Friday, 5 August 2011

Arguments in the North

“Years, Sereg. Years” he says, pacing in front of the seated captain, “and they call it duty. It is exile.”
“Exile?” the captain questions.
“Or banishment. Or... I don’t know. I don’t have the words for it. I am not Finwe or Lassel. If I were then I would not be here would I? Instead I am. Dismissed. Forgotten.”
“Is this truly how you feel? That you have been sent away? Forbidden from ev...”
“I am not saying that saying that Sereg. Grandmother would never forbid us from the city. From her. Grandmother is not so cruel.”
“Who then? Who has banished us? Exiled us?”
“You know who I...”
“Who is so cruel? Few can give orders to me; a War Captain of House Aditu. Few can force me to summon my Gaesatae, my shield wall, to march North, to bring fire and iron, death and war where they dictate. Is it one of those few you accuse?”
“No! I would not ever...”
“Is it Amren Jelass? The War Marshal? Baradan’s chosen? Or is it First Daughter? The last child? Another? Who do you accuse nan Retan?”
“Let me speak Sereg! You would dig a hole for me to fall into and then...”
“You dig your own grave Retan. Your words are...”
“So let me finish! My words are sense! They are concern! They are the very soul of the Gaesatae!”
“ The Gaesatae? They thi...”
“That we are...”
“Wait. The Gaesatae they...”
“...abandoned! Left to rot!”
"Hold Retan! Remember you place!”
“I... I am sorry nan Sereg. Forgive me. My life to serve.” He kneels, his head bowed.
“And you are forgiven nan Retan.” Briefly, but long enough, his hand rests on the Retan’s head. “Tell me bizema, what do the Gaesatae feel?”
“That we are not wanted.”
“Not wanted?”
“In the city. The court. In the... thing! That Perohnin Aditu becomes.”
“That Aditu becomes? What do you mean my friend? Your words would cut the heart out of me.”
“No Sereg! A thousand deaths before I would harm you.” He seizes the Sereg’s hand, trailing from when it rested upon his head, and presses his forehead to it. “Your heart is the Gaesatae’s heart. Your soul; it’s soul.”
“But it seems my Gaesatae worry? That my brave hunters feel... Well, what do they feel nan Retan?” His hand moves from his Retan’s forehead to the shoulder, his upper arm. He brings the Retan to his feet.

“How long have we been in the North Sereg?”
“We came with Amren. Four warbands; an army to wipe these lands clean. With Lenae, Cabal...”
“And where are those war captains now Sereg? On soft beds.”
“We marched for war! Else I would never have mustered my Gaesatae. Never have roused them but for war.”
“How long Sereg? In the cold North? By ourselves!”
“Years” he mutters, maybe just to himself. “Years.”
“We are dispatched from the city Sereg. Ordered to a frontier far from our borders. A warband deserted, forgotten.”
“We are needed here Retan. A duty is ours to perform.”
“Yes nan Sereg. There is a duty here. A task that only a warband could achieve. But must it be us? For six years we have been here. Six years!”
“A warband must stand here Retan. Aditu must remain.”
“I know nan Sereg. But are we here because we are the right warband to stand here? Or because we are right warband to be absent from the city?”
“True. True nan Retan. We would not easily... fit into the new court.”
“It is the court I worry about nan Sereg! Who is the court? Why is it that the warbands who do not, as you say, fit in the court are those sent away from it? Ithir, Cabal, Y’dar. Those who would distain robes and finery. Those who would instead bear metals and glory.”

He remains silent, lost in thought. The Retan waits patiently, the need to speak now sated and past.
“We are the fortunate ones Retan.”
“Nan Sereg?”
“Consider that we may return to Aquila in weeks should we so choose. What of Y’dar?”
“Aye, the Sereg is far from home.”
“And those that travel with him. Months before they could reach home. Tal, Llofan, Shao. Even Renkin.”
“Ha! I think the city will be barred to him for...”
“None the less. Even the Great Wood is months travel away for poor Renkin.”
“It is as you say Sereg.”
“Even those left with us, Cadfan and his hunters; they may return to Aquila but not as Gaesatae. No triumphant return for Y’dar or his warband yet. No boar standard flying above blood drenched warriors as they return to the city.”
“Aye nan Sereg. When I escorted Y’dar to fair Aquila we were not received as a War Captain returning. Just another Aditu returning to the city.”
“You judge harshly Elohath. Were the Bronze Guard given more notice they would have welcomed Y’dar in a fitting manner. Anlus would have insisted on that.”
“But I worry Sereg. How will the court welcome us when we return? When you return. Ithir Achal, Sereg Amal a Perohnin Aditu. How will the court functionaries receive a son of Baradan, after years spent in the War God’s realm?”
“Ah, now I understand your concern. And I am not worried as you are.”
“No? Are my worries so childish?”
“Not at all nan Retan, but they are no longer relevant. First Daughter has roused herself from the mourning. The functionaries have been blown aside, as leaves in the face of a hurricane. The Miller’s Daughter directs the House again.”
“Why have you not told the Gaesatae this nan Sereg?”
“It is not their concern, my orders are to be followed no matter where they originate.”
“And they would be Sereg, even if you ordered us to walk unarmed and unarmoured into the halls of death. But the needless worry could have been averted.”
“Then spread this news Retan. Let the hunters know that one who knows them, one who understands them, once again directs the might of Aditu.”
“It will be as you say Sereg!”

“But Retan...”
“Yes Sereg?”
“We did not discuss this. I did not entertain your doubts. I did not soothe your fears.”
“Of course nan Sereg. Else you would not be called The Cold.”

Monday, 1 August 2011

Of Children & Crows (Part 2)

One of the robed figures standing behind Amerasu who is seated in her ornate chair moves forward: nothingis said as the First Grandmother, without looking up, reaches out her left hand. The robed figure named Hiska, takes her mistress’ hand gently in her own as they watch the three figures make their way from the garden. As the distance from them increases Hiska notes Amerasu’s grip is also increased. She looks down at her charge but knows not what to say for comfort. Instead of words she gently brings her left hand to clasp that already held by her right. Nothing more is required.

Without a word of command from Hiska the other comitati that surround Amerasu move forward instinctively. The ‘hounds’ know all is not well but they can do nothing other than remain at their mistress’ side. All that is heard is the soft mumbling of prayers from the depths of hoods as Ashan takes her place in the clear night sky surrounded by the light of stars.

* * *

Avarin is holding her child’s hand firmly and looks across to Tirandel. “All will be well”, she says quietly. Tirandel reaches down and takes the free hand of Avarin’s son as the three walk from the rose gardens.

To the north-west corner of the city, close to the summit of the Sto

ne of Farewell, are found a ring of trees that are the home of the crows. Almost four score crows nests adorn the treeline and look down upon the burial mounds of the dead that have been laid to rest here within the walls of Aquila. These barrows have a weight of history that go back to the naming of Aquila te Lunashaed and as such make a natural homing for the winged harbingers of the dead.

As the three stand at the burial mounds they look up to the tree line, which is coloured a pale silver in the rising moonlight. A large shadow rises from within the branches of the trees and takes to the night sky. As one, the crow shadow rises up from the tree line and descends upon the city and the three that stand before it in the shadowed garden of the dead.

Avarin turns to her son kneeling down in front of him: “Stay here with Tirandel my son – I will return shortly for you.”

She then steps forward approaching the stone steps that lead up to the entrance of the barrows. As she does so she lets her cloak fall from her shoulders. Beneath she is wearing a black ruffled mourning dress with a patterned laced bodice that falls gracefully around her and marks her as a widow yet also consort to the Crows.

Tirandel also lets fall her Aditu cloak revealing a more simplistic black dress of similar design without the bodice patterning, for that is reserved for the daughters of First Family as a mark of their position and placing within the House: roses entwined with stars symbolising the House and it’s goddess’ children that look down upon all Aditu.

As Avarin gracefully walks up the steps into the shadows of the barrows and trees that surround the burial grounds of the elves two crows alight upon the stone bannisters. The First Daughter of the House Aditu is also a CrowSinger and tonight is taking her place and exercising her position among these creatures of the light of the living and the shadows of those that have passed beyond the realm of life. She turns to the crow upon her right for she is named Seeker and Avarin answers to her before all others.

From Tirandel’s vantage point she observes that the crow that has claimed Avarin as her own Singer is speaking with her and Avarin is listening intently. The folds of Avarin’s dress fall to the stone steps as she gives her full attention to the words of the crow. She then turns to the second crow, sat upon the stone railings to her left, as Seeker also looks that way.

There is no mistaking the aura of this creature for he is Rauxlor – the eldest of the Crows and the one who took Navarre as his own and vice versa. Both were masters and also servants to one another for never before had such a pairing of Crow and Elf been given freely and without inhibition. Now though, only one of that partnership remains and the loss of the other is clearly showing on the one that has survived.

In comparison to Seeker, Rauxlor, despite his magnificence and clear elder status, is weary and on close inspection carries a weight of overwhelming sadness that defies anything felt by mere mortals. Jingizu, or sadness of spirit, is well known to the immortals and long lived races of the world. The Elves are masters of this melancholy which only they can also turn into a stubborn fight for survival against insurmountable emotional odds.

After a few brief moments upon the steps Avarin returns to her child and her fellow CrowSinger. Taking her son’s hand she leads him up the steps into the shadows of the Garden of the Dead of Aquila and it’s ages of legend. Tirandel follows.

The crows that reside within Aquila are all gathered within. They are sat upon the burial mounds and around the steps that lead to this shadowy place located within the city of beauty crafted by the three elder tribes of the Elves. Avarin leads her child to the place where both Seeker and Rauxlor await them.

Tirandel stands to the child’s right with her mother in front and to the left. A somber look is passed from mother to fellow crowsinger, which instigates Tirandel reaching into her belt pouch and closing her fingers around that which she has taken out. The child looks to his mother for reassurance. In return she takes a knee and gently runs her hand over her son’s face in a loving caress before then looking for Tirandel.

Avarin remains kneeling embracing her son saying “This will make it easier my love – trust us both for this will be over quickly and I and Tirandel are with you, I promise you that”.

Her fellow crowsinger then opens her hand and blows the kei-vishaaa taken from her pouch into the child’s face.

It is then that the crows descend upon the child engulfing him and his two guardians in their brooding shadow of night black wings.