A short story of Silador
10th Day of the 5th Month, 498 Age of Unification (A.U.)
28th Year of the Emperor Justinian III
“Long long ago, before the Age of Unification, before the Age of Kingdoms, before the Age of Ice, it was the Age of the New Gods. The earth and sky had been merged into one and the sun and moon had been hung in the sky in the Elder Days of the First Gods, but they had perished in the Age of Calamity destroying the Unspeakable Ones to save all of reality.”
The elder priest paused as he used a long stick to whack the hand of one of his pupils who was apparently dozing. The young man, barely more than a boy really, shot up and blushed embarrassed.
“Sorry Elder Alexios.” the young man said sheepishly.
“As I was saying, the Elder Gods had perished along with the Unspeakable Ones, and the New Gods, the first children of the Elder Gods inherited the universe and the responsibility to defend the mortal races from the servants of evil who had escaped the last battle. The New Gods set about setting the world back in order from the turmoil and healing the land from the torment it had endured.
“For untold years there was peace and harmony, and the mortal races grew up and grew strong, honoring the gods and learning to defend themselves. As these mortal races grew up different tribes grew closer to particular gods. Cults and Religions grew up and though most would honor all the gods particular attention was paid to certain gods according to the values of a people’s outlook on the world.”
Alexios stopped and pointed at a pupil, “What are the core values of the God Lerubece?”
The pupil’s eyes expanded being caught off guard, he found himself stammering. “Um...personal strength, overcoming one’s own weaknesses, to reach peak perfection both of mind and body?”
“Very good, above all he is the god of Perseverance, and he teaches us to bend and ebb with the tides of time but to make our own waves within the stream of our world. Lerubece and his brothers are the children of the Elder God Ruceb who was the strongest of the first gods.
“But today’s lesson is not about the Holy Four, for we as priests must know of the other Gods and how they interact with the world. Today we shall focus on three gods who have or once had worship in the Empire.”
There was a slight stirring among the trainees. One student raised his hand and spouted out excitedly, “Three gods? Calder is worshiped in the North surely, but Creirwen had not been worshipped in the Empire in hundreds of years and their rights are near blasphemous. There is no other god that was worshipped in the Empire since Unification.”
“Tsk tsk, You must learn to not speak out of turn Mikhael, listen to your teachers when they are speaking and you may learn something, interrupt and you will remain ignorant forever.”
Mikhael hung his head in shame, “Yes Elder Alexious.”
“Now let’s see where was I? Ah yes, the other gods who were worshiped in Silador. Most of you are familiar with Calder, he is the god of war and ice. He crafted his children from the cold and gave them white skin and fair hair like the snows of his cold abode in his own image. He has long been worshiped by those who make their homes in the far north, not just in Silador, but in the western continent of Odasus Calder remains popular with many who live there. Calder was born of the Great Bear Bruinus who carved the frozen fjords of the far north from the frozen oceans and lands with his paws and claws. It was Bruinus who smote the last of the Great Horrors down before dying of a thousand wounds that had pieced his great hide.”
“Calder is determined above all else to prove himself worthy of his father’s noble sacrifice and thus is also a god of hearth and home, of children who respect their parents and seek honor for their households. But Calder has a brother, and not just any brother, but a twin.”
The room full of acolytes got suddenly very still and silent, the hum of a dragonfly outside could be heard.
Elder Alexios allowed himself a grim smile, “Yes you’ve all heard the old superstitions about twins, prevalent to this day within the Empire even by well educated people such as yourselves. This is where those beliefs come from, like most everything else, ideas started with the Gods. Does anyone know the name of Calder’s twin?”
The silence that followed was heavy in the summer air and more than a few students shifted uncomfortably in their seats and all of them tried to avoid eye contact with Alexios. Finally the youngest student in the class raised his hand.
Alexios nodded at him, “Yes Diocles?”
The lad turned pale and he looked like he might be sick, gulped hard and sputtered for a moment, “Bolverkr.”
Diocles looked as if he expected the world to swallow him up at that moment and the other boys were staring at him as if they were expecting it as well. Alexios nodded, “Yes, even now hundreds of years later his name is still a plague to the minds of civilized folk. But there is no need to fear saying it, Bolverkr is a god, and a powerful one at that there is no doubt, but he hasn’t cursed his name and doesn’t have the power to strike you down for saying it. Nay even if he wished to strike us down here and now for speaking of him he could not, for we are in the heart of the lands of the Sons of Ruceb and their power protects us from his wrath.
“Yet we must speak of him fore if we cannot name our enemy it gives him power and it means we view Bolverkr as something to powerful to name, and only the Unspeakable Ones are that powerful, and even they were destroyed.”
“Bolverkr was very much the opposite of Calder almost every way he did not want to live up to their father’s legacy, but to surpass it, eclipse the memory of the First Gods and establish himself as the leader of the New Gods. At first Bolverkr presented himself as a god of invention, innovation and progress. When Banucyrewe, son of Ruceb, God of Science, taught the mortal races about farming, it was Bolverkr who taught them how to farm the lotus flowers. When Crum Balceel, God of Merchants, taught man about commerce and trade, it was Bolverkr who taught man about loans.
“But Bolverkr was twisted by his envy and jealousy and went from a force of progress and good and turned into a god of lies and deceit. For every good thing he taught us something, that thing he used his malice and hatred to twist it into something that hurt us. The lotus flowers, at first thought to be a recreational activity that allowed those who used to experience heightened feelings and pleasures, it was soon apparent that the lotus was addictive and left users with weakened bodies and immune systems. The entire race of Miromors went extinct from over use leaving their kingdoms weak and unable to sustain themselves. To this day lotus blossoms are banned by every human kingdom and Empire on the known planet.”
“Loans, at first thought to be a way to help those in need get what they needed to survive, but soon it created financial burdens and fights amongst not just neighbors but entire kingdoms went to war over debts they claimed to be unpaid. More than one mortal race parished burdened by loans and the constant wars drove them to extinction, only the centaurs were unaffected as they stuck to the forest and the mountains and never adopted commerce.”
A pupil raised his hand and waited to be acknowledged, “But what happened to the centaurs? They are a lost race as well are they not? At least there are no reliable accounts of sightings since Unification.”
Alexios nodded, “True true, the centaurs are not known to inhabit any of the three known continents of the world, neither in Erebica, Odasus, nor Sonnersdoun are the centaurs known to roam. But the ancient texts do not speak of their demise. Merely that the last emissaries sent to their ancient homelands were abandoned. But there were no signs of battle or destruction, it is my hypothesis that they left for shores yet undiscovered by man.”
“But let us return to the lesson. Bolverkr was twisted by jealousy, envy and lust. Some say it was envy of his brother’s strength and conviction, others that he could never feel like he could escape the shadow cast by his father, the truth is more complicated than that and it involves a woman, and that woman was Creirwen, the Laughing Goddess.”
“Creirwen is the daughter of Gwace. Gwace was the Goddess of Thought and Wisdom, and was said to alone to have the power of foresight and prophecy, and was said to have known the time and manner of her death and the deaths of all the First Gods. Creirwen is the goddess of untamed nature. The tangled forests, impassible mountains and raging rivers are her domain, and her servants are the wolves and ravens, and her friends are the deer and the boar. Her fiery red hair is said to be the strains light in the dawn and the evening as the sun touches the horizons.
“Enchanted by her grace and knowledge of lost secrets, Creirwen was pursued by both brothers, the clever and progressive Bolverkr who tried to impress her with his cunning machines and ideas for civilization and improve the lives of the mortal races. But Creirwen cared little for machines and civilization and her followers tried to live closer to the nature their Goddess loved so much, so the fierce and wild Calder who was intune with the nature around him won out the heart of the Laughing One. In his rage and jealousy Bolverkr fell into darkness and hatred and plotted his revenge.”
“Young Diocles you have a question I see, go ahead.”
The young acolyte cleared his throat, “Elder Alexios, why is she called the Laughing One?”
“An excellent question. The face of Creirwen has never been seen by a mortal. In fact it is said only her mother Gwace and Calder have seen her true face. The Laughing One always wears a mask, porcelain in color that has a face painted on that appears to be fixed in a laugh. Why she chooses to wear this mask is not known but there are several thoughts. Some believe she is so beautiful that if any mortal saw her they should perish, and if any god were to see her they would be overcome with lust and the war for her in the heavens would devastate all the universe and she hides her face to protect all from this. Others say she used to go without a mask but after she rejected Bolverkr he attacked her and scarred her face so badly she wished to hide her scars.”
“What happened to Bolverkr?” Mikhael asked impertinently.
“Manners Mikhael. Bolverkr’s tricks were uncovered and exposed to the other gods. Banding together they drove Bolverkr from the Godswood into exile. Bolverkr lives now in the wastelands outside of realms of both man and gods but he sends his dark and twisted servants to do his evil bidding, yes Belstium?” he pointed to another student’s raised arm.
“Do you mean the Daladag?”
There was some slight laughter from the other pupils.
“Yes I do.” Elder Alexios said flatly, the pupils stopped laughing. “They might be the creatures your nannies told you to scare you into bed at night, but they were real, the lost tribe of the North, cousins of the Sons of Calder. They fled with their master after betraying their kinsfolk, the most grievous sin a Son of Calder can commit against another. He twisted them into pale husks of their former selves, no longer human but they are not the worse of Bolverkr’s creations.”
“Are the Daladag still alive?”
“No, they were wiped out over five hundred years ago during the Wars of Unification when the first Emperor Justinian united Silador, the Kingdom of Diwāna and the Kingdom of Calmörk and brought the other petty kingdoms to heal under their banners, under the banner of the Empire of Silador. The last battle, the Battle of Carronack, the last of the Daladag, fought and died to the last, run down by Siladorian spears and decapitated by Northern axe. Their black blood stained the ground and rock and the site of the battle is still black to this day from their unholy stain.
“That’s enough for now, I hear Elder Julian ringing the midday bell, let us take our meal in the courtyard in the sun. The warmth and brightness shall be welcome after such dark and gloomy conversation.”
The students put parchment and ink in their satchels and shuffled out of the room, but little Diocles stayed behind. Alexios glanced at the boy, “Do you have a question my son?”
“Elder what happened to the Creirwenites though? They were part of the Empire, everyone agrees on that, but they disappeared and now are called blasphemous by many. But if she was married to Calder and we accept Calder as a god, why do we fear the Creirwenites.”
Alexios smiled, “A good question. The Creirwenites were not interested in court politics, their hearts belong to the forest and the mountains, with the wild animals, not in cities of stone or farming grain. They joined Silador and the North for protection, but the treaty said they would only offer aid in times of danger for the whole. It was the fourth emperor, Arethas who wanted to spread the religion of the Holy Four, and the Sons of Calder accepted the additional worship but their first loyalties remained with Calder. The Creirwenites were less interested in this arrangement and withdrew from the Empire. Over the centuries as they were seen less and less stories of their old customs and practices spread, what is fact and what is myth is beyond our knowledge but I don’t think they sacrifice humans. They documented accounts of their ability to consort with animals and move unseen by mortal eyes might suggest they had some power granted to them by their goddess, but who knows? Nobody has seen or spoken to a Creirwenite in over two hundred years and they were never as numerous as other people.”
“It just seems strange they would disappear so completely and we think they died off?”
“Maybe in some forgotten hills of the Empire there is still a small village or two, but they would find ill welcome in the rest of the country, they would likely be attacked by superstitious villagers then welcomed as old friends. If there are any still hiding out, it is probably best they say hidden. Come now let us go and eat.”
The master and the apprentice left the room and joined the rest of the monastery in a fine lunch.