Tuesday Tales: Guest Series, Part II

The Story of Cosra and the White Stone
[contributed by Catherine M.]

Once upon a time there was a Traveler woman named Cosra who greatly angered the Brown God.  No one is sure now what her crime was, or when she lived, or even what her last name was.  What is known is that for her punishment, she was fixed in the sky as a star before her final white life stone was drawn.

The Black God bound Cosra to the sky with this last white stone shining brightly at her heart.  She wept for mercy, and the god was gentle, but unyielding.  Just as it turned away to descend the night’s steps back down to its realm, it paused and murmured back to her, “Your time is not finished yet, spirit.”  And she understood that the god was displeased that the normal order of things had been subverted, and she fell quiet as its robes slipped silently down the glass stairs.

As she lay suspended in the sky, her dark hair hanging down towards the Ephemeral Realm, she grew aware that time passed with less urgency in the sky.  She watched the sun and moon swing in their silent circles.  The other stars, spirits with peaceful eyes, never spoke a word, though sometimes they sang very quietly.  Her eyes became accustomed to the darkness and the great distances of the sky, and she watched the goings-on of the Ephemeral Realm from her place.  Wars raged and calmed, rulers rose and fell.  The last of her family died, and her crime was long forgotten, even by the bards.

Then one day, a god-chosen was born to the Zikarians.  The boy’s family was the least of their clan, but the chieftain was deeply superstitious and quickly became aware of the boy’s status.  Much to the dismay of his parents, it was decided that the boy could not stay, for surely he would bring bad luck upon the land.  After passing the week at a summer festival in Ilios, his parents left him in the shrine of the gods, his fate token curled tightly in his fist.

Cosra saw all of this.

That night, she heard the robes of the Black God whisper against the glass stairs of the sky, and was surprised when the god sat beside her and strummed the silver strings that bound her.  The god opened her hand and showed the woman the token that the boy had held.  “I gave the child to the Brown God, for he was the Brown God’s chosen.  But I was at shrine first, and so I decide the fate of the token; and, briefly, of the child.”

She followed the god’s finger as it pointed to the child, who was being carried in a basket by the Brown God to a hollow in the woods of Braelin.  “You angered the gods once,” the god continued.  “Though that was many years ago.  Perhaps this night you shall make reparations for it.”

The Brown God reached its hollow and took the child from its basket.

“Tonight,” the Black God continued, “though his family left him for dead, the Brown God will gift this child with a great magic that will run in his blood and the blood of his descendants, and when he is older, he will save many lives in a war that has not yet reached the shores of the Ephemeral Realm.”  The god plucked Cosra’s bindings again, absently.  “The Brown God has asked me for a sign to the mortal realm of this blessing, and so I have come to you.”

It deftly unknotted her ties, and she put her final white stone into its hand.

The bards say that a bright star fell from the sky on the first night of Silencing in the year 668.  It burned there for seven days and seven nights, giving its light to all of Braelin.  And then, as suddenly as it had appeared, it burned out.  It was on this same night that Gerolti Mayne, the great Zikarian fire thaumaturgist, was blessed with his magic.

So I declare the story was told to me, and so I hold it to be a true and worthy account.

—Rhiannon Sharleigh, Lyric Bard of Éras.  Given at Esos this 13th day of Reaping, 1042.

Folkloric Fridays, Part VIII: Felícian Kólar, chosen of the White God

Felícian Kólar, chosen of the White God.  Felícian Kólar was a Serenite artisan and skilled apothecary who attended the thysia who fought in Belváros.  Once a day for many years, Kólar made a point to visit the shrine and offer up a plea to the White God to guide her in her work and to protect the young men and women she healed, whose lives were so fraught with danger.  She was a loyal and true follower of the god, though she never imagined herself to be important enough to garner its attention.

But one morning all of that changed, when Kólar awoke with the terrible reverberations of a fate echoing in her mind: You will walk into the arid lands beyond Belváros and wait there until instructed otherwise.  As swiftly as she could without sacrificing thoroughness, the apothecary gathered the belongings she would need for her journey and set off into the dry scrubland that presses up against the great city’s edges.  There she built a makeshift camp and settled in.

She waited for thirty-six days and thirty-six nights; where other Humans might have given up, or withered of thirst, or frozen during the long and cold nights, Kólar not only endured but thrived.  Her extensive herbal knowledge, combined with a hardiness of both body and spirit, was more than enough to keep her alive and well.  At dawn on the thirty-seventh day, a lovely young woman with hair as pale as hay appeared at her camp.  Kólar invited the woman to sit and cooked breakfast for both of them; and the pair sat in companionable silence as they ate.  When they had both finished the meal, the pale-haired woman looked at Kólar solemnly.

“Felícian Kólar,” she said, although Kólar had never mentioned her name to her guest, “you are a strong woman indeed.  I wonder if you might do me a great favor.”  And the pale-haired woman went on to explain that she was displeased with the Serenite empress, whose policies threatened “something of grave significance to me in this land.”  Kólar did not entirely understand the pale-haired woman’s words, but she did understand who her guest was, and what she believed she was to do: lead a rebellion against the empress.

Ever loyal, Kólar agreed to do what she could and, in the moons that followed, she gathered up allies and supplies as she had once gathered up her belongings—swiftly, but thoroughly.  When the rebellion finally broke out, Kólar commanded a sizeable force indeed, and after a brief but bloody struggle her faction emerged victorious.  The old empress was overthrown and a new emperor rose to take command of the country.  As his first act, the emperor declared a general pardon for all of the rebels—expect one: Kólar, the leader.  Instead of being pardoned, Kólar was branded a traitor for attacking the previous ruler of Seren in such a dishonorable manner.  She was seized by the emperor’s soldiers and tortured to death, once, in his dungeons before being branded and enslaved for the rest of her life.  Her spouse, too, was executed and then enslaved; and her three children were forced into service as thysia, a fate from which—it is said—only one escaped.

Tuesday Tales, Part IV: Sybell Allard, Chosen of the Brown God

Sybell Allard, chosen of the Brown God.  Sybell Allard was a particularly hearty and strong-willed Traveler living in Éras in the fifth century.  She grew extremely sickly for a time with a severe disease that no healer could identify; but her body and will proved strong and she recovered after two weeks of hovering dangerously between life and death.  A short time after her recovery, Allard was out collecting berries by herself.  She noticed a deer grazing about her for some time, but thought nothing of it—until it suddenly looked up and addressed her, “Dear mortal, no fear—I mean you no harm.  I am the one you call ‘the Brown God’ and you have been deemed worthy of my attention.  You would be a fine addition to my retinue of helpers, if you would accomplish a task I have in mind for you.”  Honored, Allard agreed and was asked to collect a stone from the well of six towns spread all across the known world.

Allard, excited to announce her status to the world, pushed her band to travel further and faster than normal despite the dangers, and she succeeded in collecting the stones.  In her wake, however, a strange and virulent plague—not unlike the disease she had originally contracted—caught, and thousands of people died, starting with her entire band.  It was only after she had finished her travels and completed her task that Allard stopped to rest and witness the devastation that she had wrought.  Overcome with grief and fearful of spreading the disease further, Allard disappeared into the Paranomos and was never heard from again.

Folkloric Fridays, Part III: Baldric Isley, Chosen of the Black God

Baldric Isley, chosen of the Black God.  Baldric Isley was a seasoned tracker and mountaineer from Blacknall who was called to aid the Black God in a hunt par-force in the early second century; the spirit in question had been wandering for nigh on two centuries, and the god judged it well past time to bring it in for its final visit.  The hunting party tracked the spirit from Xiros through western Stemma, over the Kordiso River into Gavell, up through what is now Caxton into Blacknall, across the contested area of the Paranomos between Braelin and Seren’s northern border, and finally throughout Seren in a grueling ten-year chase.  By the time the party found itself in the dense and increasingly dangerous jungle-wilderness of Seren’s far east, Isley had died three times and was down to his final life stone.  Finally, they managed to trap the errant spirit; the Black God, with the spirit in tow, gave a small nod of thanks and disappeared through a gate into its realm, leaving the surviving members of the hunting party stranded in the jungle.  Isely, taking charge, was able to lead the entire party out through the jungle unscathed, and then they all set off across the inhospitable terrain of Seren.

Over two years’ time of careful travel, the party managed to get within sight of the Braelin/Seren border, when they were suddenly overtaken by a group of raiders.  Thinking fast, Isley split the group into three and sent them off in different directions, so that the raiders would not capture all of them.  Unluckily for Isley and his companions, they were the group that the raiders decided to chase; they were captured and hauled to Belváros, where the women were sold into slavery and Isley and his friend were pressed into service as thysia.  Although his friend quickly perished in these shows, Isley managed to survive without any loss of life for five years, and then as a trainer for two more years, before he was released with honor and to great acclaim.

The emperor of Seren, one of his biggest fans, offered him a title and a position at the Serenite court, but Isley declined; furious, the emperor took him prisoner and held him at court anyway, as a personal attendant and jester of sorts.  Within a year, Isley arranged to escape in the hold of a merchant ship that was headed for Revma, but it wrecked in a storm and he washed ashore on Caprina.  Narrowly avoiding the savage Caprinan warriors, he built a raft and attempted to sail across the strait to Braelin.  The strong currents of those waters, however, pulled him off-course and he landed in Southlight rather than Stemma.  After working for a time in a small port-city, he saved up enough coin to travel home, but just as he came within sight of his village in Blacknall, a blizzard came up.  His wife Natascha found him seven days later, frozen to death just beyond their humble cabin’s front door.