Bog's World

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Bosen Koubba

“Until you have learnt to serve men, how can you serve ghosts? Zilu then ventured upon a question about the dead. The Master said, "Until you know about the living, how are you to know about the dead?"

Confucius Analects XI.

A thunderstorm caused by the very last southerly trade winds blowing up from Woolly Bay gathered itself over the plains of Ard Rhassë, mounted into a huge pall over the Westilakken and broke over the city at nightfall.

Celegorm was laying in state in Iaun-i-Hisra, the main temple of the land, called Bosen Koubba by the empire’s Baklunish peoples. A vigil was to be kept. This would comprise of four guards at cardinal points around the bier. The Falliarochben stood to the north, facing outwards, one of the ilin of Hisra stood to the east, a Blackrobe to the south and member of the Gwathló (or one of their ilin) to the west. Despite his entry from the door to the north, the Falliarochben in situ made a point of not noticing Thranduil as he entered to do Forgileill’s shift on the vigil. The man in question, an experienced Flanne ilin named Bethor had spent many hours training alongside Thranduil. Thranduil thought his action petty and a little childish. He thought no more of it and assumed his place to wait out the night in cold silence.

During the night Queen of Furyondy and her son, the Emperor’s chief court magi, visit. They were accompanied by priests, Thranduil recognised Fienthin in the garb of the priestess of Labellas. He also recognised by their costumes the priests and priestess’ of Hannali. Wan candlelight cast deep shadows and gave the entire scene an elusive, transient quality as the candles flickered in the winter airs.

They stood in silence over Celegorm’s tomb for nearly an hour. Elacae turned to his mother and said “It was him then ?” It wasn’t really a question so much as a statement.
Without stepping any closer she raised her hand, as if to caress a lover’s face, and let it fall again. “Yes,” she breathed, “Celegorm.”
“I would have known sooner.”
The priests all had the decency to look a little uncomfortable. The stability of the empire, it seemed, had been more important the life of one of its citizens. Thranduil maintained the same silent stance as the other guards on the vigil.

Forgileill’s damp yicduroh and clothing was lying on the floor where she’d left it. Her bags were still packed and the amount of space she had seemed ridiculously small. She and the other younger members of the Gwathló seemed to be actually in what had once been bodyguards or hand servants quarters for the apartments above and below where the more senior members of the clan were.
The long hot soak had been welcome. However, the several hours waiting had done nothing for the long, horse-induced aches in her legs. Wrapped in a thick towel she sighed as she prepared herself to unpack and get her affairs in order for the morning.

There was a quiet, discreet little cough from behind her. There was a young Gwen, kneeling at the doorway to her small chamber. The girl bowed her head and kept her eyes on the floor. For a moment Forgileill quite forgot what to do next, having been mostly in that position herself. “Yes ?”
On cue, the girl looked up. She was Kea, with reddish hair and slightly sticking out ears.
“Highness, I have been sent by the Lady of the Adfel Nhi, at the request of the Princess Jadhrim, to serve you whilst you are in Aranost.”
Hurrah ! Thought Forgileill, my prayers are answered.
“The guest of the hospitable learns hospitality.” Mused Forgileill.
The girl dropped her gaze again. If her waiting on Forgileill was supposed to be some kind of lesson or educational point, then it was perhaps a little cruel of her mistress to use her thus, as the object of a lesson, without asking first.
“What is your name ?”
“Invaswen, your highness.”
“Well then, Invaswen-i-Aranost, the first service I require of you is to help me dry and braid my hair whilst you tell me about the Lord and Lady of the Adfel Nhi.”
Invaswen looked like a frightened rabbit. Obviously tales of the wild princess of the Gwathló and her rebellious lifestyle had preceded her. Thinking about what the power of her reputation had achieved for her at Filcher’s Crossing, she kept Invaswen working hard, cleaning, picking up and arranging drying, laying the fire (which she lit with a firebolt)1, making tea and arranging all the things Forgileill would need the following day. And all the while Forgileill harried her with questions.

Invaswen scurried and worked hard for her lyio’s honoured guest. Although they probably looked about the same age, the Sindelie princess had a harsh edge to everything she said or did. Invaswen had not only to work quite a bit harder than was strictly proper, but also answer a barrage of questions on all manner of topics, not all of which were perhaps inappropriate for a gwen of her station to speak of with an ilin of her station. When she was eventually dismissed, Invaswen made her weary way back to her chambers and threw herself down.

It had been for Invaswen, physically, her hardest period of service since arriving in Aranost. But casting her mind back, it was still preferable to most of the alternatives.

The next morning had been a similar whirlwind experience. Of course Forgileill had risen before the sun and gone to shoot the hare with the other ilin. Which, apparently due to the sheer numbers involved, had been a somewhat vexing way to pass the time. The Seregon did their best to keep order and the Emperor’s Authîr had overseen the practice field himself. However, getting all the ilin out to practice and then back in again caused chaos in the citadel and the saan2 groaned as rocca were watered and ilin bathed.

Along with others of her rank and station, Forgileill would attend upon the Lord of the Nhi and the Emperor as they held joint court in the Lyrond. The others would of course simply wait upon their masters elsewhere. The other Lords of the Empire would attend the joint court after lunch. Everywhere one went one fell over ilin who were in the wrong place. ‘Who comes uncalled, sits un-served.’ Invaswen thought to herself as she directed yet another lost ilin back to his quarters. Sentries spent their entire time answering “Where is….” Questions. And, with all their lacings replaced for Jukpûdhar, it was much harder to tell any of the ilin apart.

Forgileill rode out with the other princes of her Clan. The younger of them (of which she was the youngest) were encouraged to appraise the ilin as they practised. As they moved amongst the other lords of the empire, lessons were given on their alliances and disposition. Individuals were singled out; the youngsters were then assigned to one of those individuals and expected to deliver some intelligence on that person the next day. It was all very conspiratorial, but for her family, felt entirely normal. Forgileill was sure that the other Clans, wily and politicised as they were, didn’t quite embrace espionage to the same degree. They would quite likely be horrified at her entire Clan if they knew.

Eventually Invaswen found Forgileill’s ilin and issued their instructions. She then made her way back to her own quarters for a few hours rest, before the evening mayhem began as the members of the joint court dined in state.

[1] Forgileill did not know that a very similar thing had happened the first time Invaswen met Jadhrim.
[2] Plumbing (from the Perrenic)

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