Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Legends of Gai

In keeping with something that has become sort of a yearly tradition, I've been coming up with story ideas. It's a bad tradition, because it takes place right now, at the busiest time of my year, when there's absolutely no way I could find time to write any of these - even if I did have the energy. So, instead, I write down little scenes or snippets in the hope that at some later point, when I'm rested, I can come back to them and remember what I was feeling inspired by.

This set actually has the makings of a short story collection. They're myths and legends, or in some cases possibly history, from the world of Gai - the setting that serves as home for The Great Unpublished Pulp Fantasy Novel. These are stories that most people would recognize, in one form or another. (If you're confused by the terminology - and who wouldn't be, really? - there's a guide here. The definitions are towards the bottom.)
In the House of the Wolf
Early one autumn morning, a child appeared at the gates of the forest-keep of House Darmot. He said his uncle had brought him there, but could not say where he had come from or who his uncle was. This was early in reign of High Lord Somerlat, when such fosterings were common; unwanted children could be brought to the Verath, and a suitable family would be found for them. This child, however, was beastkin - a libboeth with the ability to take on the nature of a beast. Ordinarily, this would have made it almost impossible to find a home for him; but the Verath of House Darmot counted the wolves as their kin, and this child (who gave his name a Yarril) had a wolf for his other self.

So Yarril was accepted into the service of House Darmot. He underwent many trials and distinguished himself in service and in battle. Though he was not naissen and so could never join the ranks of the Verath, he served in the Outrunners and eventually became Captain of the Wolflord's Guard. By the end of his life, he was considered a cousin of the House and was said to be the father of many of its noble children.

The Libboeth Lady
Not all Verath are born into noble houses or recruited during their childhood. Many are accepted later in life, in honor of achievements or service, or simply because the local nobility only discovered their talent later in life. Among the most famous of these cases is that of Lady Abrigela of House Lonildes, whose very existence briefly challenged the entire definition of Verath. Lady Abrigela was brought in to the House after a local lord saw her save a child who had fallen out of a window.

Lady Abrigela was a strange one, even by the standards of Verath. She seemed puzzled by her new-found status, and more at home conversing with spirits than with people. Indeed, where most Verath relied on one or two familiar spirits, Lady Abrigela surrounded herself with a virtual cloud of them. Her status as Verath became controversial when it was revealed that she was not naissen at all. She was libboeth, and the only power she possessed in herself was the gift of speaking to spirits. All the arts she had done - lifting herself into the air, slowing the child's fall, healing and firestarting and everything else - had been done by her tribe of spirits, acting on her behalf.

Lady Abrigela was called to judgement by her House, in what became the most famous trial of its century. Despite compelling arguments to the contrary, and a great deal of public outcry, she was stripped of her rank and expelled from House Lonildes. Justice Trimil dismissed any notion of further punishment, however, noting that the former lady had demonstrated all the capabilities of a Verath and that she may not herself have realized that she wasn't naissen. Abrigela appears to have taken all this with a sort of bemused equanimity; she retired to a small farm near the northern border of the Lonildes lands. (The farm, interestingly, was provided to her by the same Verath who first inducted her into the house.) She lived out her days there, serving as a chosu to the nearby village of Kuleth and the surrounding area.

The Judgement of Fire
Late in the reign of High Lord Varliel, a hundred years before the trial of Lady Abrigela, there was a rebellion in the lands of House Furimis. House Furimis claimed that these uprisings were caused by outside agitators, but most historians agree that this was a popular rebellion sparked by high taxes, neglect of noble duties, and a house of Verath who disdained to follow their own laws. House Furimis responded harshly, meeting any and all dissent with violence, executing rebel leaders, and burning down farms and sometimes whole villages which were suspected of hiding or supporting rebels.

So it was that Speaker Kelil returned to the temple of Sar Halic, which he kept, with the ashes of his village in his hair and the corpses of his family in his eyes. He ascended to Sanctum of Fire, and found Sar Halic there; but what he spoke, what bargain or plea he made, no one knows. It's said that when he emerged from the temple, his eyes were red as coals and his hair had become fire; he went forth as a wildfire that consumed House Furimis, from the lowly soldiers who had destroyed his village to the towers of the Verath themselves. In most versions of the story, Kelil accepted the power of Sar Halic knowing that it would eventually consume him, though in some tellings the Protector intervened to spare his life, that he might rise up against the Verath again should the need arise. What is a matter of historical fact is that the few survivors of House Furimis sought shelter from the High Lord, who considered them "judged by the gods" and condemned them join the ranks of the Forsaken.

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