar scents and sensations of her solitary cell.

So truly did she sleep that she did not hear her door open, for she had forgotten to slide the bar home, nor did she hear the rustle of clothing as someone slipped inside. As darkness descends so does the Shining Lord flee. During the cold night the Lord of Light turns his face away from his people. It is during that time that evil seeps into the world.

Ara was murdered, in cold blood, as she slept. She was found by a group of her sisters, a jeweled dagger ruthlessly thrust into her chest. It didn’t take long for the blade to be identified as the knife of the Pagri chieftain. A Son of Mars.

And so it came to be that the Sons of Mars must pay a terrible price for the death of Ara. The Sons of Mars were hunted to every man, woman, and child; All people who bore the seal of Iron Banded Mars paid the price. The hunt lasted barely a fortnight. And that fortnight was soon became known as the month of Ara. A handful of years later Ara’s convent became known as the Mourners of Ara. Believing that Ara was blessed by the Shining Lord they believe she was Hallowed. They were soon seen as spiritual cult and were later sanctioned by the church. Each Mourner pledges an oath of chastity as they are spiritually wed to Ara.

Hallow: A Hallow is similar to a Catholic Saint.

Fortnight: A fortnight is a unit of time equal to 14 days