Sunsets

November 18th, 2012

The islands are beautiful. Mother owns a private one, there’s nobody that lives here though. She’s helping arrange for Leesa and I to have a comfortable life together.  Nobody can know I’m alive. Not ever, or they’ll never stop hunting me. Leesa and I are just custodians looking after the place. I’ll have to keep my hair darker.

You know, I have a lot to be proud of. I spent a year and a half in Lithmore, and became Poet Laudate in that time. It was a short tenure, thanks to that idiot, Rothgar Astartes. Oh, the irony, that he nearly stumbled across a deadly truth in search of a fantasy that does not exist, but it does not matter. I almost feel bad for the awkward situation I left him in, but he certainly deserved it.  I could have owned that city, if not for the Church.

None of it matters. I never wanted to go there in the first place. I went there fleeing the Order, and I’ve returned for the same reason. All I want to do is live peacefully, alone, with my wife Leesa. That’s all.

So here we are. Luxury, privacy, and warmth, looking out over the water at a beautiful sunset. There are friends I’ve left behind, but so few really knew me anyway. So many plans I never got to enact, but they don’t matter. I have everything I need right here, for as long as it lasts. And we’ve got hiding places, and escape routes, and contingencies.  And I’ve got her. And that’s everything that matters.

 

‘Till Death Do Us Part…

October 16th, 2012

…No. Even death won’t part us.

Four mornings in a row, waking tangled up in my wife’s arms in the biggest bed I’ve ever seen; going for long walks on the beach; the weather is paradise; gifts from so many people –even Lord le Orban send us a huge gift– I could stay here. I really could.

Except for the man who showed up this morning. Bare-chested, well muscled, clean shaven, long hair. Rather fetching, if I were into that sort of thing. He had done a doubletake as we walked by on the beach, and after a moment of indecision, he’d run up to me. “You’re the Lady on the tapestry,” he’d said to me. “The Rose, the Lady on Father Daramande’s wall.” I swear, Leesa almost killed him. She thought so loudly I could almost hear it. Her hand twitched on the hilt of the dagger i gave her.

“How is Daramande?” I asked him softly.

That was enough for Leesa. The look she gave me was sharper than the dagger, before she turned to the man. “She doesn’t care. You will not mention you saw us to anyone. If you do, I will gut you like a fish. You endanger her by even talking to her.”

The poor man, he looked more apologetic than scared. He gave me one last reverent look, before he quickly moved away, pretending he’d never seen us.

There is no such thing as a safe place. Not anymore.

Family

October 15th, 2012

Leesa doesn’t know how to take dad.

Dad is a Charalin man. Mother essentially bought him, in place of the horses she normally would have traded for. She privately told me she never once regretted that decision. She may be a successful businesswoman, but she’s Tubori, not Vavardi or Vandagan. Love is more important than everything. And mom and dad have always been so obviously in love.

But all has not always been paradise. I remember the conversations when I was a child, where mother tried to get my father’s opinions on matters. He was so used to being deferrential, he would answer with “however you desire,” and similar. But he’s a smart guy. Mother wanted his opinions. Tubori marriages are alliances of equals. Over time, she’d get him to voice his opinions, even playfully tease and joke, but it has always been subdued. He comes across as incredibly easy going, but he will not speak up to a woman. Because of that, the levels of subtlety and meaning he can put into a sentence are incredible. Dad never yelled at me, never got angry, he was always kind and loving,but… displeasing him was seen in his eyes, in subtle and respectful comments. Dad could make me cry with a smile, as that smile would hold all the hurt and disappointment that my disobedience had earned, as surely as if he’d pulled out a leather belt and tanned my bottom. Another thing he learned, is the driest, most brutal sarcasm I’ve ever heard in my life.

Poor Leesa. He teases her brutally, yet he is never anything but respectful and even deferrential toward her. I have seen her punch his shoulder more than once in frustration. And I also see them sharing more than the occasional mug of Salyndri Estates Special Reserve and laughing and chatting about things in my childhood. They seem to have a bond. I think they’re going to be good friends.

If she doesn’t kill him.

Best served cold…

October 15th, 2012

I received mail that the Cardinal has excommunicated Yves mal Renarde. He is no longer under the protections of the law. He can be cut down like the dog he is. I almost hope he’s still alive when I am forced to leave paradise and return to the Lithmorran winter. Somehow, I doubt he will be. But if he is…

I’ve never intentionally killed a man. But there’s a first time for everything.

 

Meet the Parents

October 15th, 2012

My adopted daughter Leia is a big hit at home. Though they’re trying to teach her how to speak Tubori. Dad won’t stop playing with her. But Leesa? Well, that seemed like it was going to be another matter.

Mother, of course, knew Leesa. Nearly three years ago she hired her to teach me to play the lute. She was initially rather scolding.

You know, she was not yet of age back then. You could have told us. Maybe we could have protected her. She’s Poet Knight of Lithmore now! What do you plan to do with your life? What are your goals?

I was worried for a moment Leesa was going to run away. Several uncomfortable questions and statements later, mother’s tone changed.

You protected her, you kept her safe. I’m so glad she’s found somebody who loves her. You are welcome to our family, Miss le Loaysa. (Is it going to be op Loaysa anytime soon, by the way?)

The wedding is in two days. Mother has arranged it all.  An old friend of Inquisitor le Loaysa is performing the wedding.

I still need to speak to dad about the blooding ritual.

Bound by Flame

October 13th, 2012

It’s a long trip, from Lithmore to Tubor — a long trip in terrible weather. The ocean voyage won’t be much better this time of year, either. But I’m happy. Bringing my adopted daughter along has kept the wilderness portion of the trip a little less passionate than it would otherwise have been, though once she’s asleep…

I feel a bit guilty leaving responsibilities behind. I made all the arrangements I could, had everything taken care of. There were things that needed doing, but I’ve put it off too long. I owe everything to Leesa, and she deserves this.

I don’t understand why it’s so significant to us both. I really don’t. We don’t care about the church, nor do we believe that the Lord of Springs requires what we are doing. When we return to Lithmore, it will mean nothing, legally. We’ll never be accepted for what we are. But in the end, it none of that matters. She and I will both know — we belong to each other. I am hers, she is mine. That’s what is important. It’s a declaration to the powers that be, to the universe itself, that she and I, so obviously lovers from aeons past, are still bound for all eternity. Nothing will ever separate us. Even death, when it eventually comes, is only a very temporary parting. Our very souls are bound together, inseparable.

I love you, Leesa le Loaysa.

Collateral Damage

October 8th, 2012

Wow. I suddenly respect Dame Lylie ab Mantiff. She almost did what someone should have done a long time ago. Ridding the world of that trash would have been a service to all. Except, then she ruined it.

I cannot imagine she failed through lack of skill. So she chose not to go through with it. That was mistake number one.

Then she went and turned herself in and confessed her “crime.” This was mistake number two.

Lastly, she chose death over life on the battlefront. The queen saved her from mistake number three.

It almost appeared to turn into a battle royal in River Square. That would have been entertaining. For some bizarre reason, though, losing Lylie would  have made me sad. That could come back to haunt me someday.

Pawn to King 4

October 8th, 2012

I didn’t need to do much. A few words to the Queen, some convincing to the bardlet that her silence would hurt others the way he hurt her. The full weight of justice may have been less than I expected, but it is done, and perhaps more cruel than the block. Whatever he does now, he does it as a new man, a new villain, from a different position — one that can be handled far more directly.

Checkmate, Yves mal Renarde.

Now, what evils will our new Justiciar work upon the city? Time will tell, and I’m leaving this place for a while anyway.

As dark as Erebus

September 27th, 2012

Let it be known, that I actually like Grand Magnate Eniven dul Capay.

The man is the quintessential Vavardi – money and power are his goals, and pity the man or woman that stands between them. But he likes his pleasures, and if rumors be believed, with many, many women. Why should I care? His proposal, no matter how he protested otherwise, was political. The fact that we get along, and that our interests are,for now, alligned, that was, perhaps, a small factor in his choice.

Eniven dul Capay wanted to marry me. I can see the wisdom in such a play. His shrewdness leaves me in awe, at times. If my goals were like his, I probably should have done so. He accepts Leesa and I, he would have understood that for both of us, this wedding would have been as Vavardi as they get. The protections being married to a man would have afforded me from some prying eyes would have also been of value. Still, I love her, not him. She’s my everything. And she wants to marry me. I won’t deny her that. There’s also Eniven’s darker side. I saw it in the Divine that day, with Barrows and Mara’aye and Eiric. It scared me, just a little. I’ve always been proud that I stood up to him without flinching. I think he respected it, too, although at the time it enraged him. What would happen if our interests ended at cross purposes again? The man is utterly ruthless. I suppose I actually find that (dare I say it?) attractive. Leesa’s name is the definition of ruthlessness in her obsession with protecting me. But Eniven’s priority would never be me, or us. That ruthlessness could be turned against me. Leesa’s never will. And there are secrets I could never tell him, which makes him a poor protection, since he becomes the prying eye, and has a closer platform from which to get a good view. Lastly, his dalliances would never stop. I wouldn’t have cared, from a mere personal view, however, I will not be the woman people whispers about around town because she cannot keep her husband satisfied. There’s a measure of vanity and pride involved here.

So I turned him down. And he accepted it. I believe we can still be allies, and friends. He and I, we understand each other, I think.

I hope.

For every action…

September 24th, 2012

The tavern wench deserved what she got, and then some. When I heard what she said about my little Leia — what she did, or perhaps, more damningly, what she was proud of doing, I snapped. I fear what would have happened in there if Annalesa hadn’t helped me learn to control my emotions in what seems like an eternity ago. Was it only six months? It doesn’t matter. I’ve never felt such rage, such righteous wrath, and I swear I nearly killed the bitch, and with my bare hands no less. Little me. And for a while, I felt justified. I mean, what mother wouldn’t?

My first twinge of conscience came when I saw Leia later the next day. You’d think that would make me more satisfied, yes? But instead, when she asked me how my previous night had been, I couldn’t tell her. I didn’t say a thing. What was I supposed to say? I beat your old mother up. I hurt her real bad. Aren’t you happy? I did it for you!  That’s not going to make her feel better. And suddenly I realized that the vengeance I took, it wasn’t for her; it was for me. What right did I have?

Then the Grand Inquisitor sent a courier for me. She’d heard. Who hadn’t? I wasn’t putting any effort into controlling the damage. The rumors were rather flattering, actually. People like vengeance. They’re as flawed as I am. And she practically dragged me by the ear straight to confession. You know what? For once, I was sincere in there. I poured my heart out. You know, for someone who burns people for a living, ab Trenica’s not entirely without a heart, herself. She understood, she empathized. And because she understood and empathized, she was, perhaps, rather severe in the penance given.

And I accepted it, happily. Oh, there were times over the last month where I wanted to find a way around it, as Orban so bluntly reminded me. But I accepted it. I needed it. For myself, if nothing more. I am not here to bring vengeance into the world. I am here to bring a light of hope. And then when I went to adopt Leia, Magistrate Wendbridge casually fined me a crown for my violence in the Queen’s Tavern. Just to rub salt into the wound, as it were. Thankfully, dul Capay practically paid that for me last night.

Ah, the Grand Magnate. I’ll write about him another day.

Poet Knight takes Rook.

September 20th, 2012

This game of chess we play in Lithmore, it’s truly terrifying when you stop to look at it.   Those of us who start dabbling in wielding our fellows as pieces do so knowing that we place – not just our own lives, but also those whom we love – on the board willingly, always wondering when someone will use us as their own sacrificial pawns. There are always new peices on the board, new factions, new allies, new threats. Sometimes our existing peices can turn on us, becoming our masters, or our enemies. It’s all so wonderfully chaotic and macabre.

Still, don’t let anyone ever say a mere Bard can’t set events in motion with a gentle nudge in the right direction. The only question is, how dangerous a gambit am I playing?

Check, Mister mal Renarde.

Something wicked this way comes…

September 18th, 2012

There are those in Lithmore I have feared — and in some cases, still do.

There are those in Lithmore I have disliked — and in some cases, still do.

There are those I have pitied, those who frustrate me, those who make me want to scream in rage. But until now, there has never been one I trulyhated.  It feels wrong. There’s something not right in my heart when I think about this feeling. People shouldn’t feel this for other people.

His position stands for Justice itself. But the scales are out of balance, he makes a mockery of the word justice. The Poet Laudate practically declared war on him yesterday, and my heart rose in jubilation.

I wish I could tell you, Mistress Martine op Fournier, but this is a war we can win. Justice doesn’t always come from where you think it will.

Hush little baby, don’t say a word…

September 18th, 2012

I love her.

The Grand Inquisitor is going to work with the Reeves so I can adopt her. She already calls me ‘mommy.’ She is already my daughter in a way they cannot ever understand, and a peice of Annalesa will live on in her as well, as it does in me. She was in need, and I can help. So how could I refuse? Besides, Leesa and I will obviously never be able to have our own. So Leia will be our legacy, and Lord willing, she will be a name the five dutches will never, ever forget. She will be able to do what I cannot. I can already tell she is meant for greatness.

My dearest Leia, as long as I draw breath, and even beyond, you will have family who love you.

Something old, something new…

September 18th, 2012

I love her.

I never thought that it woud make a difference. Why should it? In Tubor it would mean we were professed to each other for all to know, and they would celebrate with us every day for the rest of our lives together. Here, it is yet another dangerous secret that we must hide. It’s not like the approval of the Church means anything to me. Why should I be excited?

I want to belong to her.Forever. When the Lord of Springs finally accepts our souls, be that soon or in decades, I want it to be with Him recognizing we are soulmates. When I visit my family, I want her to be part of it. I wish I could shout it from the roof of the theatre for all of Lithmore to know, but I will settle for this. Because in the end, all I need is her.

My dearest Leesa, the answer could only ever be “yes- for always.”

 

A rose by any other name…

September 12th, 2012

Leesa thinks I’m suicidal. I’m not. Not at all. Too many people need me, and even with Anna gone, I love life too much. I have far too much to do. The problem is, doing it is problematic. Everything is a risk. I am getting the impression she won’t be happy unless I lock myself in a room and hide from the world.

I’m not really being fair. Alright, I’m taking unnecessary risks, and that’s bad. But it’s not grief or a lack of caring or sense that is making me do so. It’s an overabundance of compassion and perhaps a guilty conscience. Can I really excise those things and remain who I am?

Would she still love me if I changed?

What is wrong with me? (In no particular order…)

September 11th, 2012

Leesa is right.

Anna’s death has sent me into a spiral that is going to get me killed. I need to think before I do things. I need to regain my paranoia. Except I’ve spent a year with my work in limbo while I became a bard and played at being a model citizen. There’s simply no way for me to do what I need to do without taking deadly risks, but there’s so much going on, and new things are happening everywhere and I haven’t had time to process it all and I think if I don’t stop, I’ll be the one going mad.

Besides, she’s alive. I can feel her.  I can feel her presence when sitting by the fire pits in the theatre, when I practice my music in private, I can feel her in the smile of my ward, Leia Teagan.

Leia – Why did they set her free? Since when did the Order need more than the faintest suspicion to burn someone? I will understand her. I can get her to open up. I don’t know if i can protect her, but I will give her the opportunity her mother did not. But she’s quiet as a mouse.

Mai. Now she is a mouse. Was I wrong to do what I did? I suppose with the result being what it was, I certainly wasn’t right. I still think it’s the best place for her. I still think she needs us, and she could be useful to us. But Leesa isn’t sure if the girl can stay quiet, if she can keep her mouth shut. If only she had Ashe’s problem.

Ashe! What is wrong with her? The pretty little mute is going to get us all killed, if I don’t. She needs to think with her head and not her quim, and now she’s disappeared. She’s becoming a serious problem. Yet who am I to judge?

I’m a hypocrite. I had to protect them, they were just kids and they were getting shredded in their search. It was so stupid. If anyone finds out…

Gavin. He might protect us, if he can. He knows why I’m doing what I’m doing. He knows that every action I’ve taken has been for the five dutchies, that I’m one of the Queen’s biggest supporters. He knows the things I’ve already done – I’ve saved Montford, and I’ve been instrumental in bringing in Ramil Barrows for what he did.

I watched Barrows burn. It brought me no satisfaction, as I thought it would. I wanted to believe it would help Anna rest, but I’m not sure it was him anymore. Lord le Orban’s doubts…

Ariel – I’m beginning to trust him. I’m beginning to like him. I can feel myself starting to confide in him, to lean on him, to view him as a friend. And yet inside, I still know he’s poison. I still know he’s always dangerous — if he discovered my work… Martine was right.

Martine! O sweet Lord of Springs… She’s back. I’m so happy, i wish she could stay. I wasn’t wrong, we could have loved each other. And I suppose we do. I am so happy to have her there, but she’ll disappear again – she has to do so. All the advice she gave me on discretion and caution, and she ignored it herself. And then I read her diary.

 

She meant for me to replace her as Poet Laudate all along.

 

I actually think Orban does, too. I don’t know whether to adore her for her expectations, or be furious for foisting this upon me already, without even talking to me about it. I can barely handle being the Poet Knight. That’s just not right. It’s not. I can’t be what they want. I still haven’t figured out how to be what I want. To be what Leesa wants…

Leesa. My angel. I love you so much. I need you. Every ounce of strength I have left is coming from you.  I should let you read this. The only secrets I keep from you are those hidden in the chaos of my own thoughts, that even I cannot easily uncover. Please don’t be angry with me.

The Ones We Love

September 5th, 2012

I haven’t written anything but music since leaving Tubor over a year ago. With the trauma that accompanied that event, I felt it best that my words consigned themselves to the Pyre, my thoughts never again dirtying the cleanliness of the white page. Perhaps it is only fitting that new tragedy is what changes my mind.

I loved Annalesa Cutter.

No, I love Annalesa Cutter. That doesn’t change with her demise, nor the name she was going by at any given time.

We are all flawed, every one of us. Call it sin, imperfection, taint, or just “making mistakes,” none of us are perfect. And yet we have a tendency to judge others for their flaws. Hypocrisy is yet another imperfection that we all must fight against, and in the end, most or all of us still lose at times. So I try to make it my goal not to judge others for their foibles.  It is in recognizing the strengths of character in others, regardless of their imperfections, that we can become better ourselves. Sabin’s strength of character and fortitude trumps the impossible standards to which he holds those around him. Lady ab Flewelling’s well-hidden compassion and open bravery  far outstrips her social ineptitude. So while I will not argue with anyone who points out Annalesa’s flaws, or the things she recently did, whether by insanity or magical compulsion, I do not judge her by them. I even have conceded that what happened to her was necessary, and gave comfort to the one who weilded the sword that ended her. But I’m not here to speak of those things.

Annalesa was like a sister to me, and more. Her loyalty, her unconditional, yet tough love–she was a strength that supported me when I was too battered and weak to support myself, and she awakened in me power of my own. While she has departed this Urth, some of her essence will be here, as long as I live. And I like to think she’s already carried some part of me with her to the arms of the Lord of Springs. So whatever you say about her flaws –and of course, she had them, just like all of us– they don’t matter to me. She was –and always will be– my friend. And rather than sit here continuing to cry in self pity for my loss, today I will make use of the strength she gave me, and go on with my life, knowing she is forever in my soul.

Rest in peace, Anna. I miss you.

Isn’t it neat?

July 16th, 2012

(OOC)

Some of you may know a certain song by a mermaid named Ariel. Well the original version was also sung by a “Princess” Ariel, but one with fewer scales, and a greater feminine presence: Our own manly bard, Baron Ariel op Orban:

 

Look at my stuff
Check out my hair
How many gemstones can one noble wear?
Wouldn’t you think I’m the bard-
The bard who has everything?
Look at my trove
Check out my chest
Don’t you think Tubori-born nobles are best?
Looking around here you’d think
Sure, he’s got everything
I’ve got silk, gold and jewelry aplenty
I’ve got servants and horses galore
You want cargo ships?
I’ve got twenty!
But who cares?
No big deal!
I want more!

I wanna be where the inquisitors are
I wanna see lots of mages burnin’
Writhing and screaming on that – what do you call it?
Oh – Pyre!
Castin’ your spells you won’t be with Dav
Purification is what is needed
Burning away all your -what’s that word again?
Taint!
Up where they sizzle! Up where they fry!
Up where they barbeque and then die!
Set their souls free – don’t let them flee!
Set them on fire!

A Stone Cottage outside the Redcliffs of Tubor

July 11th, 2012

Daramand le Soyez shook his head, thinking about the day before as Miss le Loaysa had told the story of her father’s death. She omitted her involvement in it, but through The Great Void Daramand had aheard what he needed to hear.

“You did what you had to do to protect her, Leesa,” the man had said simply. Leesa’s skin paled, but she nodded solemnly just the same. “Now you should go to her. No, not to bring her back. Her innocence and faith and exhuberance has done its job here. I truly believe we will spread through Tubor, now. They cannot stop it. But Lithmore needs her. Go to her, and continue to protect her. Do what she cannot — what she should not.”

Now they were both gone. And as much as he missed them, it was for the best. She was charismatic, and while that was invaluable in such a movement, it was also dangerous. Charismatic people drew attention. Daramand was pragmatic, but he didn’t want to see young Miss le Salyndri turned into a burning martyr for their cause, and more importantly, he didn’t want her to become a beacon that drew the inquisitors to the Faith of the Rose. Talya le Salyndri was not the most subtle person in the world.

The tapestry he had commissioned was complete. The image of miss le Salyndri in her green leathers, holding a rose, subtlely framed by feathery wings.

Anything that undermined the church was good for the Manus. The fact that Miss le Salyndri’s faith was good for the people in it as well was just a bonus. Did he really believe it? Maybe. It didn’t matter. It was a good way to live. And it advanced his other cause. Maybe she had made a believer out of him.

 

 

Den of the High Inquisitor – The Purification (Epilogue)

July 6th, 2012

High Inquisitor le Loaysa shook his head, stunned.  This new heresy, subtle enough to hide on people’s tongues in plain view and not be noticed, but different enough to corrupt the faithful of Dav. And the girl had infected Tubor with it. He shouldn’t have sent her away. It would just restart in Lithmore. And then there was the fire spreading again–the unlikely coincidence of it all.

“I’ll have to send to the Inquisitors of Lithmore,” he murmurred aloud. “We’ll have her deported back here. The least I can do for her is to purify her at home,” he sighed. He set the diary down on the table.

The door creaked behind him. He turned suddenly. There was the raven-haired object of all his affection, his daughter, Leesa, with a horrified look on her face.

“Daddy, you wouldn’t…you CAN’T!” the girl pleaded, her eyes filled with tears.

“My daughter, you don’t understand. You will. I’m saving her, for her own good. And in her purification you will learn your own folly and return to Dav,” the Inquisitor intoned with sadness. He stood and walked toward Leesa.

“Daddy, you can’t do this,” Leesa demanded. Never had a voice so level and soft sounded so much like a scream. The Inquisitor couldn’t bear the pain he was inflicting, but it had to be done. He almost sobbed himself.

“Leesa, it will be alright. She will be in Dav’s embrace,” he approached his daughter, wrapping his arms around her, pulling her close. “Everything will be alright. I’ll take care of…”

His heart had felt so heavy, he had been sure it was turning to stone with what he was doing. So it surprised him when the stone felt the nick of the blade Leesa had shoved into his chest. It didn’t peirce his heart through, but even where it was, he staggered back, gasping. Another inch and he would have died instantly. He looked down in surprise at the blade , Leesa’s hand still holding the handle as she pulled it out. He fell to his knees, swallowing hard, as his shirt blossomed with crimson.

“Leesa?”

His daughter pushed him back to the floor harshly. He lie there bleeding, in disbelief. Leesa grabbed a skin of lamp-oil, and began pouring it around the room, including over her father’s legs and body.

“Leesa, what are you doing?” he managed to rasp.

The girl had a cold expression on her face, resolute. There was no more sadness, no regret. Just dedication and purpose.

“Be at peace, daddy,” she finally whispered. She took Talya’s diary from the table where her father had left it, and walked over to the fireplace. Kneeling, she held the edge of the book in the fire for a few seconds, until the corner had caught fire. “Soon, all your sins will be burned away, and the Lord of Springs will welcome your purified soul into His arms.”

The Inquisitor’s eyes went wide as his daughter looked back at him and tossed the burning book into the puddle of oil at his legs. The fire spread instantly, the skin on his legs starting to bubble within a couple seconds. The agony of his blood curdling scream wasn’t cut off in time for him to avoid  seeing the calm contempt on Leesa’s face as she watched him burn. As the flames spread further in the room, she eventually turned away. His eyes functioned long enough for him to watch her walk out the door as his fleshed was seared away.

 

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: Like Moths to the Flame

July 6th, 2012

Everything transpired in what seemed like an instant. I still don’t know what happened.

Leesa had actually travelled away from the Redcliffs to the Rapier, she had a lead on starting another chapter there. Everything had been moving so quickly. There are dozens of us now, chapters forming in neighboring Pertport, Penmoor even as far as the Throat. We were starting to feel unstoppable. So when the knights burst in shouting that everyone was to halt and submit to search, I think there was more than a little bit of shock. It was a “coming down to Urth,” as it were…however brief such a return was.

I don’t know how the fire started. The knights quickly went from shouting for us to stand still, to shouting to bring water. The entire pamphlet storage was ablaze…three, no– four locations at once it seemed. I was in a bit of a daze, but Daramond was hurrying me out the back exit in the confusion, and getting me home. The ensuing chaos in the marketplace ensured nobody chased us. But if they knew how to find us…if they know I was involved…

There is someone knocking on the door. One of the servants will get it, but at this hour, who could it be?

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: A Road Through Flames

July 1st, 2012

We started it, it’s true. But now it has a life of its own. Its spreading like the fire which will eventually consume those who are caught once the Inquisitors begin to catch on. At first, I did not believe there was enough fuel for the fire to spread. The few of us here were barely kindling. But people are flocking, being gathered and harvested from the branches of the tree of the Church of Dav itself.  I dare not hope that we may build a fire that spreads so far and deep as to purify and cleanse the black soul of our  corrupt and cruel society.

The strangest thing, though; today I met a Charali woman in the marketplace. I did not know how she knew my connection, to these events, but she came to me with one of our pamphlets. At first she spoke of the cult of Transcendent Ecstasy as a wickedness, and Leesa had already drawn her dagger from the shadows in case the woman was about to run to the Inquisitors.

But she did not. She began commending us for taking a selfish philosophy and giving it meaning and purpose. Then she told me a fascinating story, about a Charali woman named Shari Tannil. The story she repeated to me was as follows:

Shari Tannil was a good Charali woman. She was happily married with four growing children at the age of nineteen.  All this changed one day as she was at market.  The marketplace was abuzz as a shooting star was seen at noonday and a roaring noise was heard.

When Shari returned home she found their humble cabin a smoking ruin.  The shattered body of her husband, clutching the charred body of their youngest to his breast, lay before the scorched building.  Crying her grief, Shari searched the wreckage for sign of her other children.

No trace was found.  Rather, Shari stumbled across that which caused the devastation.  There was a man-sized chunk of glowing material.  Falling on her knees, Shari wept out her sorrow.  Hours later, finally able to control herself, she returned to the large object.  Even her untrained eye was able to recognize it as a chunk of pure obtanium.

She sat and fasted for three days, planning to die, and merely stared at the metal.  At the end of this time she stood, with purpose renewed.  Shari returned to market and hired the services of stone-masons, lumberjacks, carpenters, and several smiths.  When asked how she would pay for their services, she merely asked them to follow her.

Leading the entourage to her destroyed home, she bargained away small quantities of the metal to each worker.  In exchange they built upon that site a mighty edifice of heavy stone and carved wooden screenings.  Within was a single large chamber, high arched ceiling and coloured glass windows making it a hallowed, yet sorrowful, place.

This was the first church of the Path of Fire.  At the far end, opposite the door, Shari sat upon a shining throne of obtanium.  A shackle around her ankle connected to the throne with a solid chain of obtanium.  At this, Shari became the first Lady of Suffering.  (see HELP PATH OF FIRE on TI-LEGACY)

The woman then told me that  our work in this revival of the Cult of Transcendent Ecstasy was doing the work that those who followed the Path of Fire were commissioned to do. They pass their suffering onto the Lady, and she takes it upon herself so that others may have joy. In exchange, all men and women must bring joy to others. While our cult has a more … carnal application than is traditional for the Path of Fire, she told me that she would bring news of our good work to the current Lady of Suffering, and that any among the Path should consider us their brothers and sisters. With that, she ran her fingers through my hair, and told me that the Path wasn’t just in my heart, but in my very blood.

I don’t know what to think of this…any of it. An ancient pagan Charali faith long chased out of the duchies, and I’m unwittingly doing its bidding? I will need to talk to my father and find out what he knows of this Path of Fire.

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: The Sacred Feminine

June 23rd, 2012

Daramand is a believer.

The events of the fire shocked many followers of the path of Transcendant Ecstasy here in Tubor. But of course, they were not there.  This begs the question, ‘Why were they not there?’ They did not attend regularly because the cult did not satisfy their spiritual hunger. Oh, it did so better than the ‘Holy’ Church of Dav. But it did so because of what it was not, instead of because of what it was. If the best you can say about a faith is that “It is mostly harmless,” then there’s not much point to its existence. They needed more.

Daramand needed more. It took a few drinks and a very low cut top, but he opened up to me when he wouldn’t to Leesa. He now knows. He knows everything. He knows what transpired night of the fire, and he knows our new manifesto. Better yet, he’s a man of means. He knows the other members of the Cult here on the Islands, and he has the facilities to print pamphlets.

Pamphlets? That doesn’t sound very clandestine. He believes it can be. And he believes it’s necessary. After talking with us both at length, he believes we have discovered some fundamental truth about life, something the Cult was previously missing. He also believes that if the pamphlets are handled correctly, they will not be directly incriminating as heretical. They can be designed to arouse interest without stating things that would bring the inquisitors down upon us.

Suddenly, we are not alone. We have five others in addition to Daramand that have eagerly joined our cause. Leesa works tirelessly, but it’s not her they’re looking to. It’s me. Why me? I’m just a girl. Leesa says I’m a born leader, born for great things, she saw it in me from the beginning. She says she’s proud to be at my side.

I think she’s a little biased.

High Priestess. That’s what they’re calling me. I’m just a musician, still a girl. Yet I can’t help but be just a little excited by it all. The patriarchal Church in Lithmore would have a fit. But then they forget that their own Chalice is a feminine yonic symbol – it is a container, it is the source of life and motherhood.

I have to go check on the pamphlets.

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: Seeking Communion

June 21st, 2012

Leesa, as a member of the local Troubadour’s guild, has a lot of contacts. But what we’re trying to do is dangerous. She can’t just go around asking people what they think of our three principles. Even with her father being High Inquisitor, she’d end up on a pyre as surely as if she started shooting lightning bolts out of her eyes in the public square. We needed a plan. And Leesa delivered. Searching through her father’s office, she found a list of suspect members of the Cult of Transcendant Ecstasy. How accurate is it? I can’t tell for sure, obviously, but it mentions the fire that burned a house full of them, saving the Inquisition the trouble of burning doing it. We are carefully making contact with them, and getting a feel for if any of them are spiritually minded enough to really make a go of this.

Urth is an unhappy place. With all the terrible things that people must face on a daily basis, if we could spread a little cheer and hope, it will all be worth it.

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: Transcendental Ecstasy – Folly and Revival

June 20th, 2012

The crazy Lithmorran Cult of Transcendental Ecstasy are obviously not our favourite people. Their “religion” is just an excuse to indulge in all manner of excess and hedonism. These things aren’t problems on their own, but by making “finding pleasure” your religious doctrine, you legitimize people like those that died in that horrible fire. The problem is, their ideas are not entirely wrong.

Leesa and I didn’t mention them again for several weeks after the incident. But finally I had to talk about it. Just because they had been so corrupted, doesn’t mean the entire doctrine is unsalvageable. So we started working out what was wrong with their religious beliefs, and how to correct them.

Vavardi Davites often practice a similar morality without the religious impetus behind it, thereby avoiding the charges of heresy. They do not seem to fare any worse for it. And while I do not think such a lifestyle is for me, I do not see the harm in it. Ulike the Cult, however,the Vavardi lifestyle is in conflict with their religious values. Such hypocrisy ruins the appeal for anyone with a spiritual mindset.

I asked Leesa, and between us we came up with a new doctrine for Transcendental Ecstasy. Is this a manifesto? I don’t think i would go that far, but if everyone followed these principles, the world would be a better place.

1) If it doesn’t harm anyone, do whatever you wish and you commit no sin.
2) The purpose of life is Happiness;to enjoy oneself.  Helping others to attain to that purpose is a great virtue. Merely avoiding harming others is not enough, you must actively try to make the world a happier place, both for yourself and others.
3) Love is the greatest happiness. Romance should be revelled in, esteemed, and be the focus of one’s life, both for yourself and for others.

These three principles can be applied in various ways to almost all situations in life. For example, a corollary to the first principle is that there is no right or wrong romance; If you both agree to live a lifestyle open to multiple romances, well, that’s between the two of you and not a problem, but if you tell someone you will be faithful and exclusive, then sleep with half the town, you are doing harm and in violation.

Do these things and the Lord of Springs will never fault you. Live a life by these standards and both your current life and the one to come will be rewarding.

 

Den of the High Inquisitor – Part 6

June 20th, 2012

He flipped through page after page of notes, and there was no more mention of fire. Unless one counted their “burning love” or the “heat of passion.” His guilt over separating them was easily overcome by his distaste for reading such things about his own daughter, even if she was the aggressor in this relationship.  They even spoke of marriage. Only in Tubor was such a thing really possible, and the Salyndri girl was still a year away from marriageable age here, but it quickly became evident to him that this was no mere whirlwind summer romance. They were serious.

And still no mention of the mage-fire. Perhaps it hadn’t been one of them after all? Perhaps there was no mage. Perhaps in the confusion someone had knocked over an oil lamp, there were many explanations. Talya le Salyndri didn’t appear to suspect witchcraft at all.

I’ll give her a year. A year in Lithmore. Then I’ll send her a letter telling her she is free to come home. If their love can survive that year, they deserve to be together, he thought to himself. There was simply no real evidence of anything that wasn’t completely acceptable in these islands. He’d accept it. It was only fair.

He was about to close the journal, when the next entry caught his eye.

Den of the High Inquisitor – Part 5

June 15th, 2012

He must have reread that last entry a dozen times. The first few times, he needed a mug of mead to be able to try reading it again, but soon he realized he was not going to be able to remain conscious if he kept drinking.

One the one hand, those two had learned the folly of heresy, without any permanent harm to themselves, and before the Church had to teach it to them with Fire. He should have been relieved. But this bit about the fire. He remembered the night. People said by the time they noticed the fire, the entire home was a pyre. It had later spread to other buildings, but thankfully the residents got out of them first.  The whole affair screamed witchcraft. He would have been happy thinking it was one of the Heretics who died there, except this wasn’t the last such event during the past year.

He didn’t believe it could be the Salyndri girl. She had no idea what was happening, it was obvious. And it’s not like she’d fail to write something down to protect herself. If she’d had that preservation instinct, this journal he was reading would not exist.

Was it his daughter? Was he going to have to consign Leesa to the flames to save her soul? The Inquisitor shuddered. Forgiving a little heresy, when someone could repent, that was one thing. But mages needed the pyre. They needed the sweet purifying touch of the flame to cleanse themselves to reach the Lord’s side. He loved his daughter with all his heart. If Leesa was a mage, he’d light the pyre himself. Any loving father would. But if she wasn’t?

He would not burn her without proof.  Nor was he going to raise suspicion among the order prematurely. Talya had wrote a lot more. Perhaps the answer was in the journal.

He looked longingly at the jug of mead, before deciding against it and continuing on into the diaries.

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: Guardian Angel of Wrath

June 14th, 2012

{The ink on this page is stained with tears}

The second stage of initiation exposed this cult for what it is.

The man had said to us, it was all well and good that we embraced ecstasy with each other, and he thanked us for our demonstration. But to show our commitment to the cult, we would need to embrace it with them all of our brothers and sisters, we would all love each other. Initially, Leesa was encouraging for me here. I was reluctant. She spoke calmly, she tried to help me. But when the man touched me, I panicked. I refused. He did not take no for an answer.

After several attempts were made, he became more forceful. I lashed out at him. I’m not a big woman, a slap from me barely leaves a pink mark. He flew into a rage. He tried to force himself. It all happened so quickly. One moment his hands were pushing my knees, and the next, the tip of a blade burst through his neck, splattering blood all over me. As the man fell, Leesa had positioned herself between the others and me, standing there like a goddess holding a bloody dagger. She was shouting something, something about getting my dagger.  The others all looked as shocked as I did, but then they started to look angry. Leesa told me to grab my clothes and RUN.

We did. But I still don’t understand what happened next. We ran, into the streets, naked as the day we were born. Fortunately it was late at night, nobody was outside. We thought they would chase us, but they didn’t. I didn’t have to worry about the dead man, what would happen when the reeves found out– they never will. As I stared back at the place with hatred, it…simply burned. It caught fire and spread as if someone had doused the place in lantern oil. I hope they were mages, because I don’t think any of them got out alive. I still hear their screams.

Leesa consoled me a long time. I think she feels guilty. She shouldn’t. We were in this together. And if it weren’t for her, I’d never have gotten out of it. She’s asleep now in my bed. I had to get up to write this to collect my thoughts as soon as I could. And when I feel the panic begin to set in, all I have to do is look at her face. My guardian angel. She killed a man. For me.

Dav killed the rest. Very soon I’m going to start feeling remorse for the glee I felt at their screams.

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: The Fall

June 14th, 2012

Tubor doesn’t have much for Autumn. Unlike in Lithmore, where the leaves turn red, (Leesa says they’re beautiful like the color of my hair), the forests here are tropical, forever green.  In the coldest parts of winter, it’s only mildly chilly. We occasionally see frost, but it’s rare.

On the autumnal equinox, then, we went to meet with the cult.  They welcomed us with open arms. When we told our story they were too happy to welcome us in. But there’s the initiation. It’s in several stages. The first stage, is that they wanted Leesa and I to … demonstrate our love, for all of them to see.

There are two types of musicians. There are musicians who play to hear the music. Then there are musicians who play so that other people can hear them play the music. The latter…the entertainers, they become bards, troubadors. I’ve done this before; I played a child in a musical tragedy about a man who stole a loaf of bread to survive. I sang a song in front of a large crowd called “Castle on a cloud.” And I have performed in front of others since then, for various reasons. There’s a thrill to the performance of any song. Being the focus of so much attention is intoxication greater than wine. The introduction sets the mood, loosening up the audience, increasing the level of excitement, creating anticipation. Then the song begins, the repetitive, yet intricate, skillful motions, mouths and tongues moving with vocal precision, fingers skillfuly manipulating ones instruments. Inevitably, we arrive at the bridge, or a refrain, where the patterns change, the rythms are adjusted, hastening or delaying the inevitable, ecstatic climax, which, when it comes, is often a high note nobody thought you could hit, held so long you think your lungs will burst. You know when you did it right. There’s a breathless, exhausted elation, a satisfied glow, for both performer and audience. It is truly a spiritual experience. I love performing music.

I don’t know what the second stage of the initiation is, yet.

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: Home is Where the Heretics Are

June 13th, 2012

Leesa found them. There is a local chapter of the Cult of Transcendent Ecstasy right here. I’m not sure what I think of this. While they have some good ideas. I’m not entirely in agreement with them. And there’s also their rather… bawdy reputation.

Leesa has her own interpretation of the doctrine of Transcendent Ecstasy. She says their idea about the balance of pleasure versus pain is correct, but it’s not about how much pleasure or pain you personally experience in life. That’s not what is counted when you die. What matters is how much pleasure you bring or pain you inflict to the world around you.

Leesa is on to something there, I think. I’ve agreed to go with her to meet with some of their leaders.

The Den of the High Inquisitor – Part 4

June 13th, 2012

He thumbed through pages upon pages of flowery words expressing how wonderful the world was, how beautiful Leesa was, how much they had in common, how much she loved his daughter.

“I believe you, Talya,” the man said, wiping his eyes involuntarily.  He knew, academicly, that while Love was natural and a gift from the Lord, the demons had perverted it and used it as a lure to corrupt mortals. Still, there was an innocence about Salyndri’s words. He knew then and there that this young girl… young woman …was a pure soul, no matter what path she had found herself walking.  The more he read, the more he became angry with his own daughter, Leesa, for forcing this pain upon all of them. Innocence and beauty and love … it was wrong to make him the one to hve to tear it apart, he thought to himself, flipping another page absently. But as he did, something caught his eye and he turned the page back. His face drained of colour.

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: Heaven on Urth

June 13th, 2012

Life is wonderful. Summer has gone by so quickly. Every day the word seems brighter, greener.

I love her.

The Den of the High Inquisitor – Part 3

June 13th, 2012

Raulle.

He threw the book down and fought the urge to spit on his own floor in disgust. If only his real name were Raulle. The Inquisition been hunting the one called Raulle for years, but nobody knew his real name, and the descriptions ranged so far and so vague that he had almost nothing to go on. Maybe Leesa would tell him something?

No, Leesa might never talk to him again, now that the Salyndri girl was gone. He poured himself a stronger drink than wine, and savored it, sanitizing the taste of the heresy he was reading about from his mouth. When he was done, he forced himself to pick up the book again and keep reading.

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: The Cult

June 13th, 2012

Leesa wanted to go too, so we went. There were only a few people in the house. The man who saw us in the park was there.  He called himself Raulle. So was a tall woman wearing black leather, and some others. They insisted there were more that met there, but until they were sure of us, we would not meet them.

Raulle explained their doctrine to us. He says the Lord of the Spring made us capable of feeling both pleasure and pain. It should be obvious to any thinking person which was meant for us and which was not. Therefore, our duty was to maximize pleasure, and avoid pain. When we die, the balance will tell us whether our afterlife would be spent in ecstasy or agony.

It is simple. It is elegant. And it is WRONG. Oh, much of what he teaches is appealling, and sounds right. But his cult would say that the unfortunate in life are destined for more misfortune in death, while the privileged have a fast-track to paradise. Still, Leesa pointed out to me that there was a certain acceptance among them. If these cultists had their way, nobody would lack for pleasure, and nobody would inflict pain. How can you argue with such simple beauty? How can you say that those who approve of what Leesa and I have are evil, while those who would burn us are good?

We’re leaving for Tubor again. We won’t be back here, I’ll never see these cultists again. That’s probably for the best. Even in Tubor, you’d get burned for this.

 

 

 

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: God is in the Details

June 12th, 2012

The concert was on the mainland, near Lithmore. It was wonderful. And so hard. Music is life, love, emotion. It evokes so many things in my heart, and the love of my life was sitting right beside me enjoying it as well, but I dared not even hold her hand lest someone suspect.

After the concert we walked through the central park, hand in hand. It was deserted so I stole a kiss. For that one moment, I stopped worrying.

We should never stop worrying. A man saw us. He approached us. At first we were afraid he was an inquisitor. But he wasn’t. He told us we should not have to hide what we are, that the Lord could never condemn us for enjoying the pleasures we were given. He gave us two leaflets, a meeting to attend. He told us not to worry, that we would never regret it if we attended. Our minds and hearts would be opened and our love would be affirmed.

We went back to the inn and talked about it. We’re going to be in town another couple days. Maybe.

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: The Angel Opens My Eyes

June 12th, 2012

I went for lessons today at Leesa’s. She taught me so much, but nothing I ever could have learned playing the lute. Something is gnawing at the back of my mind. Leesa asked if I feel guilty. I don’t. Not at all. It was wonderful. There is no way the Lord would condemn something so beautiful. Lithmorrans are WRONG.  After all, it’s not like they can speak with the heavens. Attempting such divination would be sorcery, which is forbidden. So how would they know what is truly good or bad?

After it all, she worked me extra hard on the lute. She told me of a concerto in city near Lithmore whic she has tickets to. She would like me to attend with her. I’m so excited.

 

The Den of the High Inquisitor – Part 2

June 12th, 2012

The man closed the book, his finger holding his spot, unable to read further.

He knew it to be true. Leesa had instigated all of this this. His daughter had corrupted that innocent young Salyndri girl. And he had exiled her for it, all to protect his hedonistic offspring. But he was a father. What else could he do?

“If I hadn’t, they’d both have faced the flame for their associations with the cult. It was a kindness. It was mercy,” He told himself that aloud, and not for the first time. Besides, it’s not as if the daughter of that unholy union with the nomad could really be innocent. Those Charali nomads were really still heretics underneath their new Davite veneer. Talya couldn’t be any better. Hells, Tubori morality in this regard was more than suspect, too. Why had he raised his daughter in this brothel of a nation?

No. He was deflecting. He had too much self integrity to allow himself to go further down that path. He may have saved both their souls by separating them now. He had done a good thing, especially for the Salyndri girl. His daughter on the other hand, what had led up to her perversion? He got up, poured himself a glass of wine, and downed it one gulp, before pouring another. Sat down again, and with some reluctance, opened up the book to continue reading.

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: In Lieu of Lessons

June 12th, 2012

Al**ys li*t*n to A*gl*s.

{blood smears the previous entry, making it mostly illegible.}

==============================

Leesa could have said she told me so. When she saw my bandaged fingers she laughed at me and said it was alright. Most people have to learn the hard way, no matter what people tell them. Instead of practicing, she took me to a cove by the ocean. We had a picnic. She’s a lot like me. We talked of school and boys and God and life. She unwrapped the crude bandages I’d put on my fingers and gently wrapped new ones. She could have been a physician, with those hands. She told me if I was that determined to play, my fingers would bleed many more times before we were done practicing. I asked her if she could sing. She says her voice grates like swords on a grindstone. I don’t believe it. I could listen to her talk all day. But I sang for her.

Then she kissed me!  I thought I would run home, right then and there. But I didn’t, Lord help me. I kissed her back. Leesa told me to tell no-one. Her father is a Davite Inquisitor. I can’t imagine the Holy Church of Lithmore would approve.

It’s a very good secret.

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: The Angel

June 12th, 2012

Leesa not only plays like an angel, she is is beautiful like an angel. I envy her silky dark hair. This shock of flame on my head is all dad’s fault for being Charali. Leesa tells me it makes me look exotic and that I should flaunt it. Today she helped me play “The Winding River.” I love this song.  She says I’m learning very fast, but I should stop practicing so much. Teenagers need to experience more to life and not be so obsessed.

Leesa is a bit crazy that way.

Diary of Talya le Salyndri: The First Lesson

June 12th, 2012

Leesa plays like an angel. She is patient of my fumbling fingers. She can’t be more than two or three years older than me. How did she get to be so talented? She says I’ll be better than her someday. I highly doubt it. Even mother doesn’t play so well. But I cannot disappoint Leesa. I have to go practice.


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