June 16, 708 CR
First principles. The world existed before I was.
Elvmere ducked beneath a spinning wooden arm and then jumped over its brother aimed for his shins. A second later he did so again as the training machine spun. He grit his fangs together and sucked in quick breaths through his black nose.
The world is intelligible. I can know things and these things can be tested. There is truth and it cannot change. A changed truth is not a truth at all.
The bar swung for his head and Elvmere ducked low before jumping. The rhythm had not been hard to master; after two weeks of grueling training he no longer collapsed on his bunk with the other acolytes with bruised shins and brow. Now he could spare a moment to gather his thoughts and train them too.
It is the measure against which I must find my place.
Jump, duck, jump, duck. His body was wound like a spring and just as loose.
Nothing can both exist and not exist. It either is or it isn't. Once it is it will always be, only its state of being can change.
Elvmere felt the lower bar brush his tail and the brief touch made him hesitate a single heartbeat. He hissed under his breath as he ducked, and then tripped as the lower bar swinging back around clipped his paw. He thrust his arms forward to roll aside but bounced from the edge of the spinning platform and landed on his back staring up at a blue-liveried mule with a lop-sided ear and sardonic expression.
To wit, the bruise on my ribs did not exist a moment ago.
“Well, Acolyte,” DeMule remarked with a braying laugh. “Your best time yet. You dodged forty-three passes this time. Back to Tamsin for sword practice. You'll try this again in an hour.”
Elvmere pushed himself up and offered the other trainees waiting their turn on the machine a hopeful grin. Some chuckled at the raccoon's latest stumble while others returned the encouragement. Most were young enough to have just undergone their first change while a few were the last stragglers from Bradanes. A few were older come in need of a refresher before their annual patrol duty. A handful, like Elvmere, were acolytes of the Temple fulfilling their assigned duty.
At the beginning of the month, Celine informed him he would be spending his mornings training for combat until DeMule felt he was ready for his first patrol. Every able-bodied Metamorian was required to go on patrol at least once a year and acolytes of the Temple were no exception, especially one as hearty as the youthful raccoon. The fact he had never before used a weapon was no excuse, and both Celine and the Lothanasa had assured him nothing in his past would alter their expectations of him.
Other than his vow of silence regarding who he'd once been.
Whatever uncertainty he'd felt from the other acolytes when he joined the Order had been assuaged by six months of communal living and serving. The rhythm of life in the Temple had its variations, but each day began with prayers and ended with the nightly sacrifice. His only interruptions were the occasional visit from his traveling companions Malger and Murikeer. Malger's last visit had been to inform him of a long journey to Sondeshara and say goodbye – they had sung an impromptu traveling song together before the marten took his leave.
Murikeer visited not long after to inquire after his training and, after securing Celine's permission, took Elvmere for a short jaunt through the nearby forest to help the raccoon see Artela in all her splendors. The skunk's obvious devotion and gentleness as he touched each tree and bush and whispered of each animal surrounding them lifted his spirits and filled him with marvel. Artela'kema had been only three days before, and so already heady with the ancient ritual, Elvmere had felt praise for the goddess come easily to his tongue. He'd felt a sudden urge to shrink to his feral form and, leaving his brown acolyte's robes behind, climb up the nearest tree to see, listen, and smell the forest the way her wild children did. Later during the evening prayers he wondered if he would have done so had Murikeer not been there.
But as Elvmere lay waiting for sleep to claim him, he fought tears for the faith he had lost.
I exist, or else I could not perceive any of the universe. But I did not bring myself about. “You're almost there, Elvmere.” A short-furred young man dressed as a guard of the Temple in smoky-gray livery with the twin cross emblazoned across the front smiled to him. The smile lifted his protruding, heavy snout enough Elvmere could see the short, sharp teeth beneath it. Elvmere had seen creatures like this only once before on a mission to Eavey in Sonngefilde, but Metamor's curses drew from all across the world for its inspiration.
“Another two weeks, eh, Tamsin?” Elvmere asked as he practiced the stretches DeMule had showed them. The tapir shrugged and lowered his snout.
“Perhaps. I think you'll get it sooner.” Tamsin flicked his large ears out to either side of his head and turned the practice sword over in his mostly human-shaped hands. “I'd prefer a Summer patrol; I don't have thick fur like you. You know how winters are.”
“Aye,” Elvmere admitted. His second winter at Metamor had been spent in the Temple; he'd could only notice the change by observing what the Lothanasi coming to worship wore.
“Well, let's get started. DeMule is watching!” Tamsin offered the second sword to Elvmere. Even though both were fashioned from strong oak, the raccoon felt sure they would be nothing more than kindling before the day was done. He scratched his claws across the surface, green eyes lost.
Something brought me into existence. Something before me. Not my parents or theirs.
He felt a tap on his shoulder and blinked. “No daydreaming, Elvmere! Lutins won't wait for you to finish praying, eating, or well, you know!” He chuffed at himself and Tamsin's reluctance to swear. He'd heard far worse from Malger and had long since stopped flinching.
He stepped back and lifted the sword the way he'd been shown, trying to keep his attention on the tapir's face, hands, and shoulders. Tamsin shifted back and forth on his big three-toed feet, swaying the sword tip for a few seconds before jabbing at Elvmere's chest. He stepped back and swung his sword down making a solid crack.
“Good, your reflexes are improving,” Tamsin said as he flashed another snout-lifted grin. Before Elvmere could acknowledge the compliment, the tapir swung in from his left again. Elvmere gritted his fangs and held tight.
Something brought all of us into existence.
“Well, keep your eyes on me!” Tamsin laughed and stomped back a pace. “Now, come at me.”
First principles will have to wait. Dokorath, help me learn to defend myself!
It was a long morning.
By noon-time Elvmere felt at least three new bruises along his arms and sides. It was his fewest yet. He half wished he'd asked Malger and Murikeer to teach him on their journey through Sathmore, but he could not have foreseen his service to the Temple then. He followed after Tamsin as they returned the practice swords and gathered their brown acolyte robes. Even inside the castle with its cold stone walls they were too hot to dare put them on. The gray tunic and breeches of the Temple guards would do for now.
“You are a good swordsman, Tamsin,” Elvmere noted as they left DeMule's training hall. “I can tell you are going easy on me.”
“Of course,” Tamsin replied, patting him on the shoulder. “We may be about the same age, but I've been swinging a sword since I was six. So I've...” He looked at his fingers and took a few seconds to count, “fourteen years on you!”
“It cannot be a good idea to send someone like me on a patrol.”
Tamsin shrugged, and turned his long head toward the raccoon. “We do it all the time. Usually your first will be down south. Less chance of excitement. Once we've had the patrol you won't have to come to training every day. Unless Celine says to.”
Elvmere felt a sullen dread at the thought. “She won't, will she?”
Tamsin chuckled. “Probably not. But then again.” He scratched under his chin and lifted his snout as if smelling out his thoughts. “You're young and in good shape, and beastly too. Not many of us acolytes have those nice claws. I'm jealous; I bet Dokorath himself is jealous!” They shared a light chuckle before the tapir shrugged. “I'm surprised she didn't send you sooner.”
“She had her reasons, I'm sure. The last two months I've been in the archives or with the musicians.”
“And good! You really learned from the Dreamwalker?”
“The life of a wandering minstrel didn't suit you?”
Elvmere looked away for a moment, surprised to see they had not yet reached the familiar entrance to the Temple. The strange power of the Keep to reshape itself never interfered with the inside of the Temple and it startled him on his first outing when he discovered it anew. Now it seemed to be prolonging their way back.
He liked Tamsin hin'Feros. Though he could not admit his real age, his body in appearance and in the many impulses and passions it experienced was close enough to the tapir's own. There were only three other male acolytes touched by the animal curse: Christopher who was locked in the form of a feral bear, and two others who had served since long before Three Gates. With Tamsin, much like with Murikeer and Malger, he felt the age the Keep had made him. The tapir's earnest nature and genuine devotion made it easy to like him. He was Elvmere's first friend among the acolytes.
“Suit me? For a season or two it did. But not for the rest of my days. And why are you not a warrior or scout for Metamor? You could be.”
“I was,” Tamsin admitted, turning to look at the ceiling for a moment. He made a sign with his fingers Elvmere recognized as the spiral of Akkala. He then patted his side and right leg. “I was badly injured during Winter Assault. I would have died. But Akkala healed me. Her gaes was to serve as an acolyte and strengthen the Temple for a year. My year is up but...” He lifted his prodigious snout again and laughed. “I fell in love with life at the Temple and so I stay.”
“Besides,” he added, nudging the raccoon in the ribs. “I still go on patrol, and help other acolytes like you manage their martial duties! But I get to do so much more now, and help the Lothanasa with all the rituals. Much better than the life of an ordinary scout.”
Elvmere smiled to his friend and took his turn to pat his friend on the shoulder. “It might be why Akkala chose to heal you; so many were dying, and yet she choose you.”
“She healed many more than me, but aye, maybe so!” Tamsin looked down at his brown robe for a moment, small eyes fixed as his fingers traced across the rough folds of fabric. His nose swelled with a deep breath as he pulled it over his head. “Time to share the Light, Elvmere.”
Elvmere could only nod and do the same as the tapir.
All things happen for a reason.
The raccoon and tapir normally enjoyed a meal together after returning to the Temple but the time of fasting for the Day of Dedication was upon them so they were only permitted a little drink. Once finished they were sent their separate ways; Tamsin to his daily training in magical arts and Elvmere to a few hours of copying in the Scriptorium. There was no time to remove the heavy, gray guard-of-the-temple livery and change into lighter underclothes, and so in the stuffy Archives he soon began panting and every few minutes had to wipe the sweat from his palms onto his robes to keep from staining the ancient manuscripts.
Still, he enjoyed a chance to learn the history of the Pantheon, their progeny, their dealings with man and the rise of the Lothanasi. There was a cosmic sweep to the events so different from what he'd learned as a Patildor in his first youth. At times he felt as if he pored over tomes of some ancient civilization of men and at others their celestial nature was manifest so powerfully he felt smaller than a beast in comparison. What startled him anew, and what he found with each new day he savored more, was how like he and all his friends the Pantheon seemed. They had feelings, motivations, struggles, victories, and suffering too. Each of the gods writ upon a canvas of ages the struggle of mortal life and the depth of goodness it could overflow.
And perhaps, he noted with a hint of doubt, they showed weakness too. Against the sweep of time there seemed mistakes. Elvmere chuffed at himself for the thought.
I cannot measure the gods the way I measure myself. I do not see nearly as far as they and must be humble.
Elvmere wiped his paws on his lap again and blinked, eyes returning to the page. The warm glimmer of an enchanted stone – one of eight gifted him by Murikeer – made the letters clear and crisp. He rolled the quill between his claws as he read the next line. Carefully he dipped the quill in ink and copied each word. The language was difficult to decipher as it was an ancient form of Suielish common in the glory days of Sathmore a thousand years ago already fallen into disuse in the eastern extent of the Empire by the time of the Patildor. But he was able to discern a long, arcane ceremony where an ancient goddess of the arts, Sakkan, swore fealty to Kammoloth to save her sole surviving worshiper.
He copied a few more sentences before he was forced to wipe the sweat from his paws again, as well as dab up a bit of drool from his panting. Elvmere grimaced as he stretched and then massaged the bruises along his side and arm. The soreness lingered but he was growing used to it.
Kammoloth, King of the Gods. To whom all in the Celestial Realm owe allegiance and who created the Lothanasi to mediate between god and man. But there are other gods. What is a god? A being surely, but of what nature? Sakkan is not Aedra, not like Kammoloth and Artela and the rest. Yet she is of the Celestial Realm. What is it? How many more Celestial beings abide there?
How do they relate to Eli and Yahshua? What is it the Lothanasi call Him? Geshwa Onequion. Hirasoth. What does this name mean?
Elvmere tapped the end of the quill to his nose and stilled his panting as he watched the ink dry. Even his tail fell still at his feet as his mind wrangled with questions.
There were other gods worshiped by mankind before, perhaps by the Elves as well? What of the Lutins, Giants and Dragons? Do they have gods too? Will all of them bend the knee to Kammoloth one day?
But the Patildor claim, and I believed for so long, they were the one true faith and all others are false. And I have done things with my own hands, driven out terrible evil, in Yahshua's name. There was power there. But there is power in Kammoloth and his court too.
How do they relate?
“Acolyte Elvmere!” A boy's contralto sundered his pondering and made him jump in his seat. “Are you transcribing or are you perspiring?”
Elvmere blinked and with chagrin realized he'd been panting onto the quill. He dried the haft on the sleeve of his robe. “Forgive me, Master Weiland. I was pondering what I had just read and...”
A youth of about thirteen also attired in the brown robe of a Lothanasi Acolyte stepped from behind him with a critical glance, hands clasped behind his back, a scroll tucked beneath his arm. His short blonde hair was peppered by Archive dust; Elvmere could smell old vellum and ink on him as if he too were a tome preserved in the ancient library. He tapped his boot with the impatience of a schoolmaster.
“What room are you in boy?” Elvmere did not know how old Weiland truly was and had long ago stopped wanting to correct anyone about his own true age.
“And what is it Acolytes are assigned to do in the Scriptorium?”
Elvmere sighed and chuffed, eyes lowering to Weiland's feet. “Copying the ancient texts.”
“Indeed.” Weiland gestured to the stack of parchment at Elvmere's station. “And just how much have you managed today?”
He sighed, and scuffed his claws on the stone. “Half a page...”
“Hmph. You are usually more productive. What is on your mind, Elvmere?”
Elvmere cast a glance at the tome, the words and illuminations decorating them, and then back to the senior acolyte. “I was reading as I copied and... and it made me think. I was wondering about Sakkan and who she is; she is not Aedra, and yet she serves them in the Celestial Realm.”
“And directs the Muses,” Weiland added, a warmth touching his words. “The muses who bring inspiration and help us know the stories of old passed down to guide us.” Elvmere could almost hear the lilt of a tale rush to the man cursed to be a boy; on a few nights as he lay in his bunk with burnt flesh of the evening sacrifice and the bitter pungency of the incense still in his nostrils, Weiland had told a few of those stories to acolytes fighting sickness or tending an injury to soothe them. Elvmere liked those stories; Malger had told many tales on their journeys, but his always seemed to end with some salacious or malicious twist. Weiland's always had some message to lift the soul higher and make it strive for the better.
“And the Muses are the daughters of Samekkh and Velena,” Elvmere added. The thought of the gods having children no longer scandalized him though it did perplex him.
“Do you know the stories of Sakkan? Perhaps the Brave Tailor and the Flies? Or the Titan and the Wheat? How about the Fisherman and the Maid of the Sea?”
“I... I have never heard of any of those tales. I know what I read here, the histories and the legends. I...”
Weiland scoffed and Elvmere saw him roll his eyes. “Half of knowledge! If even half. History and legends have much to teach us, but the gods in their wisdom give us stories too, and Sakkan is caretaker of the daughters who bring them to us. Wisdom is their gift, Samekkh's gift. Knowledge without wisdom is a sword without a handle, dangerous to touch and of more harm to its wielder than to its enemies.”
Elvmere kept his muzzle shut, waiting for the senior acolyte to pronounce whatever it was, punishment or pearl, his diatribe was building up to.
“You will finish your duties here, boy, and I will speak to Celine about seeing you are properly trained with the Stories when your other duties allow. You are too clever not to know them and be able to recite them for others. A bit of wisdom would do a young man like yourself some good.” The boy turned the scroll over in his hands as if it were a switch a father used to discipline unruly sons. “Now, back to it and try not to pant on the manuscripts this time.”
“Aye, Master Weiland!” Chastened, the raccoon sat back down, dipped the quill into the ink, and resumed copying the letters.
Over his shoulder as he left, Weiland offered one more critique. “And next time, Acolyte Elvmere, change out of your guard tunic first!”
The raccoon leaned over the text, grunting as he drew each character. He did not even spare the time to read them.
Celine found Elvmere on the way back to the men's sleeping chambers – he intended to doff the guard tunic beneath his acolyte's robes for something lighter. The Head of the Acolytes divined his intent and shook her head. “Never mind about the guard tunic, Acolyte, you will need it again in a few hours. Next time change before heading into the archives. I am surprised at you.”
“I did not realize how overwrought I would become. Forgive me, Mistress Celine.”
The girl's eyes were firm but there was a touch of humor at the edge of her lips. “Master Weiland spoke to me of his idea for your training. You will apprentice under him... after you return from your patrol with Tamsin. For now, you will continue your military training and will begin to serve as temple guard this night. Tamsin will help you adjust. Now, off to your duties. I will see you in another hour for your musical training.”
Elvmere nodded. “As you wish, Mistress Celine, I will do it.” What else could he say?
His next round of duties were by far his least favorite – helping clean the Dove room. He'd spent his first three months as an acolyte tending the doves used in the nightly sacrifices. He filled their dishes with seeds, poked his claws into their nests to count their eggs, and cleaned the droppings filling their cages and the nearby floor. The stench clung to his fur even after he'd bathed, and for weeks after he'd been reassigned to the Archives in March. After the plague had left Metamor he'd been given a variety of duties in the Temple, and one of them took him right back into the Dove room every week. One hour each week to help with cleaning, a task everyone participated in because it was the foulest task in the Temple.
The only solace Elvmere had in the duty which rankled his nose was it gave him time for thinking. As he checked each cage amid the cooing and turning of heads to watch him, he tried to draw back what he had begun during sword practice.
First principles. The world I know through my senses is real and precedes me. It is the measure against which I must understand myself.
He inserted a claw into one of the cages and flecked his jowls when a dove pecked it to keep him away from her nest. Three robin-bright eggs nestled there. He gave his pecked finger a lick before wrinkling his nose in disgust at both taste and scent. A few minutes in the room was all it took; he hoped there would be time to bathe later.
My senses tell me some things are good and other things are bad. They did this even before I became part raccoon. The vitality and intensity only have changed; the nature of what I perceive has not. What we sense is real; only the accidents of our perception may very given strength and skill. It is up to my intellect to interpret those sensations into something intelligible; a well-formed intellect will conform to reality; an ill-formed intellect will mistake its own will for reality.
Elvmere bent down on hands and knees, tail flicking from one sandal-covered paw to another as he began to scrub bird poop from the stone floor with a rag. His whiskers backed against his jowls and he tried to keep his nostrils pressed tight. The miasma slipped through anyway; his empty stomach clenched.
A well-formed intellect will seek to understand. Truth is truth whether we like it or not. It's why I'm here now.
Elvmere grunted and glanced at the white-feathered bird staring back at him. In a week or two its blood would spill when the Lothanasa or one of the other priestesses would sacrifice it; its flesh would burn in the fire pit in the center of the Temple. The sacrifice was part of the life of the Lothanasi Order Kammoloth created to govern man's relationship to the Aedra.
There were once animal sacrifices in Yesulam too, but all of those ceased when the Patildor won the city in the decades after Yahshua's death upon the Yew. He'd spent decades thinking the practice barbaric and a sign of the errors of the Lothanasi. How fitting his first task was to tend to these birds. He knew it had been meant to humble him who had once been at the side of the Patriarch, but it did so in more ways than one. It was Lothanasa Raven's way of reminding him it had been his ways in error not theirs.
Do you really believe so?
Elvmere scrubbed harder and turned his gaze from the bird.
The Aedra are real. Even Akabaeith believed it. He would have been Lothanasi too had he been but sent to Sathmore instead of Pyralis.
But he was not sent to Sathmore.
He wanted me to stay at Metamor. He wanted me to be here. All my steps led me here. My companions along the way... aye, I do believe in the gods. Kammoloth is King of the gods. Samekkh the Wise. Artela the Huntress. Dokorath the Warrior. Dvalin the Warden of the Sky. Velena the Beautiful. Akkala the Healer. Yajiit who warms the Earth. Wvelkim who governs the Sea. Why shouldn't I be faithful to Kammaloth and to the Pantheon? My Lady...
Elvmere slowed his scrubbing as a smile played across his snout. He shrank a little in his attire and the rag slipped from his fingers as his thumb shifted along his hand until they were a beast's paws. In his mind he could see his Lady's smile and felt her comforting presence. She had welcomed him home with pride and delight in her gaze when he'd spent his first night in the Temple as one of its acolytes. She had comforted him in all his agonies most every night he spent in Metamor. This place was more home to him than anything he'd known in Yesulam and in time he felt sure the Temple would be more revealing to him than anything he'd learned from the Patildor.
One of his sandals fell from his paw and he chittered in surprise. His body swelled back to its normal size and proportions as he reached behind and pulled the sandal on again.
I am too comfortable in my feral form. I shouldn't be comfortable as a beast.
Acolytes were given one day a week free from their Temple duties so long as they were present for the dawn prayers and the evening sacrifice. Elvmere, when not in the company of other acolytes on some errand in Keeptowne, had wandered the halls or gardens of Metamor as a normal raccoon. He half expected to find himself curled tail to nose on his bunk one morning.
I need to stop hiding from the world.
Elvmere sighed and moved to the next cage to resume scrubbing.
I am still a Bishop of the Patildor – the Ecclesia. The raccoon child who gave me the message for Lothanasa Raven assured me so. And I do still believe Yahshua is the Son of Eli. I do still believe He died and rose again. Do I truly believe in the Pantheon?
His claws caught on a bit of mortar and a grim chuckle filled his throat.
A moment ago I was afraid I was too used to being an animal. I believe in the Pantheon for the same reason I believe in Yahshua – the witness of others who have seen. Malger has met Nocturna. Murikeer has met more spirits and creatures of elder days than I can count. Nylene knows and loves them more intimately than she knew – or loved – me. Many of the acolytes here have seen the gods or their messengers within these last years. I have my Lady who has guided me to this place. Aye. Of course I believe in them. Of course I will serve them.
Elvmere leaned back on his haunches and picked at the mortar stuck under his claw. His tail tucked around the side and then flicked back when it felt the damp stone he'd just cleaned.
I only do not know what they are and to whom my ultimate faith must lie. I must learn. I must listen. I must think.
He glanced about the room and the half-dozen more cages he needed to tend before reporting for his musical training. “Later,” he murmured to himself. “Too much to do.” The raccoon acolyte resumed scrubbing, counting eggs, and avoiding the pecks. There would be time later.
Later did not arrive with musical training. The Temple possessed a number of instruments donated over the years though most were old and in need of upkeep. Little had been done to care for them in the years since Three Gates and Elvmere spent a portion of his time checking strings, polishing brass, and tuning each before practice began. There were a few other acolytes who helped clean and repair, but after apprenticing with Malger the raccoon knew techniques lost to the Lothanasi and Celine was quick to assign him this responsibility.
He listened to the small ensemble of teenage girls and boys chant the ancient prayers while he tested the notes of a flute. The silver was tarnished and gave each note a dull, almost flat quality. Malger would have wrung something sweet from so sour a tone. Elvmere chuffed at the thought of the lecherous marten intoning a timeless melody with neither meter nor verse to guide the prayers of the faithful.
Celine watched the acolytes from the corner of her eye as she instructed a young girl newly transformed into a robin with reddish-orange breast. The song bird kept adding trills and warbles to the chants which both amused and annoyed the other singers. It only embarrassed her and Elvmere hoped she would be able to master her voice again. Elvmere realized he was staring when Celine caught his gaze and he lowered his eyes to his flute.
The general cacophony of each musician doing whatever they liked lasted for another ten minutes before Celine stood and bid the robin rejoin the other singers. Elvmere stretched, wiped his hands on his robes, and then lifted the tuned flute to his muzzle. The mistress of acolytes led them through several ancient songs, the melodies for most slow and without beat, allowing the prayers to be drawn out and overlaid, shifting the emphasis from one petition to the next in an almost hypnotic calm. In some ways it was similar to the chants the Patildor sang during Liturgy, with long-breathed passages and sometimes static harmonies shifting only suddenly before resolving to the home tone.
But there was also a use of polyphony absent to the Patildor. The voices of the singers and the instruments were sometimes subdivided when petitions to each of the gods were offered. The character of the trumpet in its royalty and bombast sometimes suited paeans to Kammoloth and others the marshaling of Dokorath's armies. A duet between a man and a woman in perfect intervals spoke of the faithful and fruitful love blessed by Velena. The singing of many voices in consonance reflected the balance of health sought from Akkala. The thrumming of strings recalled the rhythm of the sea when Wvelkim was called. And the flute was used to mimic birdsong when seeking good fortune in a hunt from Artela or for its brightness to recall the flickering of Yajiit's flames. At times, Elvmere wondered whether they were offering prayers to many gods at once or acting out a scene from the Nine Heavens.
A handful of acolytes gathered at the rear of the Temple to listen to them practice, but most continued with their duties even if beastly ears turned. A few worshipers knelt in prayer; Elvmere recognized the capybara baker among them, but the rest were unfamiliar. He'd met the baker once shortly after becoming a raccoon, but if Gregor recognized him he gave no sign. For the most part Elvmere lost himself in the sung prayers, his claws gentle upon the tarnished flute, drawing out a thin melody to hang in the air with only a few breaths.
A commotion at the rear of the temple drew everyone's eyes. Elvmere's jowls bristled in surprise when he saw a pair of figures enter the temple and turn immediately toward the doorway at the rear leading to Lothanasa Raven's office. One was the elf-touched priestess and the other was the very same young feline girl who had given Elvmere a tour of the temple when he'd first come to Metamor in the company of Patriarch Akabaieth. Both had been away on a journey Elvmere had only heard whispers of not long after the plague had been defeated and the gates of the city opened again.
Even Celine, on seeing the distraction of her musicians, turned her head and almost jumped. Merai cast a glance in her direction and, at such a great distance, appeared to offer the head acolyte a smile, before disappearing into the hall to Raven's office. Celine blinked after her, then turned back to her musicians and lifted a stilling hand.
“Aye, Priestess Merai and Priestess Tessa have returned from their journey. No, I know not how it went, but thank the gods both are alive and well. We will learn if her mission was a success in time. I'm sure they have much to share with the Lothanasa and I'm sure they need their rest. I do not want to see any of you pestering them with questions or starting rumors about them!”
A few of the girls still leaned their heads together to whisper. Celine narrowed her eyes. “And if I see any of you doing so, you'll spend an entire week cleaning the dove room.” Every head immediately snapped back to attention and all whispers ceased. Celine smiled, firm and sure. “Now, we have music to practice. Start again from the beginning. Remember, these are prayers to the Aedra, the more beautiful and the more your soul pours into them, the more pleasing they will be.”
Elvmere cast a brief glance at the now shut door before lifting the flute to his snout. If he was meant to learn they would tell him.
It was a relief to finally be able to doff the brown robes; he felt cooler almost immediately. Tamsin, who had changed out of his guard tunic on returning to the Temple, chortled at the raccoon's foolishness and then said, “There's been a few winter days when I've kept them on. My fur isn't as thick as yours.”
“Tapirs live in warmer countries than this,” Elvmere agreed as he patted down his tunic to make sure it was still presentable. “Raccoon's are native to these colder climes. If not for modesty, then the fur would be enough on a hot Summer's day!”
“I imagine there's a few girls who wouldn't mind!” Tamsin nudged him in the shoulder with a wink before pulling his tunic on and lacing it tight. Elvmere chuffed and shook his head.
“Celine told me we're to serve as temple guards tonight. What do we need to do?”
“Mostly stand at the doors and keep watch on the comings and goings.” Tamsin lifted his robes in his hands and gave them a quick sniff. He lifted his snout away and bundled the fabric as tight as he could before tucking it under his arm. “If somebody tries to come into the Temple and cause mischief we knock them on the head and drag them off to the Watch.”
Elvmere's eyes widened. “Does it happen?”
“One time last year, but the fellow was drunk. The lizard Watch lady I brought him to seemed to know him; he did too by his bawling.” Tamsin laughed and shook his head. “Most of the time we just talk or see what else the night brings. Our shift lasts until midnight.”
“We don't get much sleep as guards.”
“Patrol is much the same. Raccoon's are night creatures; don't you have trouble sleeping at night?”
Elvmere shook his head. “I don't seem to.” He straightened his guard tunic one last time and grunted, tail flicking side to side as his eyes cast a quick glance around their sleeping quarters. They were the only acolytes there, the rest were out preparing for the dusk offering of incense. “But I don't have any trouble staying awake either.”
“Good! A guard must always be on alert.” Tamsin looked the raccoon over once and grunted in approval. “Come, let's get our weapons and take our place.” He dumped his smelly robe in a basket near the doors and waited for Elvmere to follow him.
“Right, weapons,” Elvmere flexed his empty hands and sighed.
The spear Tamsin handed him rolled awkwardly in his paws as the two of them stood watch at the main doors of the Lightbringer Temple. Dozens of Lothanasi came and went for prayers; those who left whispered about the return of Merai and Elvmere could not help but overhear their rampant speculation about her.
“'Ere's a haunted look in 'er eye. Some'in bad happened.”
“She looks so happy to be home!”
“I 'ear she went to cursed Elderwood; evil things lurkin' there.”
“I heard Merai found the source of the plague in Kelewair! It was the bloody phergolds!”
“The trip did her good; have you e'er seen her so healthy?”
“It's so good to have more than one Priestess in Metamor again!”
“Ye see th' way she walks? She be runnin' from somethin'!”
“Wounded in battle with some great evil, I hear!”
Elvmere and Tamsin exchanged glances as the rumors swirled about their ears. Everyone was so preoccupied with sharing whatever they heard – or made up – about Merai they did not even notice the raccoon and tapir standing watch. Certainly none spared either of them more than a passing glance. Elvmere had been anxious when he'd first stepped out of the Temple and took up his post; what if someone recognized him and called him by his old name? Or worse, his old title?
But what was a raccoon next to the return of the Aedra-blessed priestess of Metamor? Elvmere was not sure if he was more chagrined or relieved.
He continued to roll the spear in his paws, eyes glancing up at the metal point at its tip. When he'd been a boy he'd carried something similar in liturgical processions for the Patildor; only then it had been the Yew at the top. He'd fancied himself bearing the mightiest of weapons then. What a paltry thing a spear-tip was in comparison.
Humility. All in life have duty. Some are roses and others are wildflowers. The wildflowers are important too and must play their part.
“Hold it still,” Tamsin noted after the last group passed out of earshot. “You don't want everyone to know it's your first time do you?”
“No one even notices us,” Elvmere replied as he curled his fingers tight around the spear. “All they can think about is Priestess Merai.”
Tamsin nodded. “It's all we'll hear about from the other acolytes too.”
“Do you know where she and Priestess Tessa went? All I know is one day they both left on a journey and nobody would talk about it.”
Tamsin lifted his snout and narrowed his eyes. “Nay, I know nothing. I know she's been through a lot these last few years. I wasn't here when she became a priestess but I've been told Yajiit herself appeared! The Aedra have put in more appearances here since Merai arrived then they had in the last hundred years. She's special and is meant for something. But I've no idea what it could be!”
“We're all meant for something,” Elvmere noted. “Not a one of us was created without a purpose. Sometimes it surprises us.”
“Like how both of us ended up here as acolytes!” Tamsin laughed and stretched out his back, dragging his heavy hoof-like toes across the stone with a steely scratch. “I'm glad you're here. It's a lot of fun getting you ready for patrol!”
Elvmere grunted. “I mean no ill toward you, Tamsin, but I hope serving on Metamor's patrol isn't my purpose. I thought I knew my purpose once, but now... now I am trying to figure it out again.” He turned his snout and chuffed. “You will have to relearn it again someday too. I don't think you'll be an acolyte all your life.”
“Few are,” Tamsin granted and drummed his thick nails along the spear clutched in his hands. “You still seem to love music.”
He must believe I wanted to be a traveling bard; I've never said otherwise.
“Aye. But we are more than duty.”
Tamsin started to reply but his ears lifted as another round of footfalls echoed up the hall toward the Lightbringer temple. They stood at attention and offered pleasant smiles to the half-dozen Keepers who did all they could to keep from rushing toward the doors. One of them, a human man whose muscled physique and age implied he'd once been a woman, turned to the tapir and asked, “Is it true Priestess Merai has returned?”
Tamsin nodded his head and broadened his smile as much as his long cheeks and snout would allow. “Aye, she has. Even now she assists the Lothanasa with the dusk sacrifices. You are not too late if you wish to join the prayers.”
“Ah, thank you,” the man replied for what Elvmere concluded was his family, though given they were all different species and ages, it was hard to tell what their relationships must be. Was this man the father – and perhaps the mother before the curses were cast – or was he merely the most sociable of the lot? Was the young boy a child or a man trapped in a child's body? He saw two women among them; were either a wife or mother, or was the other grown man – now a wolf – the original father now forced into a pitiable relationship?
After they passed through the doors, Elvmere and Tamsin relaxed a little and the raccoon turned to his friend to ask, “Did you know them?”
“I've seen them before in the Temple and some at training for patrol, but no I don't know them,” Tamsin admitted. “Keeptowne is a big city. Did you see any bigger ones on your travels?”
“A few.” Elvmere glanced back down the hall. “Big, small, they are all filled with people. None so unusual a people as here though!”
Tamsin laughed. “In sooth! But where did you go?”
“Oh, we traveled through western Sathmore keeping close to the mountains most of the time. We spent a little time in Silvassa and then crossed into Pyralis and made our way to Breckaris. Afterwards we parted ways and I began my journey home.” His claws dug into the wooden haft, wishing he could think of some way to change the subject.
“But how did you manage it as a raccoon?”
“Oh, we had talismans to cloak us beneath an illusion. Mine was lost on the return journey, but I'm sure Malger and Murikeer have theirs.”
Not truly lost. I still have the pieces in a little pouch hidden within my small chest of clothes.
Tamsin shook his head and drummed his fingers on the spear. “Maybe one day we won't need such things. Were the mountains as beautiful as ours?”
Elvmere tipped his head back and closed his eyes, imagining the rolling peaks of the Sathmore range and the trees carpeting them. “They were beautiful, but a different beauty. The mountains of Sathmore are not as large nor as rocky. Snow tops some of them, but many are covered in a deep, lush green, and where they opened up we could see fields of wildflowers in a burst of color. The streams flowing from their sides were frigid cold.”
“I've been in the Dragon Mountains,” Tamsin noted with a wistful eye. “Until the trees stop they are much the same. Perhaps your first patrol will take us there!”
“Aye, it might. How long before the patrol?” Elvmere relaxed somewhat seeing the tapir's enthusiasm.
“Well, it depends on your training, but in two to three weeks I suspect. We...” They both straightened as their ears heard the sound of footfalls from within the temple. Another gaggle of worshipers opened the doors and walked back into the Keep, murmuring in wonder and smelling faintly of the familiar dusk incense. They did not spare either tapir or raccoon watching them a glance.
Being a guard is not my purpose in life. I hope.
The long hours until midnight were at first filled with brief conversations interrupted by the comings and goings of the faithful. Not long after the dusk sacrifices were complete the halls turned empty. Tamsin and he spoke for a while of the rigors of patrol and Elvmere managed to keep the conversation there. Eventually as night settled in words faded and each enjoyed the privacy of their thoughts. So close to the solstice there were only a few hours to wait until midnight came, but those were hours Elvmere could use to resume pondering the first principles he had begun to sketch.
By himself the raccoon was unable to master his thoughts. His mind swirled with patrol training and promises of ancient Lothanasi stories. He trembled, afraid he would falter in a time of need on patrol and enemies would claim Tamsin or another friend. Another part of him feared more he might enjoy it or prove proficient at it and find himself, like Tamsin, dedicated to the task of guiding other acolytes in their martial duties.
He wondered about the stories Master Weiland intended for him. Were they like the parables and histories of the Patildor he knew since his first youth? Or were they more of the character of the fanciful whimsies the Writer's Guild of Metamor concocted? He suspected there was a little of both, each intended to teach some lesson to help guide the faithful in their lives. Wisdom was what Master Weiland wished him to learn.
Was he a young man again because he'd never truly learned it in his first life?
Philosophy was a comfort; but he needed to find the foundation first. All else was swirling sands and phantasms.
“Well,” Tamsin said with a long stretch, “sounds like our shift is over.”
Elvmere turned his ears and heard the sound of footfalls coming toward the door. There was something in the pace different from the worshipers, but he could not say what. When the door opened, two other acolytes dressed in the gray livery of temple guards emerged. The first, a woman who had once been a man, nodded and said, “Tamsin, Elvmere, good evening. Anything interesting happen?”
“Nothing really,” Tamsin replied, giving his snout a single lift as he and Elvmere stepped out of the way for the woman and the teenager with her. “Just the usual; lots of rumors and gossip and everything else. No drunks this time.”
“Those are always the best,” the woman agreed with a laugh.
Tamsin and Elvmere wished them an uneventful watch and then entered the Temple proper. A dozen paces in and the tapir offered him his spear. “Elvmere, since it's your first night on guard duty you get to put the gear away. I'll check and make sure you did it right in the morning!”
“I'll do my best. Good night, Tamsin. May the gods bless you.”
“And you,” Tamsin flashed him another smile before shuffling off toward the acolyte's chambers.
Elvmere carried both spears to the weapon room off the main corridor and carefully returned them to the rack where they'd claimed them hours ago. He took a moment to straighten them, making sure all of the metal points were aligned, before turning to follow the tapir to sleep.
To his surprise, a young feline was just stepping out of the doorway leading to the archives. She was dressed in the white of a priestess and Elvmere chuffed when he realized it was Merai. The priestess flicked her ears and tail up when she caught sight of the raccoon standing only a few feet from her. Her hand flew to her chest and in a happy sigh exclaimed, “Oh, Elvmere! You startled me! And I thought cats were quiet on their paws.”
“I was straightening the weapons and trying not to disturb anyone,” Elvmere admitted in as quiet a voice as he could manage. “It is good to see you safely home, Merai.”
“Home,” Merai murmured and ran one hand along the door jamb up to the lintel. “It is a comfort... there are many joys and many struggles in these walls. So many good people I have loved. Even their memories welcome me back.” A smile twitched her whiskers. “We have not had a chance to speak since you joined us.”
“Nay. But you have had a weary day of travel; you should get your rest.”
“I am sure to sleep the moment I lay down! But a few minutes at least, Elvmere. Come; in with the weapons.”
Before Elvmere could object the girl who in age was younger even than he appeared to be swept past him and back among the rows of spears, swords, and shields. Elvmere followed, jowls set tight, and eased the door shut behind them. Merai gazed upward at a polished suit of armor emblazoned with the crest of Dokorath ensconced in the rear of the chamber. She did not turn to face him; her tail batted from side to side in the languorous way of cats.
“I know you must have suffered greatly, Elvmere, to place yourself in our care. You welcome me home knowing you will never see your own again. How can your heart not ache for what you lost?”
Elvmere sighed and crossed his arms. “It does. I ache for it every day. I know the Pantheon is real and I want to learn more about them and to love them; and sometimes I know I do. But the heart's first love, the love I had as a child, cannot be forgot. The pain is part of the love. The Patildor Liturgy and its sequence of daily prayers were the bread and breath of my life for fifty years. I am a starving man learning to eat a different food who enjoys the taste but still wishes for the merest tidbit of the old. And I cannot help but wonder which is the true food, or whether we need both, or if there isn't some other possibility I have not considered.” He wriggled his jowls and added, “Until I figure it out, this is where I am and I must make of it a new home.”
Merai smiled, feline eyes glancing downward for a moment before returning to the raccoon's face. “I think I understand what you mean; and even if you are able to return to your first home, it will never be the same.”
“Aye. But it is not they who have changed but I. Elvmere's fur can never fit into Vinsah's skin.”
“Nor Merai of today into Merai of yesterday.” Her eyes betrayed a hurt. He had tried not to wonder what had happened to the young priestess on her journey; now he pondered if any of the rumors he'd heard touched the truth.
“Did something happen on your journey?”
“Aye and nay.” Merai looked askance and she seemed to stare through the walls for several seconds, her tail unnaturally still, before shaking her head and clutching her hand to her chest. “I learned things... often because something I expected to happen did not. Like you, I wonder what the truth is, but my first love is still my first love. And then there's Brother Calvis...” She laughed, her voice coy as a young girl smitten by a handsome man. “You know, the Curse has made you quite handsome as well, especially when dressed as a temple guard! You probably turned a few eyes and tails today.”
Elvmere felt a flush of embarrassment. “I fear they could only think of your return.”
“In sooth. But what of the Silvassan priestess, Nylene? I saw how you looked at her when you first came to us.”
His embarrassment flared. “An infatuation. She saved my life and I had but her for company the whole of my trip here. I've been... chaste for so long, and committed to a life given to the Patildor I doubt I could truly fall in love.”
You offered to marry her so you could be together.
Merai shook her head. “Infatuation is how it begins. Love doesn't stay there. Love grows and like ivy, binds two together so even when the flame of passion ends, the real love, the real yearning for the good of the beloved, is the only thing left. Suspira seeks to corrupt passion and keep us there so we can never really love. Velena guides us to see the wonders beyond passion. If Velena has placed this love in your heart do not push it aside, Elvmere.”
“No matter what I may feel for her or she for me, she loves Silvassa more and will not risk the Curses.”
“You journeyed all across Galendor already; in time even we will walk openly in those lands.”
Elvmere nodded and sighed, tightening his arms across his chest. His tail flicked from leg to leg in agitation. “Perhaps. Perhaps. I will think on it.”
Merai offered him an amused, yet sympathetic glance. “I could order you to write her, acolyte, as an act of devotion to Velena.”
“Heh! I suppose I should do so then to be faithful to the gods.”
“Do not be mocking now.”
He curled his jowls. “I am not! I meant it. I have not given much thought to Velena and what I can offer her. Perhaps trying to be honest with my heart and honest before those whom my heart seeks is the right offering to make.” Elvmere's words were firm but he felt no confidence. Rather he was a man falling into a deep chasm wondering if there were any hands to rescue him. In whom was he placing his trust?
Merai stepped toward him and offered him a comforting smile. “I know it is awkward for you to become Lothanasi, Elvmere. Much must change for you and much already has. Here you stand dressed as a temple guard! I saw you are training with Tamsin. Are you going on patrol soon?”
“In a few weeks I think. I haven't played with swords since I was a young boy. Tamsin says I'm going to be fine.”
“He's a good judge. You'll be fine. Perhaps in a few years you'll help other young acolytes with their patrols. Strange things happen in Metamor!”
“Indeed they do!”
“I know of your musical work. What else are you learning?”
“Well, I have work in the Scriptorium copying old manuscripts. And after I return from patrol I am to be apprenticed to Master Weiland to learn the ancient stories. I fear my time as apprentice to Malger is following me here!”
“Weiland is an archive all to himself. You will do well to listen attentively to him. You will learn not only what Lothanasi think but how we see the world.”
“The world is the same no matter how you see it,” Elvmere noted. “But I will listen and learn.”
Merai nodded and took another step closer. “Good. And this autumn I will ask Celine to partner you with Christopher so you might be tested for magical ability. I expect you to give it your best. Perhaps you have even more hidden talents than you knew.”
Elvmere chuffed and nodded. “Of course, Sister.”
“Now, thank you very much for talking with me, Elvmere. I think I am ready for sleep. We should talk more. Perhaps next time you can tell me more of the Patildor. We both want... need... to know more. Good night! The Light bless you!” She did not give him time to reply to her enigmatic comment before slipping past the still swirling raccoon and out the door.
“Did you get lost?” Tamsin asked him as Elvmere climbed into the bunk above the tapir's.
Elvmere leaned his head over and whispered, “Priestess Merai was there and wanted someone to talk to before sleep. Nay, I learned nothing of what she endured; she only asked after my training.”
Tamsin snorted and shook his snout back and forth. “Did she seem all right?”
“I think so. If we need to learn what came to pass we will.”
“Ah well, then it is enough. I'll say another prayer of thanksgiving for her and priestess Tessa's return. Get your sleep now, we've practice again tomorrow!”
Elvmere chortled under his breath and lay down hands folded over his chest. A prayer stumbled from his thoughts.
Velena, I do not know how I truly feel about Nylene or what she feels. Help me understand and do what is right. If I must give all to be by her side, help me do so. If it is not to be, help me find the love I should have.
Akkala, whatever hurt lies in the heart of priestess Merai, bring her solace and healing.
Dokorath, help me find my bravery to defend my brothers and sisters of Metamor.
Samekkh, help me learn the stories of wisdom given to the Lothanasi.
He blinked and in the smallest place in his heart he whispered a final prayer.
Eli, please do not abandon me.
Elvmere closed his eyes, claws curling into his chest fur. Duty would greet him in the morning. He hoped his Lady would greet him in his dreams. Until then.
[A SHORT SHIFT OF GUARD DUTY AT THE TEMPLE HALL WITH TAMSIN BEFORE THE EVENING RITUALS; PERHAPS TIME FOR SOME GOSSIP; MAYBE MERAI JUST RETURNED FROM SATHMORE (NOT GENERALLY KNOWN WHERE SHE WENT). THEY WILL BE ON GUARD DUTY DURING THE RITUALS AS WELL, BUT NOW INSIDE THE DOORS WATCHING.]
[SLEEPING, HIS LADY WELCOMES HIM]
JUNE 16 is a SATURDAY. Moon would be waxing crescent. The day before was the new Moon.
Elvmere's New Duties
June 16 - Elvmere getting combat training; a little awkward with this! But even worse is his magical training. Also, get across that he is always in feral form when he leaves the Temple and has spent his days off this way before.
Frame story with Elvmere's thoughts trying to reconcile his beliefs at each step. Need to have him told by Celine (mistress of acolytes) that he can no longer hide within the temple and must take up the duties expected of all acolytes. The first is combat training. He will be bruised and sore (Jack DeMule perhaps gives a talk to the newest recruits, mostly from Bradanes or kids just undergoing their change). Training is in the afternoon for a few hours.
Perhaps he is standing guard somewhere and reflecting on these things.
Elvmere has some conflict in his head over what the raccoon angel told him at the end of Covenants.
Elvmere twitched his whiskers and his ears as he caught a rhythmic beat from within the narrow room in which fresh robes were stored after being cleaned. It sounded like a ball being thrown to the ground again and again. Curious, he opened the door and froze, slack-jawed at a sight that simply could not be real. A raccoon boy child, no more than ten years of age, was sitting on a chest against the near wall, tossing a small green ball against the opposite wall and catching it as it bounced back to him.
The child caught the ball one last time and turned to look at him. There was a glow about him as if he needed no lamp to light his way. "Go now to the Wolf and pass on to her these words: 'It is not your place to meddle with the destinies of those who were once lost to the world, but are now found. For the Most High has remembered them, and they shall never be forsaken.'"
Elvmere blinked and stared at the raccoon child trying to comprehend what he saw before him and what he had just heard. There had been no such children at Metamor when he'd come, but he'd been kept cloistered in the temple for over three months. And how long had it been since he'd even heard Eli mentioned? The words and the form startled him so that he could not hide the slight tremor that came to his voice. "Who are you, child?"
The raccoon child appeared to smile at the question, though there was nothing of the playfulness he would have expected to find in a child of his seeming age. Seeming only because the intensity and regard in the boy's blue eyes gave him the austerity of one for whom the mere passage of seconds was brief beyond comprehension and yet of inestimable interest. "I? I am but a simple messenger, Bishop Elvmere."
Elvmere's eyes widened and he took a step back, heart catching in his chest. He half wanted to turn his head from side to side to make sure that nobody else could see or hear him, but he dared not let this raccoon child from his sight for fear that he would suddenly disappear. "I... I am no longer a Bishop."
"And why would you hold a mistaken belief such as that?"
Elvmere shook his head and his paw reached for something no longer at his neck. "I... I was excommunicated by the Patriarch himself!"
"The one who thought to destroy you had no authority to do so, other than what you yourself gave him." The child climbed off the chest and stared up at Elvmere with a serenity that made the most tranquil of waters seem a raging tempest. "Such a charism, once bestowed, can never be removed. You know this."
Elvmere blinked. "I don't understand. Who are you?"
"As I said, I am but a messenger." He walked past Elvmere and pressed something into his paw. "Do be sure to pass the message I bore on to the wolf." The child closed the door, and the sound of claws tapping on stone ceased.
At the end of Covenants, Raven had Celine assign Elvmere to assist with the Temple Musicians.
Elvmere needs some acolyte friends. Most acolytes are going to be Age Regressed, but their will be some TG and TF in there too.
How about a Tapir for his fellow guard? He was badly injured during the Winter Assualt and ended up with a Gaes to Akkala for a year of service in the Temple; he's paid it back but found he loves being an acolyte and helping protect. He'll be Elvmere's mentor in serving as a guard and combat training. Name is Tamsin hin'Feros. He's twenty now.
Music mentor? Celine herself sees to this, but finds Elvmere a quick student here and gives him duties to help her with the instruments and teaching others to play.
Healer mentor? (Herbalism and anatomy and stuff)
Accountant mentor? (Jonathan who is married to Celine, also an AR)
Review Raven's notes to determine what other things he could be doing. Should have a mentor for each.
Murikeer would have begun trying to teach Elvmere some magic on his days off (Wednesdays) when he visits Metamor, but so far no luck.
From Raven: “The Order makes use of whatever talents they possess that can be employed in the service of the faith: healers, scribes, accountants, researchers, librarians, artists, singers, musicians, cooks, animal handlers, teachers, and more. Those who do not possess any noteworthy skills are passed around to various senior acolytes as assistants until they find their calling. Everyone helps with cleaning and guard duty, working in shifts as assigned by Celine. They also keep up their regular military training with the Keep's combat instructors, and take part in the patrols -- either as field medics, for those with the aptitude and training, or as regular scouts and militia.”
They have just started the fasting for the Day of Dedication. He is used to fasting, but his youthful body has not yet been tempered by it and its harder than he remembers it ever being.
29 30 01 02 03 04 05 May
06 07 08 09 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31 01 02 June
03 04 05 06 07 08 09
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 July
June has 30 days. Sundays are 3, 10, 17, 24
Important days include Summer Solstice which is on June 21.
The full moon occurs on June 28.
July has 31 days. Sundays are 1, 8, 15, 22, 29.
The full moon occurs on July 27.
August has 30 days. Sundays are 5, 12, 19, 26.
The full moon occurs on August 25.
September has 31 days. Sundays are 3, 10, 17, 24, 31.
Important days include the Autumnal Equinox which is on September 22.
The full moon occurs on September 24.
October has 30 days. Sundays are 7, 14, 21, 28.
The full moon occurs on October 22.
November has 31 days. Sundays are 5, 12, 19, 26.
The full moon occurs on November 21.
December has 30 days. Sundays are 2, 9, 16, 23, 30.
Important dates include the Winter Solstice which begins on December 22, and the Feast of the Nativity on December 25. Also, the first anniversary of Duke Thomas's Wedding on December 24.
The full moon occurs on December 19.
Lothanasi celebrations that Elvmere will have now participated in:
Kala'kema: ("Akkala's Day" in the Old Tongue.) A day of prayer and petition before Akkala (Goddess of Healing and Purity) for a healthy and prosperous new year. January 10.
Vele'kema: The day of Velena, goddess of Beauty and Love. Lovers commonly express their affection for one another on this day, and many women engage in various rituals entreating Velena's aid in capturing "the right man." February 19.
Dokor'kema: The day of Dokorath, god of Battle and War. Regions at peace entreat him to be merciful and keep his hand away from them, while lands engulfed in conflict and war (as the Keep usually is, with the forces of the Northlands) pray for victory. Dokorath is believed to honor those who do _honorable_ battle on this day in his name. March 12.
First Planting: The Lightbringers bless the soil of the surrounding lands and pray for good harvest in the coming year. Sacrifices from the previous year's harvest are made to the earth and river nymphs. April 1.
Dvali'kema: The day of Dvalin, god of storms, lightning, rain, and all weather. Petitions are made for good weather in the coming year. April 30.
Kammo'kema: Day of Kammoloth, king of the gods. A great feast is hosted by the Order in celebration. Ceremonies consist of prayers, petitions, and drink offerings (libations). May 15.
Artela'kema: Day of Artela, Queen of Nymphs, goddess of The Wilderness and The Hunt. One animal caught in the annual Duke's Hunt is released back into the wilds as a show of mercy. (Heavens only know if this is still being observed since the Battle of the Three Gates.) June 3.
Day of Dedication: At sundown, all priests and priestesses renew their vows of dedication to the Lightbringer Order. Fasting precedes this day for a full week, and is participated in by all priests, sanctioned healers, and other temple workers. June 22.