Bog's World

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"Ilin oath is more than blood" Said Roh

C J Cherryh, The Gate of Iverl

The main events began before dawn. High in the Tirandamunda (Elephant Tower) the first of the mourners took in deep lung full of chilled Westilakken air. Splitting the pre dawn gloaming there was one ululating dolorous cry that seemed to go on forever. The sea gulls along the lakeshore road took to the sky, adding their raucous chorus to the opening of the mourning, setting off the population of the rookeries around the city. As if on cue, other voices within the city joined in with a great wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Celegorm had been Prince of Hisra for many centuries. He was directly related to Laru the Red, Dragon God of the Empire. He was a lord of the Celebrinoth. Following the hurried way in which Glordin’s Jukpūdhar had happened, the Gwathlo would make up for it now. The other scions of the Gwathlo and their Sindaliė relatives followed the bier, carried by his closest lieutenants, as it left Aranost (the Citadel). Born on shoulders of Gothon Yla, Alu Canath Nhi and four more of his Carnc, Celgorm made a last tour of his city.

Next in line was the King of Perrenland. As the Lyio of the deceased, he was the chief of the unrelated mourners. Then came the body of the ilin of Hisra and the owners, sponsors and officers of the Brandenheer, all shedding the tears that long tradition of Jukpūdhar requires. And of course, where the Emperor goes, the game of houses follows. All of the great houses of the Empire had sent representatives to convey their grief at Celegorm’s passing.

Citizens of Hisra from both the city of Westil and far away fell in behind the good and great of the Empire, their wailing, mock self flagellation and tooth grinding filling the air with jarring and frankly disturbing cacophony. Within the Empire it is viewed as necessary and healthy to weep in such a manner at such times.

By the time that the sun was half way to noon, the procession had covered almost all of the city, the mourners, official and unofficial, genuinely moved and those moved by duty, had fallen in behind. Priests from many faiths bore fetishes on arks, adding their songs, hymns and chants. Most of those within sight of the bier were silent and solemn. Nearly two miles away, towards the back, the crowds were riotous with a carnival atmosphere, entertainers tumbled and mimed as bards and choirs ran through a recognisable Jukpūdhar related repertoire. Generally, people take their cue from the chief mourners. In accordance with tradition, most of the ilin classes discussed in reverend tones the life and great works of Celegorm, assessing his place in the pantheon of Celebrinoth who had gone before him.

The procession marched out of the city and straight towards the Vesve along the Ulriaweg. There is a Beacon Hill to the north of the road, it takes two hours to reach at slow walk. The bier and the mourners mounted the hill, with Celegorm taking pride of place at the summit. Forgileill was stood within arms reach of the pall bearers, pressed up by the weight of ilin behind. The crowds opened and various denominations of priests came through.

The highest ranking clerics of the Seldarine prayed and chanted. Slowly all the other Nostir (and the Pernostir who leant that way) joined in with the lament. It was a cry impeaching the Seldarine to welcome one of their own. The crowds hushed as their voices stretched the limit of human hearing. As silence descended once more, Abyzaran, a Kalkhur Shaman performed his noisy, smoky rite to ensure that Celegorm left the fields we know and wouldn’t return to disturb his successors. He was followed by hierophants and then other Flanne Priests of the Circle delivering benedictions for the security that Celegorm and his kin had provided not just to the people of Hisra but to all the Flanaess. The trees of the Vesve were suddenly colonised by crows. The air went black with rooks, ravens and their ilk, all to a deafening cawing crescendo. Thousands of birds temporarily turned bright afternoon to shaded twilight, the noise blotted out thought and memory. Inexplicably the eyes of the mourners on the hill were drawn to the open avenue by which all the priests had ascended. At the foot of the hill were a large group of between twenty and thirty Blackrobes. They said nothing and did not move to gain the hill via the open path through the crowd. They just stood there. Afterwards the mourners at the foot of the hill could not remember their arriving and had no clear recollection of their departure. But they were there and they paid their respects in silence as the corvids had paid theirs with rasping voices.

Ascarnil Gwathlo then led the congregation in commemorating the life, reputation and great deeds of the Prince of Hisra. This was done in rhyme and song 1. Many others took their turn to add more to what has already been said by the chief mourner, beginning with the forlorn looking King of Perrenland. By the time those who felt the need to had added their piece it was dusk. Slowly and without drama the crowds dispersed as Celegorm’s blood relations watched the sun go down on his face for the last time. Alu Canath placed a thick yellow velvet cloth over the body of the one who had been his Lyio since the Dagor Tarsil.

As the human element of the Jukpūdhar retreated for the night, their cries and tears spent. As the Pernostir of the empire retired, their duty to a Lyio of the Celebrinoth done, His family shouldered Celegorm for one last journey into the Vesve.

Each day of Jukpūdhar begins in sorrow (even despair) and proceeds in no particular order through expressions of pride, gratitude, thanks, wistful remembrance, solemn and joyous commemoration, veneration and faith. These are displayed in uncontrolled outpourings of grief, solemn and joyous procession, music, prayer, songs, hymns, chants, liturgy, collective acts of religious worship and both private and public retrospection. It is a religious ritual, common to the belief systems prevalent in the Empire. The ritual is not prescriptive in any way – people can drift in and out of the ritual at any point and although it does have formulaic prayers and litanies, these are not set in stone. The whole process is rather organic.

The Gwathlo returned to the Citadel at dusk the following day, saying little. The third day was given over to feasting. The mood of all those who were gathered was re-set from mournful introspection to forward looking. Forgileill was able to take time to find her friends for a short while. Of course, as one of the Gwathlo, when she went to feast, it would be in the same hall as the Emperor. All of them would technically be at the same feast, of course. However there was always a subtle difference.

There was then a lull for a week or so. Forgileill and the others mustered daily with other ilin of Clan Gwathlo and of Hisra. Horses were turned out and space was found for the ilin of all the other Lords who had come. The fields around Westil hadn’t seen such a body of ilin since the Celebrinoth began to muster for the Dagor Tarsil.

The Lords rode out and often met, conducting the business of running the empire and dynastic manoeuvring whilst all about their ilin restrained themselves from churning the entirety of the Wilya to hoof pocked mud.

Also during that week, yicduroh were re-laced. All the yellow silken braid was gathered up, it would be dyed and used again for something else by the cloth merchants of Westil. New braids laced lamellae together in proper colours for their home regions – either colours of house or state, depending on their own traditions and their Lyio’s wishes.

And all the while the Lyrond of the Citadel was closed. It reopened, not under the dancing wolf of the Gwathlo, but under the very similar wolf’s head of the Nhi. Alu Canath, before the Emperor and other Lords of the Empire, claimed the Carnc of Hisra as ilin. Those ilin who served directly were already forsworn to him as Authîr, but there were others who were included.

The next day, borrowing his ilin’s Lyrond, the emperor claimed Alu Canath as his ilin. Forgileill was in the forefront of the seated ilin (Carncs, Lords and favoured scions of the great houses) for both events. Thranduil was also in attendance, towards the back, with the other Lominlindi, but still a guest.

Over the last two years, the shape of the empire had changed greatly. Three elder statesmen of the Empire had passed, three mighty and reverend Princes of the Sindalië. The Gwathlo had shed three quarters of their land within the empire; The Yla, the Irien and Nhi had all been elevated to the Imperial Council.

Despite the Emperor departing within a week, following Alu Canath’s promise to attend upon him at mid winter, it was a month or more before the last of the visitors left. All the Carnc of Hisra had returned to their Wilya.

[1] The better the style of the cant, the more honour there is for all involved.

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