“1 It was at Migrafa whereupon a woman of ill repute joined the followers of Gelon, and her name was Amat.
2 And the many followers knew of her reputation and of her brand, and they believed her to be sinful.
3 And the followers pelted her with refuse and stones, and yelled insults at her when she passed.
4 And when Gelon learned of this woman, she brought her before the many followers, and set her on a stone at Migrafa. She asked Amat what her crimes were and Amat answered honestly:
5 ‘I was a prisoner for many years for my crime. I was a thief and I was branded for it, and guilt weighs upon me so forever.’
6 Gelon then asked her, ‘Are you still a thief? Will you become a thief again?’
7 And Amat answered honestly, ‘I would not be a thief again except for the pain of hunger; I would take another brand rather than endure the pain of hunger. But I would not steal jewels or fine perfume as I once did.’
8 And Gelon then said to her followers, ‘Why have you treated this woman so unfairly? Has she brought any injury upon you?’
9 And the followers were all silent, for none had been injured by Amat.
10 And Gelon then said to her followers, ‘Those that trespass against the law are branded by the law, and this is not only by the cruelty of our rulers.’
11 ‘By the scar, a man is marked not as a soldier, but as a man who fought. By the brand, a man is not marked as a sinner, but as a man who sinned.’
12 ‘While prudence says that a man who has sinned will sin again, one must understand the nature of sin and the law.’
13 ‘Those that sin, those that truly injure their fellow man, are beset by guilt.’
14 ‘Low are the sinful, for they bear all the weight of their guilt; wretched are the sinful, for they bear all the hungers of their iniquity.’
15 ‘Sin grows in the blood, and makes men twisted and awful. It calls from the heart for remittance in labor or blood, and for confession.`
16 ‘This is why the most depraved men will gladly yell their sins aloud when given a chance; why murderers brag of murders; why thieves brag of thefts. Sin overruns sense, and spills from the mouth as readily as sickness.’
17 ‘And this woman has not bragged of any of her ills, nor has she injured any one of you. Do not mistake her brand for a mark of her guilt. If she bore ten-thousand brands, perhaps she would have earned her ill repute, but she bears but one.’
18 ‘She has labored amongst you, and amongst her captors, and she has earned her freedom. It is marked upon her flesh.’
19 ‘Now, if someone injures any person here, we will set upon them with a judge of character, and a court…’”
– The Book of Justice, Chapter 4:1-19.
Outside, Larena bustles and moves. The worm hears them – yearns to cry out to them – but she cannot.
Worm. Her mind fixates on the thought. She had heard the word before as a term for a servant of the old nobility before the revolution. They promised that she would get what she wanted, and that it would only be a week. That they had been slandered and that they were people of honor, and she should feel glad for her position.
She lost track of the days after the first hour. Had it been a week yet? A month? A year? She felt woozy and off, and she didn’t have the light to tell her how the days went. She thinks that she is on a wooden floor. It feels scratchy on the bare parts of her skin.
She hears her masters stepping down the wooden stairs. She cannot raise her voice above a whisper, and her sinews are too mangled to run. She shudders, and braces herself again.
“Metremte: A native Kolet surname, meaning ‘of the nobility.’”
– A Guide to Kolet Names, Perebina Foletshe
In a shallow grave, in a small clearing, high on the mountainside, Gema Klaetona sleeps peacefully for the first time in years. The sun gleams on the dirt and warms her dead bones. In the silence of the day, an apparition appears. He is a handsome man, dark-skinned and regal in his countenance; a parted silk robe and golden crown imparting his royalty. A procession of centipedes spills from the ground, following him closely.
Only a chattering robin sees his coming and going. He is not really there.
He kneels beside the grave-marker: a simple pole to signify her resting place. He sits there for a while, taking in the day, before speaking aloud.
“I’m sorry, Gema. You were very good at what you did. I am sad you couldn’t enjoy my gifts more.”
There is no answer. For a brief moment, the sun burns bright over his head, and is swallowed up by a dark circle. No eclipse was recorded that day; no great darkness spread over the earth. Nonetheless, in that small clearing, for that moment, the sky went dark and the sun is blotted out as easily as a candle is snuffed.
The bird looks away, and he is gone. The centipedes burrow into the earth, and join the sleeping figure. Her flesh invites them in.
“The men of the Sepulcher are, as a group, the most hopeless optimists to ever exist. The critiques of the First Sage remain perfectly valid into our modern day, even some two-thousand years later. They worship at the feet of a so-called Godhead. It is perfectly known and proven that if such a divinity existed, that divinity hates mankind, or is too stupid to do anything the help mankind. With that said, we may still analyse their arguments and their beliefs, with the knowledge that they are foolish. In this section, I will discuss their history briefly; their fundamentals; and their schools, or as they call them, the synodoxies – which consist of the Veleda, the Kfiirites, and the distasteful Machevins, amongst others.”
– A Survey of Theology, Pferga Sumana, Sondi Philosopher
The Blackwood Quarter is a tar-stain on the waterfront where the Teper meets the Bay of Biral, the throbbing, ugly heart of the city it sits in. A man with bragging scars covering his arms stumbles through the night, and finds himself on the doorstep of a brothel, silver rubles already in hand. He is a regular, and he only comes here for one girl – Seonya. She takes his hand and leads him up past the regular rooms to her own where they lie together. His hands are coarse, but he is very careful with her.
He pays her out of habit now. Out of fairness, as he thinks of it.
After they are finished with their business she curls into him. He doesn’t speak much when she complains about her day, but she appreciates that he listens.
A raven watches from the windowsill. It observes the two, now dressing themselves again before returning to their embrace. It leaps from its perch, and flies into the night, dark eyes reflecting the stars.
“These inquisitors shall take up worldly relations, for it induces weakness and failure. They shall not gain wealth beyond what is necessary for their station, for it is not comely for them to gain wealth. They shall keep good conduct, and induct themselves as followers of the First Saints…”
– Dispensation of Prophet Memra I
Danza Karona and Imera sleep in shifts; Edam has put herself down for the night already. There’s no point in running after someone that far in the wind. Especially at night – it would make an ambush all the more devastating. Danza can barely sleep in the first place. The bad bone in her left leg is aching again. She cannot help but feel that her brothers are in as much trouble and upset as she is. It’s an irrational thought, though, and a distracting one.
She silently prays for them as she watches Verat bandage herself up. She turns her attention back to the broken window. It was rare for one of their own to turn coat. She wanted to end this as quickly as possible before she had to explain it to the Wardens at the Dzhemor.
She pondered passing that duty off to Imera as she covered the window with a sheet and tacking it into place.
“The Every-Nowhere, then, is not a place as we can conceive of it. It is all-time and no-time; it is everywhere and nowhere. It is all around us, within us, and beyond us. It contains us; we contain it. It is memory, and everything outside of memory. It is, in short, the pure form of all things, as described by the Book of Piety.
This is the origin of the soul, as it is described in the Scripture. Your body is a fragment of the pure thing that will exist in Every-Nowhere, the soul; the true, rendered and undiluted object of yourself. There, all your sins and virtues are accounted for, and repeated, for all time. Paradise, then, is the state of virtue after death, and Torment is the state of sin after death, made immutable by one’s actions in the impure world and carried into eternity.”
– Tetsa’s Commentaries, Chapter 5: The Nature of Every-Nowhere
Ivya Zushran hugs her husband. He strokes her hair and kisses her sweetly. In a year’s time, she will have a beautiful baby girl.
“Though called mana among those that live South of the Great Channel, named after the mythic subsistence of the gods from Veleda myth, the author of this manual has encountered many other names for them. There are of course the variants upon the phrase; Agoran man, Pelinic manja, and the borrowed Gveert mã. The Sondi call it tev – meaning willpower – though I have also met esoterics who claim that it is an extension of the ātra, or mastery over the world.
The divisions of mana are likewise varied in terminology. In my most distant visit, I arrived in Sadenea, where I had much difficulty finding a translator. When I did, I was told that mana as a whole had no name, and that they were divided up by their use. Ochre mana was so named imisaan, that which returns; Azure as igisaar, that which shifts; and verdure as iqisaat, that which slings. Nonetheless, in the Great Channel proper, they are best known by their colour names.”
– Berali Semtya, A Comprehensive Manual on The Matter of Sorcery
A woman steps from the gangplank onto stable ground for the first time in nearly a month. She has traveled far and wide for this moment; from her home to the south, all the way to Koletya. The sailors yell in a language she has mostly learned. It’s still foreign enough that she doesn’t feel completely confident in speaking it. She stares at the market stalls, the fish, the bread, the wine – a far cry from her diet of hardtack, rum and an orange every few weeks.
She rolls her shoulders and touches her necklace. There’s pleasures to be had, but first she needs money. She has waited for a long time. Rushing now would simply make things worse. She had the letter of invitation that she picked up in Darea. After money, the rest would be simple.
“I arrived in Tshalagrod today and met my partner, who is named Ana. I do not know what to think of her. Firstly, she is nearly incomprehensible. I did not know that a Kolet could speak bad Koletyan. When I asked our priest about this, she said that she was from a city. Surely someone from the city would be better at speaking their language, not worse, on account of there being more people to talk to.
She also says that she prefers half-garb. I asked her how she can stand the itchiness of the pants they give us. She shrugged and did not give a further answer to me, and the discussion ended there.
When I broached theology with her, she was quite receptive. At the very least, she seems to know her history well. If that holds, I may yet enjoy this backwater assignment.”
– Diary Entry, Dated to the 11th of Charity Ascending.