Aug. 9th, 2015

grayfoxblog: painting of a gryphon backlit by the sun (Default)
Come inside, come inside. The desert wind is harsh today, time for young ones to cease their play and listen to their elders.

A tale, you say? I have many. Re’Kevaar the Just, Sandwalker Drai, Azzir the Forgotten One. These interest you?

Let me look out at the storm. The Dreamingwind they used to call these windstorms, did you know that? My, it looks like we are in for a long dream! That is good, for great legends require long hours, and I have just the legend for you today.

But first, my great story requires a little back lore. Yes, Yotingo, if you wish to make yourself a historian, then you must study the culture.

And so I begin today’s lesson with one about Re’Gelrin and Ra’Qara, or, as you may know them, Greatmother Qara and Greatfather Gelrin. It began, hm, nigh on 10,000 years ago…



*****

Re’Gelrin and Ra’Qara were mortal once. These were the days when only the degonti walked the sands; there were no sulogu, no heshti. The sands themselves stretched in every direction, unmarred by the structures of the Ba'malra or the Brown Skins. It was a canvas for the gods, who painted their pictures by walking our plane as one of us, flesh and bone and blood.

What is a degonti, you ask? Good question. Degonti are short, like the Brown Skins from the West—about 6 handspans tall. They walk on their heels like bears and have grey skin like the fire’s ash. Their eyes are bright and glowing. It is said a degonti can never lie, as their eyes shift colors depending on their true feelings.

Now, Qara was particularly well-respected degonti, also the Ra of her tribe, and she had a mate in the one named Vekraa, her respective Re. Gelrin was their advisor, and, some said, there was more than just counsel exchanged between he and Ra'Qara.

But if that were so, it never got in the way of their leadership. Qara and Vekraa’s tribe were the wealthiest in the desert. Back then, wealth was not measured in glittering metals, but in hunting territory and the strength and loyalty of one's followers. Re'Kevaar's hunters knew the lore of the land, which of the yez to cull and which to tame, which of the mulusdar to eat and which to leave to the coyote. The land flourished under their tending, and the cacti grew tall and covered with jade!

Hey now, I know it sounds laughable, but that was the way the story was told me by our honorable makhani. For as you know, our makhani are the bearers of wisdom past and they do not take kindly to laughing, Yotingo!

Now then, where was I? His warriors! Yes. Re'Vekraa's warriors were stronger than most, it is true, but perhaps not the most loyal, as we will see. Whether by rumor or betrayal, jealousy and hatred grew among their ranks, until the tribe of Re'Sheek saw their opportunity to challenge the larger tribe for dominance of the land.

A party of Re'Sheek's people came to Re'Vekraa's tent one evening to formally administer their challenge. But instead of Re'Vekraa meeting them outside as was right and proper, Ra'Qara greeted them and bid them enter. Re'Vekraa, it was said, was terribly ill and could not speak to them. This was a great insult, but what was said between the Ra and the challengers under those hide roofs has been lost to history. All the other degonti knew was that war was declared the following day.

I would describe the war, but honestly? It was just terrible. The blood of entire clans and tribes drenched the sands red. At Muatha, there was a particularly terrible battle, lasting four whole moons, and even now if you go there, you see the sand stained with the blood of the fallen. Green magefires burned on the horizons long into the nights, and whole stretches of dunes were turned to glass from the heat. Many tribes were completely annihilated, their clan names forgotten. The mulusdar fled and the yez became intractable. Coyotes feasted on the bodies of the dead, and it began to occur to the warriors on both sides to ask why they had even been fighting in the first place!

Eventually the strength of Ra’Qara’s tribe began to wane. One night, as the Wanderer rode high into the sky, Ra’Qara called a council of elders, Gelrin and the ailing Re'Vekraa among them.

“We must destroy Re'Sheek's tribe before the season is out,” she warned the council. "Or else there will not be enough time to prepare for the Dying of the Green."

"I do not want the blood of so many people on my hands," said Re'Vekraa, and though his voice was strong, many of the others thought him fitful and demoralized by his long illness. But the people of Re'Vekraa were honorable, and none of them commented.

"The magi stand ready," reported one of the sachems. "A fire lit among Re'Sheek's yurts should route them."

"Women and children live in those yurts," Ra'Qara said quickly, more to soothe her husband than anything else. "No. Gelrin and I have a better idea, and it will require your full cooperation." The eyes of the other councilors flared red at being chastized so, but whatcould they say?

Ra’Qara spread her arms, her ceremonial Ra feathers making her seem a bird. “The plan is thus. We will travel to the Starpool at dawn, and there lay an ambush for the Enemy."

Now, I’m not sure what you’ve heard of the Starpool, but it is an oasis deep within the desert. Strange jade-topped cacti ring a deep lake, their waving forms reflected perfectly in the still water. It is said that one can gaze into these waters to see their fortune, but not many risk it, for monsters swim in its depths. It was a desperate place for a desperate battle.

The tribe cut the cacti thorns there to make bulwarks and lashed its flesh into litters to prepare for the wounded. All the while they kept a careful distance from the mystical pool. The ambushers laid up, covering tarpaulins with sand and hiding beneath them. Ra’Qara sent her challenge to Re’Sheek, sending a green bolt of magefire into the air.

Re’Sheek arrived the next day with his tribe, weary from the long march but ready to fight. Their warriors stalked into the oasis warily. Despite their wariness, their only warning was the sand shifting beneath their feet before the spears of Re'Vekraa's people emerged. The fighting was fast, furious. Re'Vekraa roared himself hoarse giving commands, and when he could no longer speak, Gelrin took his place.

Presently, Re'Sheek heard the shouting and approached the Re with two of his warriors. Out of bowshot, he called to Re'Vekraa, and his words have been passed down through myth: “Your health has abandoned you, as have your people's loyalty! Give me the rights to leadership, Brother Vekraa, and may we rebuild together and lead our clans to a new glory!"

Re’Vekraa, proud, did not answer. Gelrin, however, taunted the Re, comparing his ancestors to tsetse flies.

Re'Sheek, angered, charged Re'Vekraa's honorguard with his chosen warriors. Re'Vekraa leaped up front of Gelrin to protect him, though he slipped on the wet sand by the Starpool's banks. The blade that did him in was not seen, but a sudden breach opened up in the fighting, and Re'Vekraa fell to the ground, mortally wounded.

Re'Sheek clutched a throat wound, glaring at Gelrin, who held his bloodied blade grimly. “Cowards! Betrayers!" shouted Re'Sheek, gurgling on his blood. "May the sands cover your treacherous bodies until they are forgotten!” And so with lies of dissension has Re'Sheek always weakened his foes. He then leaped for the doubting Gelrin, but at the same time, Re'Vekraa began to rise, and all three degonti overbalanced into the Starpool and were lost to its depths.

The fighters and waters both were still for many long moments. Then there was a splash, and Gelrin emerged, grasping a feather from Re'Sheek's headcrown. Flourishing this, he declared victory. Re’Vekraa did not emerge, and was counted among the dead.

Ra’Qara’s tribe was torn between grief and celebration that night. Although Re’Vekraa had died defending his comrade, Re’Sheek had been done in by Gelrin’s bravery. For his valor, Gelrin was awarded the position of Re, leader of the tribe and to-be mate of Ra’Qara. The war was expected to end quickly thereafter.

But it was not to be. There were rumors of treachery among the councilors, though it could not be proven. Many clans exchanged loyalties that night, some to the tribes of Ra'Qara, some to the tribes of the late Re'Sheek.

By morning, the pool had turned the poisonous green of magefire. Anyone who drank of its water became horribly ill, and it was rumored to be the work of a god's vengeance. Disheartened, both peoples retreated back into the desert, but their conflicts did not stop there. In time, the division between the tribes widened. The people of Ra'Qara, fat and complacent with their victories, would choose to settle and build houses made of the earth, and so they took on the new name of Ba'malra. Those who followed Re'Sheek, and those who confusedly deserted Ra'Qara for the incident at the Starpool, would fracture further until they no longer posed a great threat to the Ba'malra. Some of them, those loyal to Re'Vekraa's memory, would come to be known as the Sandwalkers. The others, well...the others were thought to be cursed. I will tell you their story later.

Re'Sheek and Re'Vekraa's bodies were never recovered from the Starpool. It was not, however, to be the end of their reign on our mortal plane. No, their story continues, as does the story of Ra'Qara and Re'Gelrin's troubles...

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