“1 It was among the men of Tasre that Vesa became quite disgusted, for the men of Tasre that they had written unrighteous laws.
2 For the law said that any man who should steal a loaf of bread would have his finger cut off at the first joint;
3 And it was the law that any man who drew the blood of another with a sword or a knife without reason would have his arm cut off at the wrist;
4 And it was the law that any man could take the life of his slave without reason or forewarning.
5 And so Vesa said to the people and his disciples, ‘Who has written these laws?’
6 And the people of Tasre cried out and said:
7 ‘The slavers have written the law; and the priests have so scribed it.’
8 And so Vesa called all the people of Tasre, and taught them of the revelation of the Sepulcher, and its meaning.
9 And so it was that the people of Tasre stormed the courts; and the slaves brought all their masters to the courts.
10 And so Vesa brought all of these unfit men to trial in the high priest’s house and declared:
11 ‘What have you done! What have you wrought! Have you no sense, cutting a man’s finger off for a loaf of bread?’
12 ‘Cutting a man’s arm off for drawing blood?’
13 ‘This is the new law – the law for all men – blood for blood.’
14 ‘And if blood must be drawn, it ought to be drawn in self-penance, and then in wrath.’
15 ‘And when drawn in wrath, they must draw twice, for the unrepentant man must learn twice. ‘
16 ‘First the unrepentant man must learn to repent; and then he must pay for his crime.’
16 And Vesa took the slaver’s whips and blades, and all the priest’s knives.
17 And with a great and mighty voice, Vesa yelled:
18 ‘Now, for your impudence to know how much blood one must take, for your failure in summation, you must bring your terrible weapons upon yourself.’
19 ‘For sin accumulates in the blood, and you must purge it from you.’
20 And the slavers and the high priests that believed Vesa set their blades upon themselves and purged themselves of sin.
21 And all the people watched for those that did not bring the blades upon themselves.
22 And when they did not, the slaves that had been freed and the people of Tasre all descended upon them, and beat them with whips and staves, and cut them with knives.
23 And the Godhead was pleased.”
– The Book of Righteousness, Chapter 7:1-23.
Akham watches as her home becomes a speck, and disappears. She has wanted to leave her whole life, and now she finally has a chance.
“When we speak of refinement, we of course must first speak of what the Gyetyeans call alchemy, or the science of the material of which a focus is made. This subject so often takes the shape of infinite, for there are endless manners in which all the metals, woods and methods may so be applied in innumerable shapes, but there are some things too universal to ignore. The first and most important alchemy is that of cinnabar, or in its refined form, mercury. It is amongst the sole substances aside from human remains that may hold the charge of mana for a period greater than a few minutes. It is for this reason they are so prized in the largest foci.
One such foci is the Antipode at the Hemeś River. It is a towering structure, with a whole portion of the Hemeś being redirected to form its moat. As I approached it from afar, I fancied for a moment what I thought were gigantic ants swarming over the parapets. Only on a closer examination did I see they were men. I spoke with the wardens there on this, and they told me it was a punishment for disobedience to be held so high up for such a great length; keeping them from the holy earth of the Godhead.
I was briefly invited to tour the facilities, though I only took notes on a few. In the most guarded room, they showed me the true greatness of their alchemy. Therein, there were no less than five enormous vats of mercury, reinforced with the bones of lesser saints. The bones emerged from the covered vats, and I was told every few hours a team of wardens reinforced the prison’s vast stores of verdure and azure mana. Within moments, walls of vast stone shifted as simply as doors, and prisoners dared not leave their cells for fear of some invisible reprisal that had been inscribed into the very brickwork of the wall. While I had little time to examine them closely, each cell had a seemingly-unique ward inscribed upon it. I would not be surprised if each bore a unique warding…”
– Berali Semtya, A Comprehensive Manual on The Matter of Sorcery
The girl who spotted Shosef’s body down in the river is still shaking. She had seen dead man’s fingers out in the woods when she left the city in her youth. They weren’t actually fingers; they were purple-black little things that grew from dead wood. Shosef’s fingers were black and blue and bloodied, and clung tightly to his own face. When they dredged him out of the river, she had dared to look.
He had been filled with more holes than a pincushion.
She vomited up her own breakfast, right there on the street.
“Of particular, and of the most basic forms of foci is the stave or the wand. Verdure, when undirected, tends to emanate its spell in all directions, a thing quite disadvantageous for many intended effects; hence, the wand with a directed end immediately provides a manner by which a sorcerer may point the stream of mana. Sondi myth says that the wicker torch that brought fire to mankind was the first focus; irrespective of its truth, I have no doubt that the second was some form of primitive wand.
Indeed, the Sondi are in particular well-known for their creation of staves, particularly the natātan – a stave with a set of rings affixed to the end. A focus-maker I met in Taratana explained at length that each ring represented a different channel through which mana could move, and that one may alter the ring-stave’s exact properties by changing one’s grip on the length of the stave or by shifting one’s stance; the exacts depend upon the maker…”
– Berali Semtya, A Comprehensive Manual on The Matter of Sorcery
Peman Vivra sits and watches over his first daughter. She is a bouncing little thing, only a year old and already on the edge of walking. Her blond ringlets are truly growing out, like the ones on her mother. All the while, as she moves about her bedroom, from the cradle to the little rocking-horse, he wonders what happened to himself.
He loves his daughter; when he takes inventory, he can assure himself of that. His wife, on the other hand, feels more like a function of his station as a priest. He had to have a child to prove his piety, after all, and Mita was the prettiest woman in his parish, so he had no objections to the marriage on that front. All the same, his mind turned over the same thought – that he missed that first flame with that girl he met all those years ago.
He could have been better to her. Maybe he could have married her.
He sighs, picks up his daughter, and holds her close.
“Of particular note amongst these Men of the Sepulcher are the so-called synodoxies. While these beliefs are sometimes contradictory and on occasion outright cruel, according to the Church of the Sepulcher their individual doctrines are of no significant difference to their concept of salvation. Most notable among them are the Machevins; nearly exiled from the true Church for heresy, the Machevins believe in the precedence of the Book of Righteousness as praxis and the Book of Justice as theory. This may be contrasted with the Termini, who believe the inverse, and the doctrine of the Sepulcher, which says that they exist in balance.”
Nonya Erkha gently rubs her swollen belly. She feels a shifting here, and she smiles gently, serenely.
“I know, my children,” she says. She’s eating for more than one. She needs to find something good soon.
She licks salt from her fingers, and puts down the fish. She picks a pinbone from between her teeth. She’ll get more from the basement.
“To begin, mana has no physical structure within the body, unlike the structures that produce the bilious fluids and blood and transport them about the body. However, it does have a natural symmetry, akin to a person’s eyes or limbs; each person is typically endowed with only one variety of mana. It sometimes exudes itself in an extremely raw, coloured form on certain foci; there, without alteration, a beam of mana can induce rather intense pain on a touch, but leaves little physical marks. Most of the time, though, mana is manipulated to create other effects and ailments, which have already been covered in the preceding chapters. Like a muscle or other organ, sufficiently utilizing mana increases one’s ability to use mana; when one has sufficient stores and use of mana, one typically is called a sorcerer.
Of particular note are the consequences of the over-use of mana. Depending on the type, different ailments may arise, as different ailments arise from lacks or excesses of traditional humours. Verdure mana seems to produce ailments of the head. At first, it produces fainting, bleeding of the nose and lips, and weakness when a sorcerer overexerts themselves; this is known as a ‘verdure warning.’ AFter that, more severe exertion may result in epileptic fits, hallucinations, and other varied consequences. Treat on a case-by-case basis.
Ochre mana, on the other hand, tends to induce weakness in the body where verdure induces weakness of the mind. Oftentimes, the sorcerer will find that they have an ache limited to that part of the body that they alter with ochre, or the whole body if that is the part altered. In more severe cases, that part may slowly find itself ‘burned,’ causing severe heaviness, paralysis and even blood emerging from the pores of the skin. If the ochre focus is whole-body, it may result in internal bleeding in the lungs, fits of coughing and total paralysis. Treat aching parts with warm water and rest; burned parts are to be bandaged and carefully watched for signs of infection.
Azure mana overuse typically manifests in a manner akin to a rash around where the focus was held. This rash is bright red, sometimes causing cracking of the skin like smallpox. The rumours of men’s skin sloughing as a result of overuse of azure mana is highly exaggerated; I have not seen any cases of it in my entire career as a physician. However, these rashes may grow highly painful, to the point of debilitating a person entirely. Very rarely, though with reliable sources, a person may acquire a cancer of the skin from very extensive overuse of azure mana. Use lotions if available to soothe rashes, particularly of the hands, or cool water if there is no lotion. Treat these rashes as if they were largely open wounds when it comes to matters of infection. Swiftly extract any cancer that results from the overuse of azure mana.
There are also several other conditions naturally related to mana. Of note to a physician are savantism, natural deficiency and curses. Savantism can be thought of as a natural, sudden hypertrophy of a person’s stores of mana, typically emerging sometime after puberty. It is benign and requires no particular treatment, but may explain some strange occurrences. I have had more than one patient who thought they were falling ill with a severe fever of the mind, only for further investigation to reveal that they had been accidentally using their newly-enlarged stores of mana.
A natural deficiency of mana may be more common than thought previously. It is typically highly benign, only emerging when a person attempts to use mana and finds that they have no capacity for it whatsoever, in one or all types. It is also largely benign, if somewhat mentally crushing if a patient has aspirations to be a sorcerer. I have encountered one person with access to only one kind of mana, but never a person with all three, despite persistent rumours and hearsay to the contrary.
Lastly, curses by-and-large refer to ailments caused by verdure mana over a long period, though some sorcerers have more technical definitions including any malevolent effect created by verdure mana. Some even have created curses with ochre mana. In rare cases, a curse will begin to feed parasitically on a person’s own supplies of verdure. This is best treated with the use of a curse-bowl to consume and disperse the curse harmlessly.”
– Hartan’s Physiology
Word travels fast, and by the time Surraen knows of his former competitor’s death he is eating a late breakfast. He shrugs when someone asks if he did it.
Surraen knows he couldn’t. As much as he hated Shosef for being a peasant, and a democratist and for leaving his place, he respected him well enough as a fighter. It was such an unfortunate part of the peasant mindset, the continual striving for “freedom” over any sort of discipline or any actual values. The militarists well, they were bad, but at least they knew what was needed to keep people in line. He was intelligent – not intelligent enough to understand that the people were best lead by a monarch – but good in a fight.
He watched the river, and waited for nothing in particular. He had wanted to fight him again.
“A DECREE FROM THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF DRAGONS – FOR THE EYES OF DRAGONS ALONE –
Seeing the general condition of our state, and the status of the peasantry;
Seeing the general condition of our enemies outside the state, and the so-called Men of the Sepulcher therein;
The College hereby has instituted the following policies:
1. All villages, hamlets and cities with great concentrations of peasantry must have at least one well-bred, blooded administrator assigned therein, to better establish the control and order of the populace. Expand your families appropriately…
2. Seeing the above, with the expansion of our blooded members, there must be an expansion of larders of the state. It is left to the discretion of your locality as to how this is to be achieved; however, we shall present the following recommendations:
Firstly, that the numbers of the peasantry should be encouraged to increase by putting forward a petty tax on those that are without children.
Secondly, the numbers of the peasantry should be encouraged to increase by the increasing of their stocks of food, either by greater hours of labor, more land which is grown upon, or any other method necessary…”
Out in Perasef, past the old craggy mountains, in the weeds and thicket, there is a watchtower. It creaks in the wind that blows across the moors and every time it does, it chills Khela Karona to the bone. The little lights of the hamlet behind him are fading one by one, and the sun is going with them.
Something is coming out on the plains. He doesn’t have the storm-bones of an old man, but he can feel the threat as persistently as the coat on his back.
A dark wind is blowing, and he cannot tell where from. He thumbs the trigger on the aging matchlock, the matches in his pocket, and waits for morning to come.
“Final message – peasants have taken Kallin – all blackbloods are ordered to remain in the country and defend our land as they see fit. Glory to the dragons. Soldier on.”
– Final orders given to blackbloods in Koletya.
The old tenement sits oddly empty. Vella’s mother hasn’t come back in three days. It isn’t strange, especially at this time of year, but it still worries her every time. Tshina covers herself with a blanket, and looks out over the orange dawn on the stoop.
She tries to tell herself it isn’t strange. She cannot avoid the sinking sense of fear in her gut.
“…Thirdly, that the act of intentional stillbirth among the women of the peasantry shall be punished with a due fine, or flogging, or any other punishment that shall be seen fit to a judge.
Fourthly, the college has uncovered evidence that pipes of lead have done great good in ensuring the complacency and honesty among the peasant population, and hence any administrator assigned to a city ought to begin to replace the pipes of iron or other material in any peasant quarters with those of lead.
Fifthly, the college suggests that more public housing should be created with close quarters and open living rooms, and public bathhouses alike, so as to create a space for the new population and to encourage breeding amongst the peasants.
Sixthly, the college suggests that any child who is left unattended without a last name shall become a full ward of the state, with the potential obligation to become a worm at any time a member of the blooded class desires. This shall sate the need of the blooded class better with less strain put upon the general populace, spiritually inferior as they are.”
Lidya did not cry for Shosef; she didn’t know him well enough to cry. Still, she felt a keening sadness in her heart for him. He was a good fellow, and he deserved better.
“First amongst the Gyetyean gods is Ia-Atshe, who is a vast beast akin to a bull with the face of a man and the claws of a wolf. Between his horns are the sun and moon, and he pulls the stars along upon his great cape, where all the other gods live and sing his praises. Sacrifices to Ia-Atshe must be of the blood of bulls or men. Recently, as these so-called vampir have rose to prominence in the Kolet life, and so these vampir, being the living descendants of the Horned Lords of old, drink the blood of their populace. This too may be considered another example of how cruel the divine is.”
Mr. Allatsha is proud of how his party is coming along. He finally puts the last guest into the book, taking her money in kind. She smiles at him like a fox would. She was a Sondi woman, yes, but they were having guests from all over at any rate. A few representatives of the military government in Kamar were supplying rum and some rarer attractions; a few Darean black-coats on a diplomatic mission; and more than a few native Kolets. He reassured himself that he would be as good as his father with this sort of thing as he re-examined all the papers.
Yes, he thought to himself, It’ll be the best one yet.
“Of the main political parties, I feel that the militarists are most amicable to our cause. However, we cannot ignore the abilities of Koletyan democratists and moralists. Their reach is long, and many of them already believe in the Scripture of the Sepulcher. Their revolutionary ideas could easily fit in the Scripture as part of their philosophy. If we can only convince more of them to proselytize…”
– Letter between Agoran missionaries, dated 1506
Far away, where the earth never thaws and the sun is swallowed for nearly half the year, a temple sits. It is impossible; cyclopean marble beams erupting from the grey-brown earth and peat-moss like it had grown in the same manner as a tree. The slaves and surveyors have brought up gunpowder from the far south, but the wind and cold barely allow a match to light.
In its place, the masters have ordered them to take up picks and duds. Their cruel command looks down upon them from a neighboring ridge. One stands nude – a reminder that they are unsapped and totally untired by the blistering chill.
The stony doors crack and break under their picks, and a silvery fluid gushes from one of the tiny holes.
Mercury. Pure, undiluted mercury.
A scribe hastily alters the time table at the sight of the discovery. It was going to be a long summer.
“I do not know what to do with myself.
I keep expecting Ana to scold me. She has all the right to do so for being so rash in Meshukh. I had been incorrect in my assessment of the witch and nearly died as a result, and she could have been hurt as well. Yet, she hasn’t given me any reprimand at all.
I am afraid to write this.
The angle at which I was cut made it difficult to bandage it properly. She has taken it as her responsibility to help me with it. Ana, I have noticed, is a woman of exceptional physique and character. She is strong – quite strong. And yet, she is terribly gentle when she bandages my arm up, day after day. I do not think any person has been so kind as to touch me like this.
I do not know what to do with myself. I watch her when she sleeps sometimes, and she is so serene – so peaceful, so beautiful. I once thought her rude, but in truth I think she is simply more straightforward with me than most. It is a kind of frankness that has grown on me as I have spent more time with her. She has grown on me, and it terrifies me utterly.
I opened my uncle’s gifts today before putting them away again. I could not bring myself to do it around her. If I did, she would notice. She would insist on bandaging my wounded breast. I know she would, and where would I be then? What would I do then? To have another woman see me so nakedly, with all my shame? With my vows?
I cannot do it.”
– Diary Entry, Undated.