A servant was sent to rouse us the following morn. Fortune was with the brash young man. Salenia and I had watched the sun begin its journey. Our dream paths had been walked with heavy tread. It had been a mark of our weariness. Regardless, we allowed the servant to deliver his message. Our whole household was bid gather in the great chamber for court. Soliumant wished to address those of rank who still walked the realm of the living. It was a wise decision. Addressing the entire court would affirm his right to rule as well as dispel any rumors circulating the palace.
Though each of our household was bid attend, Rul chose to remain and watch Sevianth. We knew not if he should accompany us. Tominent joined us as we traversed the corridor. None of us knew what to expect. As we journeyed to the great chamber, Tominent explained the unusual circumstances surrounding Soliumant's ascension to the seat of power.
Through the history of the realm, the reigning Jilhsaed would sponsor a ceremony where his heir would be gifted the seat of power. The ceremony would reinforce the heir's right and authority. The previous Jilhsaed would remain as an advisor, the Brilnead, guiding his son or heir until his death. Such position was unique to the realm. The Brilnead was held in much esteem, though was no longer in power. Soliumant would have no such advisor. He would have no such ceremony. We knew it could cause him many difficulties.
Salenia, Tominent and I decided without speaking of it, to assume the positions of our duty. They stood behind Soliumant as he assumed his customary chair on the platform. I stood behind the empty seat of power. It had been draped with a purple cloth. It was a sign of respect and mourning. Our companions were positioned as near to the line as possible. It was well. We made an imposing image. It was if we challenged any to cause trouble for the new Jilhsaed. Only a fool or a zealot would accept the unspoken challenge. For the moment, the court had been cleansed of fools.
"It is with a heavy heart I stand before you this day. Many of you have heard of the events that occurred during evening court. Those events claimed the life of my father, the Jilhsaed. To dispel the untruths, I shall relate the events and the treachery of Johianei." Soliumant stood tall before his cordermers, guards and merchants.
All present listened closely to his words. Many had only heard small portions of the tale. Soliumant dispelled the confusion. He related the tale without flinching from the truth and without any wasted words. No occurrence was left unspoken. Even the slave merchants seemed awed by the tale. None of those present could have painted the scene we had witnessed or the events we had taken part in with accuracy. Had I not been present, I doubt my ability to think of it.
"As our custom dictates, the Jilhsaed shall be buried at the hour near to evening court. All are bid attend. Also, according to custom, the new Jilhsaed must have a Brilnead. My father was slain. I have no Brilnead unless I appoint one worthy of such position. It seems important to do so, though none shall be trusted in so blindly as was Johianei." He paused in his speech for a moment. "Regardless, I know of a true and worthy man. He shall perform his duty as Brilnead as well as perhaps my father would have. From this day until he is bid join the gods, Siveruian shall be Brilnead." It seemed a wise and popular choice. It was met with sounds of approval from those present.
"Attend your duties. The burial ceremony for the Jilhsaed shall occur one hour before the sun ends its journey. We shall gather here. I ask now that the warriors who triumphed over the coup join me in my chambers. Torienne, Salenia, and Tominent accompany me." He waved us behind him. We walked behind him as we departed the chamber. Several guards escorted us. When we entered his chambers, he dismissed all but the mute. "Sit. We have much to speak of and there shall be no protocol here."
"Our gratitude, rohirm." Tominent replied as we each chose chairs near to the table.
"Brother, I am a mere man in company of friends. I shall say it again. There shall be no protocol here." He turned to the mute. "Fetch Kierian." The mute nodded his head and departed.
"What need have you, Soliumant?" I asked. It seemed a place to begin the conversation.
"I need to tender my gratitude. Had you three not been present, I doubt we would have triumphed. You each shall be well rewarded."
"Rewards are not necessary." I protested. "It was but duty."
"Rewards have been earned and shall be given. Consider it a decree by the new Jilhsaed if you will not accept it from a grateful friend." He smiled.
"If you desire it so, we shall accept." Sal answered.
"Choose your reward. I shall gift you with what I feel appropriate, but you may each choose a reward. I do not consider granting freedom to those servants and slaves you have hidden in Marlkina a reward."
"How knew you?" It seemed illogical to deny it.
"Siveruian knew of your true calling and duty. He knew of it when you arrived." He laughed at the looks we favored him. "Your household contains none you treat as servants and few favor you. It was not hard to see the truth."
"Our gratitude for not halting our duty." I replied. I had not thought he would have been aware of our true duty.
"I have no love of slavers or their trade, this you know. Soon I shall halt the practice in this realm. Your actions were filled with duty and honor. Few would do so much for family and friends. I marked it as a sign of loyalty. I knew not a reason to halt your activities. It says much of your character."
"Then you have our gratitude and the gratitude of those we have hidden." Sal commented.
"It is not necessary." He waved it away. "I was given the scroll Siveruian's father scribed before his death. Wish you to hear of it?"
"Aight. I greatly wish it." I answered. I knew the others wished it as well. I knew as well, Soliumant asked from politeness. He knew we would not deny the hearing.
"It is a strange tale." He pulled the scroll from his tunic and unrolled it. "Long have I feared I would be required to scribe this. It is my hope this will serve as my confession and appease the gods. I have been but a small part in a long conspiracy for one to assume the seat of power. This one was cousin to the Jilhsaed, the father and Brilnead of the current Jilhsaed. When the one chosen as heir, the eldest son of the previous Jilhsaed was slain, the one believed the seat of power was his. The Jilhsaed doubted the abilities of his other son. Regardless, Ibenument was chosen as heir. The one was not. I was bid witness the birth of the new heir's son. The one who had begun all convinced me to relate his words as a prophecy. There was no truth in my words. I have not the gift. There is no prophecy."
"There is no prophecy?" I could not restrain my remark.
"It is as the scroll says. There is more. Shall I complete it?" He waited for our approval. "It was mere coincidence that I mentioned two kirgeurs. I did so only from inspiration of the heir's favorite guard. I had no knowledge of Torienne and Salenia until they appeared in this land. Reinea and few of the queriane were bid watch and learn of them. It is how I pretended my great knowledge. Inquiring from Torienne's son also provided knowledge. It was a deceit. I can bear it longer. For all I have caused to occur, for all the untruths I have related, the gods shall hold me accountable. For the pain and harm I have caused, there shall be no appeasement. All I am grateful for is my son. He is a good and honorable man. I am unworthy of such an heir. I hope he can forgive my actions. I know not if any shall possess the ability. I know I do not."
"There was no prophecy? It was all a deceit?" Salenia asked.
"Johianei knew of our true duty when we entered Creasinda. Perhaps had we not appeared he would have employed two others to masquerade as kirgeurs." I suggested.
"Perhaps. I shall have the prisoners questioned on the morrow. If fortune is with us and if they wish to live, they shall speak of their knowledge." Soliumant seemed thoughtful. "There is much still we need discover of the treachery, though it is not your duty. I assume you shall return to your homeland?"
"Aight. We need return." I answered.
"I had thought to ask you to assume a greater rank. Kierian assured me you would wish return. She is loyal to her friends, especially the friends of her youth." He smiled again.
"You know of that as well?"
"She told me you once knew one another. We have yet another request, though I shall await her. She wishes ask it."
"I am here." She had leaned much of his tongue from Salenia's lessons. "I wish you to depart only after the joining ceremony, Tor." She related in our native tongue. "It is my wish for you to stand with me during the ceremony."
"In truth?" It was an honor. I felt unworthy of it.
"I consider you family, Torienne. It seemed appropriate to request you to stand with me. What say you?"
"I am honored you request it." I looked to Sal. She shrugged her shoulders. "If Salenia objects not, then I shall accept."
"I have no objections, shehala."
"Then I shall be honored to stand with you. When shall the joining ceremony commence?"
"A fortnight." Kierian answered. "Torienne has accepted, Soliumant."
"You have my gratitude. We shall require the assistance of your whole household. In truth, we shall have many ceremonies during the next fortnight. You companions shall assist with the joining ceremony. I have need of the three of you during the ceremony of my ascension. There shall be another ceremony in your honor. Siveruian shall speak of it to you when he is healed. He shall also choose his successor during a ceremony before the ceremony of my ascension."
"How shall he choose a successor?" Sal asked.
"He has a daughter who was not stolen. I believe she is capable and shall accept. It shall be the first time a female has risen to the rank of chamberlain." He explained. He seemed pleased with the choice. "She has been sent for and shall arrive in time for the ceremony."
"Where is she?" I asked. We had no knowledge of her.
"She has been schooled in a village near to Marlkina. He wished her absent from the palace after his son and wife were stolen." Tominent replied. "I believe it a wise choice, brother. She seems capable and possesses much of her father's sense of honor and duty."
"Need we assist in the burial ceremony?" I asked.
"It has caused me concern. If you wish, you shall. Though we have need of reaffirming your rank. As a guard to the Jilhsaed and being of a high rank, you, Torienne, shall be required to accompany the burial into the cavern. However, as you were a personal guard, you should be required to remain in the cavern after the burial."
"Mean you the guards to the Jilhsaed journey with his spirit?" Sal's disgust was heard with ease. "You slay them?"
"It is a custom I cannot change for this burial. The mute shall give his life to ensure my father's safe journey. Few others shall as well. According to custom, you would be required if you were not in service to me. It is well we did not announce to the court the completion of your lessoning me in the art of the sword." He smiled slightly. "You were in service to us both, therefore you shall not be asked to give your life."
"Gladdened am I." The custom seemed strange. "Those who lose their life in our homeland are prayed for much during a two day ceremony. We do not require others to accompany them on their journey. It is thought the gods know of them and shall see them safe to the other realm."
"It is said the custom began with one of the first Jilhsaeds. Those who served him held him in such esteem they took their own lives as he was placed in the cavern. It is now a sign of esteem and respect. The guards who do so are thought to receive great honor from our gods." Tominent explained. "It is an honor I would not wish accept."
"I would not wish any to give their lives upon my death." Soliumant stated. "It is well the custom of slaying the brothers and cousins to the Jilhsaed has been halted. The father of my father's sire halted it."
"This is a strange land." Kierian's comment was softly spoken.
"Aight." Sal agreed. "With your pardon, Soliumant, we need have speech with our companions. We shall inform them of your need for their assistance with the joining ceremony."
"It is well. I shall not require you again until an hour before the burial is set to commence. There is still much I must attend to ready for it."
"We shall meet you in these chambers?" I asked.
"This chamber one hour prior to the burial." He nodded. "Attend your companions."
"Tominent, tell me, what is required of us for the burial?" It seemed wise to inquire. At the least I knew I would not be asked to give my life to ensure a safe journey for a soul that according to the customs of my homeland rested already in the realm of the gods.
"There is much custom surrounding the burial of one of royal blood. The ceremony shall not halt until the sun rises on the morrow. I shall explain as much as I am able as we partake of the midday meal."
"I shall be grateful."
"As shall I." Sal agreed. "It shall be intriguing to note the differences between customs."
"If I accompany you, I believe I shall learn much of the differences." He laughed as we entered the chamber. "Well met, friends. It appears as if our companions have waited the meal for us."
"We have, though it was not done with ease." Lyliane informed us. "It seems we are all hungered, though Sevianth seems more so than the rest."
"In truth, young one?" I asked as I claimed a chair near to him.
"Aight, Torienne. Tre and Rul accompanied me to the river. We swam in the waters and hunted fish."
"Were the fish plentiful?" Sal claimed the seat opposite me.
"Aight. We caught many, though we kept them not."
"It is well you did not." I commended him. "It seems we have no need of fish for this meal." In truth, we did not. The meal seemed a feast. I knew not why the fare was greater than it had been even during the festivities. Perhaps the esteem in which we were held had risen again.
"In truth, sister. It is like a feast." Tre seemed to approve of the kitchen's offerings. "I believe those in the kitchen view this as a way to show their gratitude. They are pleased you assisted Soliumant and guarded his life."
"It is well they illustrate their loyalty. I had not thought the servants here were concerned with those of rank." Sal commented. In truth, I had not either.
"It is different with Soliumant. He knows them or at the least inquires of their health when he is able." Lyliane explained. "Many are grateful he lives to claim the seat of power. They believe he shall treat them well."
"I believe he shall as well." I commented. I wished not reveal his plans for halting the practice of slavers. It could be learned of with ease. Though I trusted in my companions, I had learned of other ways information could be attained from the old man's scroll. It was a valuable lesson. Trust in none except the immediate household.
We consumed the meal at our leisure. While we ate, we conversed on the occurrences and knowledge the others had obtained. The coup was not mentioned, though we felt the effects still. Tominent explained the customs of burials for those of the royal line. It seemed strange when we thought on burials in our homeland.
"I believe you wished to rest?" Salenia asked as Lyliane and Tre returned the tray to the kitchens.
"Aight. Perhaps we shall utilize the pool for resting. We were distracted a bit when last we attempted." I gently reminded her of it.
"In truth, we were a bit distracted. Perhaps we shall not be this day."
"I believe I shall return to my chambers and seek my dreams." Tominent stood.
"If you wish, you can journey to the hiding place and visit with the others." Iolaine suggested. "Lyliane and I wished to visit them while Tre directed Rul and Sevianth's lessons."
"I believe I shall." He grinned. "My gratitude for the offer."
"Then we shall visit the bathing chamber." I stood as well. "Guard yourselves as you journey through Marlkina."
"We shall Torienne. Enjoy the bathing chamber." Tominent winked his eye. "I shall meet you in these chambers before we are to journey to Soliumant's."
"It is well." I declined comment on the bathing chamber. "Salenia?"
"I shall follow." Sal grinned. "Lead the way."
We were able to behave as we bathed. The water was of a warm temperature and
relaxed our sore muscles with ease. It calmed us both of anxiety we had not
realized we still possessed. When we departed from the chamber, we entered our
dreams with grateful hearts. We woke again only when the others returned. It
was well. We had rested until the hour we were to meet Soliumant.
The great chamber was filled with cordermers, servants, guards and others wishing to illustrate respect to the departed Jilhsaed. Each wore a cloth of purple wrapped around his left leg. It was a sign of mourning. We had donned similar cloths before we journeyed to the great chamber. The Jilhsaed's corpse rested on the platform near to the seat of power. He was attired in silk, wool and a material neither Sal nor I could name. His body had been cleansed and he appeared as if he were merely walking the paths of his dreams. Those in service to him gathered near to the platform.
No words were given voice as Soliumant stood near to his father's head. Salenia, Tominent and I hefted a portion of the tyrgic, the wooden platform made to bear the departed. The mute and two other guards, those giving their life to ensure their faelida's safe journey, hefted the tyrgic opposite us. It was an honor to bear the tyrgic, though it was difficult. By custom we were not allowed to touch either the Jilhsaed or the tyrgic with our hands. The servants who had keeping of the remains placed the wooden platform on our shoulders as we knelt before the seat of power. Fortune remained near to us. We stumbled not as we rose with our shared burden.
Servants carried giyricks and caused them to ring loudly as we journeyed from the palace. Those who inhabited the city crowded the streets to witness the procession. Many wept as the princess of the harem chanted a song filled with sadness. Even Siveruian seemed near to tears. Soliumant wept with little regard to shame. It was his right. It was his father we bore on our shoulders.
The journey was long. We traveled from the city several leagues to a region of hills and small mountains. It was the resting place for those of rank. Those without rank were given common burials in a region near to the city. They were placed in the ground and returned to that which gave them life, the bosom of their goddess of the orb.
Soliumant and Siveruian lead the procession to a chamber carved into the side of a small mountain. We descended into the roughly hewn corridor and halted only when we encountered a greatly decorated chamber. Those of us bearing the tyrgic knelt before a platform carved from graseleth. The servants who had placed the tyrgic upon our shoulders removed it and placed it upon the graseleth. The beat of the giyricks halted. The chamber was filled with silence.
"We have brought a true and worthy man, the Jilhsaed of this realm to be laid before the gods." A man attired all in green stepped from the shadows behind us. His voice was deep and resounded through the chamber. "He departed this life in an honorable way, though treachery caused his death. He gave much honor and esteem to the gods of his fathers. We ask now that those same gods guard his journey from this realm into theirs. We ask that he be blessed in the land of the dead as he was in the land of the living. We ask that he be shown the wonders of your realm, and be treated as a royal guest amongst the houses of the gods. He is worthy of such attention. Here before you stand those whose lives he touched, those who exist because and for him, and those who attended their duties to him with gladdened hearts."
"We call upon you, gods of the dead, of the air, the sky, the stars, the rivers and the orb. We call upon all the gods, be they great or lesser. This man is worthy of your attention. He is worthy of the devotion of his servants, of his sons and of his cordermers. Many great deeds he performed while he walked the orb. He ruled his realm with compassion and reason. He did not abuse his power nor did he abuse those with lesser rank. He was a true Jilhsaed. He journeys now beyond our realm. He follows those who led him. He precedes those who served him. He has joined with the gods and the departed. Allow him his honor as he accustoms himself to his new duty." The man stepped from behind the carved platform. "We now prepare his body to match his soul."
The servants who had relieved us of the tyrgic knelt before the platform. Two men attired in a brighter green hue removed a long silk cloth from the wall of the chamber. It was placed over the Jilhsaed. The servants rose and ensured the cloth covered the Jilhsaed so that no skin or attire could be viewed. In truth, he was encased in silk.
After the cloth had been placed over and around the departed, the servants poured viniare and an oil I had no knowledge of over the feet, hands, thighs, and head. The horn of a tirgeaur was placed near to his hand. Fresh flowers were crushed and placed upon his chest. The coat of a tirgeaur covered it all. It seemed the same coat that once covered the seat of power.
Once the departed had been dressed for his journey, the servants circled the platform nine times. The mute and two other guards joined them. We were not required. We merely took notice of the scene before us as the princess of the harem began to sing a song of death. It echoed through the stone chamber. It seemed as if we were all journeying to the realm of spirits. Many shuddered in their boots to hear the sadness behind her words. I knew then she would not depart from the burial chamber. She had chosen to follow her faelida to the other realm.
"We have readied the Jilhsaed for his journey. We ask now that he be accepted in the realm of the dead by the spirits and gods who reside there. I say again he is worthy of such acceptance. It is reward for his deeds as he walked this orb. It is with sadness we return so worthy and good a man to those who bid him live and rule." The man placed the head of a tirgeaur over the head of the Jilhsaed. "Let this be a mark of his great stature and the esteem placed in him."
The man stepped away from the platform as Siveruian began a song of mourning. Though we knew not the words, for it was sung in an ancient tongue, we understood the meaning. All would miss the Jilhsaed. Soliumant joined the song as Siveruian began it a second time. It was repeated four more times. Sal and I were the only two who did not raise our voices loud in song. We attempted, though the words were beyond our skill with languages.
Those gathered in the chamber traversed a circular path near to the platform. We walked the length of the Jilhsaed. As all present completed the journey, the mute and the other two guards rose before the crowd. They spoke of the honor of their duty and the respect they placed in their faelida. The princess of the harem did as well. They were handed mugs of a poisoned liquid as their words became silence. They lived only moments after they consumed the drink. They were each placed in positions near to the platform. The princess was placed upon the platform near to the Jilhsaed. Her hand was placed above his heart and her right leg over his left. It was a mark of her station and devotion. In truth, she had chosen to accompany him. It had not been required of her or any member of the harem. With his death, they gained their freedom.
"We give those loyal to him as offerings for his safe journey. Gods above and below, around us and near to us, guard them well. They show honor in their actions. Embrace them as you embrace him. Let them all journey safely to the realm of spirits and return to this orb in flesh again when it is time for them to do so. We shall depart so you may call their spirits to you. We leave offerings of oil, viniare, silk and food for your pleasure." The man placed five flasks of viniare near to the platform as those who assisted him placed the rest. "In this and all aspects of our lives, we are grateful."
The ceremony was completed, though we were required to depart in silence. Loud voices could lend the spirits aid to identifying those who attend the burial. We wished them to remain near to the chamber. We wished them not accompany us as we returned to the palace. To ensure their confusion, we were required to journey in silence and many were required to return on different paths. It was a custom of the realm. Though it seemed strange, we adhered to it. It was as we had been taught. Warriors in strange lands must respect in native customs. It ensured the peace between different cultures. Only zealots raised trouble for enjoyment.
The moon had half completed its journey when we returned to the chamber. Custom
dictated we bath to remove the taint of the spirits from us. Our attire was
placed near to the door in the corridor. It would be burned, not cleansed. After
a prayer to Solisiric, Sal and I sought our dream paths. We prayed merely to
reaffirm our ties to the goddess. Such ceremony and ritual brought our customs
to mind. The goddess apparently was pleased. No night terrors interrupted our
Continue to part 27
Return to the Academy