How Willow and Ash Found Their Place and Got Their Feet Wet — A Vecatran Folktale

Once upon a time, when the world was brand new, Trees walked the earth like creatures, looking for their favorite places to grow. None could settle into the ground, and eventually, the many faces of Vecatra grew tired of the chaos and indecision. They called a meeting of all the Tree people so that everyone could claim a territory for themselves. As the day of the meeting approached, the trees all talked excitedly about which areas they wanted— Oak and Holly arguing in booming voices over which time of year was best, Fir and Pine arguing over the high mountains—until their voices sounded loud as the ocean.
There were two trees, however, who didn’t participate in the shouting and bragging. They were quiet souls, given to contemplation, and didn’t like the noise and competition of the greater forest. These two, Ash and Willow, had been friends since they were saplings, and so they wandered away to find a quiet place together.
It was early Spring in this new world. The snows were melting, the rains had been falling, and without trees in the ground to anchor the soil and slow the waters, fields, and low areas were beginning to flood. Rivers crested their banks, carrying away good soil and carving new channels. Willow and Ash, out walking together, discovered a deep channel with a river raging away at the bottom and stood together to watch. The waters raced and churned, for the river was in a hurry to reach the ocean. Ash threw a stick into the water and they and Willow watched it sail away.
“Willow,” said Ash, “I don’t want to go to the meeting.”
Willow looked at her friend. “Why not?” she asked.
“Vecatra scares me. How can I ask for what I want if I’m too scared to speak?”
Willow looked back at the water. She bent her head as low as she could and dipped the ends of her hair into the river. Her feet were sinking into the mud around her. Ash threw another stick.
“I don’t want to go to the meeting, either,” said Willow. “I bet the faces of Vecatra wouldn’t even miss us if we stayed here.” She had sunk to her ankles in the mud, and the cool earth felt good around her toes. Just upstream, a part of the riverbank gave way, and mud collected against the little dam she was making with her feet. Soon, water pooled and a little eddy formed. Ash dropped a seed into the eddy, and they both watched it swirl around.
Ash hopped to the opposite bank. “You should let your feet sink into the ground,” said Willow. “It feels really good.” So Ash wiggled their toes until they were buried, and then laughed as the worms crawled around the hairs on their feet.
“Willow,” said Ash, “you’re growing.”
And she was. She was growing strong and supple, nourished by the water and rich mud of the riverbank. Her feet sank deeper still, and she stretched herself further over the water. “I love this place,” she said to Ash. They looked very handsome over there in the evening light, their broad leaves glowing.
That night they watched the stars come out and shine in the still water near Willow’s feet. If they wished for anything on the evening star, neither said anything about it to the other. They had always been comfortable with silence in each other’s company.
The next day, all the trees gathered together around standing stones in a great meadow. At the appointed hour the many faces of Vecatra arrived—they came as a great, branch-shaking wind and as a shower of rain. Some came on the notes of a tune, and others in a twinkle of starlight. In the mighty presence of such company, how could the Trees keep up their arguments?
One by one the trees discovered their places and left quietly—some abashed and others with a short laugh, as if they were just learning their purpose in life. Oak and Gorse together took the fields and meadows, with Aspen close behind. Fir and Pine took the high mountains, along with their cousin the Cypress. Apple went on a long walk to keep a meeting she had with an emerging species of monkey and wound up settling near a mountain range in the center of the continent. Soon the meadow was empty again, and Vecatra saw that it was good. They just had one more stop to make on this early Spring morning.
Meanwhile, back at the riverbank, Willow and Ash were having a great time gazing at the surface of the water and trying to count the fish swimming by. It wasn’t until the small birds took shelter under Ash’s branches that they noticed that the wind had picked up and that thunderheads were starting to gather overhead. Ash felt their heart race, and Willow was nervously flashing the white side of her leaves. Thunder boomed, distantly yet, as Willow tried to tug her feet from the sucking mud.
“Willow,” said the River, in a voice like an echo from a deep cave, “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know! We missed the meeting!” She replied.
“I think Vecatra is coming to us,” said Ash.
“Ash, Willow, listen,” said the River. “Have you not already chosen your places?” Willow stopped tugging at her feet to consider the question as a light rain began to fall. “Am I not a worthy place to grow?” asked the River. “Have courage. We will face Vecatra together. Let me help you.”
And so Willow and Ash buried their feet even deeper in the mud, toes becoming roots and reaching into the river bed. Water filled their trunks and branches, and swirled around their knees. Willow felt the River cool her anxious heart, and a sense of belonging suffused her spirit. Ash took a deep breath and looked at their friend, and together they faced the growing winds.
“Willow and Ash,” boomed the voice of thunder. “We missed you this morning!” “We…we already found our place,” said Willow.
“We didn’t want to trouble you,” said Ash.
“Are you sure?” asked the Thunder. “We could give you any place you want.” “We’re sure,” said Willow.
“Why would you not face us?” asked the Rain.
“Oh, hush,” said the River. “Am I not a face of Vecatra? I knew where they were and we have chosen their place together.”
There was a pause.
“So be it,” said the many faces of Vecatra together. “all is as it should be, and as it shall be. Willow and Ash, yours are the waterways. Guard them well.” And with that, they left in all their noisy splendor, and to this day Willow and Ash stand side by side near the rivers and streams of the world, cooling the water in summer and anchoring the banks in spring. The rivers strengthen the trees, feed them, and carry their seed. All is as it should be, and Vecatra sees that it is good.

A Folktale for Rowan

Long ago, there was a little cottage perched high up the side of a mountain. This mountain towered over a little village and only one steep little footpath wound down from the heights. In that cottage, a druid named Bridget lived with her chickens Ruis and Luis, and her lovely red cow Caorann.

So as all observant children know, few things can grow in the high mountains. But the rowan tree loves the rocky cliffs and the wind in her leaves, and folk called the tree flying Rowan because of this. As it happened, the Druid’s cottage had five flying rowan trees growing around it, and in the spring when the tree was in full bloom the frothy white petals made it look like her house was ringed in clouds. In the late Summer, these flowers would ripen into flame red berries and were the favorite treat of Caorann the cow, the chickens, and the Druid herself.

Now on the lower slopes of this mountain, was the finest grazing land for miles around, and Bridget would take her cow to those fields to let her eat her fill. But the villagers would also use these grazing lands for their own cows. For years the druid and the villagers were able to share this land. But the Druid, being wise in the way of the trees, knew that when her rowan trees had a bountiful summer harvest, the following winter would be a hard one; and that the snows would last near to April and the grass on the slopes would be thin and late. So the druid saved the rowan berries. She threaded them on a string and dried them in her rafters, she made them into jelly, jam, and pies.

The druid weathered the long hard winter and sated herself on the rowan jams and other saved summer crops. But hunger struck hard at the village below, and where there are hungry bellies, malefic spirits will come to fill them. Knowing this, the Druid turned once again to her protectors, the rowan trees. She remembered that her mother had taught her the rhyme:

“Red thread and Rowan tree make evil spirits (Malefic) lose their speed.”

So the druid tied charms of rowan twigs with red thread and hung them above her chicken coop, and around the neck of the cow, and on the lintels of every door and window in her home for protection. By night she burned a few rowan twigs to aid her in her divination spells and listened well to what the gods told her. Her divinations told her that a mob of villagers, possessed by hunger spirits would come to burn down her cottage under the light of the full wolf moon.

To prepare, The druid wet down the walls of her cottage and her barn and redoubled her charms and she set trip threads with alarm bells along the narrow path up the mountain and wove red yarn into nets that she strung from her Rowan trees. When the moon rose full behind the winter clouds, a mob from the village tromped up the winding mountain path to her cottage. Blinded by the might of spirits that possessed them, the villagers stumbled over the alarms, and the druid knew that her predictions had been true. As the mob approached her door, she hid among her rowan trees, just as the possessed villager came under their canopies, she whispered to her tree friends, and the roots rose to bind their feet, and the nets fell upon them from above. Thus captured, she drove the spirits out of the villagers and banished them from the world. Now clear of mind, she freed the hapless and hungry people and shared with them some of the food she had saved for winter. She gave each one a protection charm of rowan and told them to plant the seeds near their houses, and sent them back down the mountain. Soon the spring came and new rowans sprouted, and all was well for many more years.

Straßen, the Game of Kings

Straßen is played on a square board with even spaces not unlike a chessboard. Though there are variations, the most common boards used in the court of Morgstadt from whence the game originates are 7×7 spaces. At the start of the game the board is empty, and in a standard game each player is given 40 common stones and 2 schloss stones.

Starting Play
Players alternate turns throughout the game. You must play on your turn – there is no option to pass. Straßen is played with only orthogonal movement and connection; squares are not connected diagonally and diagonal movement is not possible. On each player’s first turn, they will place one of their stones flat on any empty square of the board. Play then continues with players placing new stones or moving existing stones they control.

On Your Turn
On each turn, you can do one of two things: place a stone on an empty space, or move stones you control.

Placing Stones
On your turn, you can opt to place a stone from your reserve onto any empty square on the board. There are three stone types that can be placed: Flat Stone – The basic stone, laid flat on its face. This is what you use to build your straßen, or road. Standing Stone​ – The basic stone, but standing on an edge. Also called a wall. This does not count as part of a straßen, but other stones cannot stack on top of it. Schloss Stone – This is the most powerful piece. It, like a flat stone, counts as part of your road. Other stones cannot stack on top of it. The capstone also has the ability to move by itself onto a standing stone and flatten the standing stone into a flat stone. You can flatten both your opponent’s and your own standing stones in this way.

Moving Stones
The other option on your turn is to move stones that you control. If your stone is on the top of a stack, you control that entire stack. All three stone types (flat, standing, and schloss) can be moved, and moving is the only way to create stacks. There is no limit to how tall a stack can be. When moving stacks of stones, you cannot move more than 7 stones.

Stack Moves
Pick up any number of stones up to 7. Do not change the order of these stones. Move in a straight line in the direction of your choice – no diagonals and no changing direction. You must drop at least one stone from the bottom of the stack in your hand on each square you move over. You do not need to leave a stone in that stack’s starting space. You may not jump over walls or schloss stones. The schloss stone, if on the stack, may drop by itself onto a standing stone at the end of a move to flatten it.

Winning
The object of Straßen is to connect any two opposite edges of the board with your flat stones and schloss stone, creating a road. Any square or stack you control can count as part of a road (except ones with walls on them), but stones in a stack controlled by the other player do not. A road does not have to be a straight line; it can zig-zag across the board as long as all squares in the road are adjacent, not diagonal. If a player makes a single move that creates a road for both players, then the player who made the move wins. In the event that neither player creates a road and the board is either completely filled (no empty squares) or one of the players places their last piece, a secondary win condition comes into effect. When either of those cases is met, the game immediately ends and the winner is determined by counting who has more flat stones controlling the board. Only flat stones on the top of stacks or solely occupying a square are counted. The player with the higher flat count wins. A tie in the count results in a tie game.

Etiquette & Variants
As this game has been declared by many to be the Game of Kings, proper manners whilst playing have become an integral part of the game. That said, what constitutes good manners varies based upon the context of the game, and some variations have become standard for different rules sets.

The most commonly used etiquette is what is known as Court Manners, a style of play that is intimate and deferential, and is most closely associated with the game in its standard 7×7 variation. When threatening a road win on the next move, you must declare “Straßen”. Undoing your moves is both permissible and acceptable.

There is a variation of the game popular with the underclasses for its ease of transport played on a 5×5 board with 21 stones and one schloss per player, commonly known as Tavern Manners Straßen or derisively as “The Game of Merchants”. It’s a rowdier game than one played with Court Manners, and is prone to spectators, boasting, and betting. The goal is to win at any cost; as such declaring “Straßen” is considered to be against the spirit of the game, and taking back moves is not allowed.

A less common variant is known as Mage’s Manners Straßen, and originates from the halls of the Infragilis Vigilo in Scrow. Played on an 8×8 board with 50 stones and two schloss to a player, with the goal being to prove one’s cleverness and foresight. Moves can be taken back, but asking to do so means admitting a mistake. “Straßen” isn’t called; rather, when a player completes a road through an oversight of another player, it counts as a win, but the move is then taken back and the game continues. The player who wins three times first, or else orchestrates and inescapable win, is the one considered to have properly won the match.

A simple variant rule that can apply to any game variant is known as the Peasant’s Rule, which states “A player may not play their schloss stone until an opponent has played a wall or a schloss stone”. Though simple, this variant creates a clear delineation between two phases of gameplay: one where only flat stones may be played, and a second phase where anything goes. This variant rule is growing in popularity, as it grants the early game a unique flavor, opens the door for interesting strategy as to when one might wish to place the first wall, and leads to a dramatic ramping of tension throughout the game.

The Acorn Song (Ka Thunk Thunk Thunk); A song for the children of Luisant

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk
Drop little acorn
In a mighty wind
The wise ones know that
you hold all life within

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk
Roll little acorn
Nestle into mud
Deep inside your shell
is the first little bud

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk
Wait little acorn
Buried ‘neath the snow
When the spring comes
you will start to grow

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk
Grow little acorn
Send forth searching roots
As up from the ground
Pops your little shoots

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk
Thrive little acorn
Send your trunk up to the sun
And under shady leaves
We shall all have fun

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk
Wow little acorn
You’ve become a mighty tree
And now Grandfather Oak
The wind blows your acorns free

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk

*Author’s note: on the “Ka” clap, on the “Thunks” alternate stomping feet, left right left, right left right.

The Many Poems for Mari Lwyd

We seem to be arriving in Stragossa in early winter, I better ready some poetry for the citizens there for the coming of Mari Lwyd. I hope the people there like them and maybe come up with some on their own. I just don’t want the spirit to take what little they already have.

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Mari Lwyd, Mari Lwyd
Your dour pressence
We do not enjoy

You Haunt, and you sing
with the visage you bring
We won’t give a thing
To make it to Spring

Mari Lwyd, Mari Lwyd
Your deathly essence
does not but annoy

Your time, it is done
we hope you had fun
We won’t give the mead
you say that you need

Mari Lwyd, Mari Lwyd
We will not fall for
your devilish ploy

You thirst for our ale
you thirst for our wine
Your plan, it shall fail
with our furious rhymes

Repeat Till gone:
Mari Lwyd, Mari Lwyd
Return to the void

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You ask if I want for company
but I know what you offer’s not free
You’ll take all my liquor
and just make me suffer
so begone, I wish for reprieve

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Your presence it wreaks of death
You’re unable to draw breath
Begone from my sight
I don’t want to fight
And this night I wish to forget

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Your thirst makes the drunken man weep
your visage makes the shaken man cower
The liquor, we’ll keep
You’re presence, we’ll glower
Till we all see the moon’s darkest hour

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You boneheaded spirit of old
Please just do what you’re told
I won’t give you drink
If that’s what you think
please, just leave me alone

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I won’t take up arms
in steel or liquor
nor listen to yarns
nor sit here and bicker
with a ghost full of charms
who’s making me sicker
and trying to harm
my poor old ticker

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I fear not that which you threaten
your horse head nor your beast skin
I have control
and I’m telling you no
I will not give you my gin

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The Vultures won’t eat your body
The spirits picked you clean
I’m not scared of this old banshee
now please, just leave me be

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Mari Lwyd of the winter
Mari Lwyd of the Night
Who has us all a titter
of your ghostly sight
Our Food and our Liquor
we’ll keep for ourselves
As you retreat quicker
to your ghostly realm

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You shall not enter
You shall not drink
You’ll only soon venture
To the next home’s brink

Our wine and our ale
Shall be only ours
Not the one with a tail
who dances with stars

Please leave us in peace
Please let us be merry
Mari Lwyd please cease
you must be weary

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Move along Mari Lwyd Move along
Move along To that house move along (pointing to another house)
Move along with no ale move along
move along we’re not scared move along

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Oh spirit of old
who wants for our ale
return to the cold
and tonight’s windy gale

we will not be so bold
as to fight you with steel
please leave us our hold
and tonight’s great meal

you return to the trail
empty handed and wanting
with us there’s no sale
of your fiendish plotting

Shariqyn: Ettiquette towards Wives (translated)

Text translated from Shariqyn to Rogalt:

” Women are the greatest of treasures, and men who marry must lavish them in comforts and luxuries. In Shariqyn society, a man is incapable of having honors for himself – he only gains esteem in those things he gives to his wife, be they directly useful such as fine clothing, or symbolic of some accomplishment, like a stone that may only be found in the place he has conquered in war, a man’s social value is reflected most strongly in the ways he can grant these things to his wife.

A Shariqyn man, aside from showing his devotion to his wives through presenting them with wealth and comfort, is in many ways judged by his diction, that is, his choice of words, in relation to their women. For example, a man who bestows wealth upon his wife, but does not listen to her advice and does not tell her he appreciates her council, but instead disregards it, is seen as a poor husband. Should he use language that is ambivalent or lacks appropriate enthusiasm, his wife or others observing a conversation between spouses may take offense. Other women are often warned and the man, more often than not, ceases to be able to find another wife, regardless of his wealth. Other men also look down upon the man as he has failed to fulfill his duties to his wife.

A Shariqyn man who has recently married is required to remind his wife of his affection for her no less than once daily. The most common form of this is simply words of praise followed by the statement ‘al enahim ebi kali ehr’ which roughly translates to ‘an oasis in a sea of sand’. In the days of nomads, a life which some still endure, oasis are the life’s blood of the dessert. An oasis is that which gives life where there is otherwise none, similar to how a wife may give a better life to her husband and bring new life into the world of his blood. Even after the two have been married for many years, it is important for him to remind her of his affections through words and actions lest she cease to give him council or heirs.

When a woman married to a Shariqyn man gives birth to a child, she is honored. Traditionally, the woman’s bestows a gift upon her just after his child is born. Though no gift can compare to that which she has given him through the growth and birth of his child, it is important that a man give his wife something that has immense meaning and/or value after her first nursing and rest after the child is born. Should she die during childbirth, a single drop of the water which holds the mothers soul is swept over the forehead of the newborn child so that her protection and wisdom may guard over him always. After a woman who has died in childbirth is laid to rest, her husband is required to take a grieving period in which he may not marry again for three months post his wife’s death. The gift he had meant to give to his wife is to be later passed to the child when they become seven along with a story honoring his late wife, the child’s mother. “

The Observer, Aab’oran Bariq Primer

As those who are familiar with His teachings know, insight was distilled into 142 Precepts that form the foundation of our understanding towards greater enlightenment and the advancement of our Eidolon.

While enumerating and expanding on each precept might provide progress for one already familiar with the teachings the purpose of this pen is to serve as a primer of some of the basic concepts core to the teachings of Aab’oran Bariq.

From that foundation, we will attempt to draw on metaphor, simile, and imagery to help illustrate to those who may not possess an appropriate perspective. That position, the intention to gain perspective, will be referred to as The Observer and will serve as our medium for exchange.

Conceive of, if you will, a feast before you. From end to end is the longest table you can imagine and arrayed upon are all the options to eat that you can both imagine and can not. Dishes lost to time or yet to be thought of, as well as food that exists but yet you have no knowledge. This feast and the food presented is the Verge of your Observer. You can not see more details from your Verge than you are able, unable to perceive what is at the endless terminus of one side of the table nor the details of the dish piled behind others just in front of you. If you choose to remain stationary then your choices are finite but not any less gratifying. From your position, you select an item and you may find that perhaps the fruit you sought has rot on the side which you could not view thus making you ill. Or the fruit was obscuring the pastry you wish you had known about. Selecting the fruit that makes to you ill may mean that you can not select the pastry, or it may mean that while you can still have the pastry your taste of it is soured or compromised because of your illness. This is the seminal issue with the single perspective Observer and why the ultimate goal of pursuing one’s Eidolon is key to Bariq.

Continuing from the example before, previously your Observer was stationary and permitted only their single Verge. But if you allow your Observer to travel, as many of us do, then you will find that it opens up the entire possibility choices within the feast. Now your only limit is the time it takes to travel and inspect this never-ending feast. As such we arrive at our next concern. The meals within the feast do not remain in place nor are they ever present. You may have an option for a roast but that roast will go cold with time and deprive the meal of satisfaction or the unseen hands of fate may remove the cold, or even fresh, roast and replace it with some other item. This means that after long or even unending scrutiny you decide you wish for that roast is may be cold, moved, or simply no longer present. So how do we accomplish our seemingly endless choices, we must create new Verges to share the burden of our hungry trial. When we look up from the table we realize that we are not the only ones around the table. In fact, there are dozens if not hundreds of mirrors of ourselves also looking for the perfect meal. While we all may vary from slight changes to radical anomalies what we all share is a single mind as to what we would find to be our perfect meal. So we begin to coordinate, to call out to one another to gain the advantage of time, distance, and perspective. No longer operating within a single Verge we magnify our pursuits many fold, but we still find limits.

Expanding on the limits described previously, while we have found a unity of purpose our methods are crude. Shouting to one another can create a cacophony that is almost as unhelpful as it attempts to further our goals. Perhaps we must carry the perspective of our Observer over a great distance which compromises time and risks clarity. Thus the concept of Meditation develops. The practice of rising above the din at the tableside. You gain an advantageous perspective that grants not only greater personal view but also clarity among your peers. You can be a single focal point to collect and disseminate the options of choices before you. If others also join you then your relays of information grow in clarity and can travel more quickly to all the endless edges of the feast. But tragically none can remain in meditation forever. While you search for your perfect meal you also must feed and rest yourself. Thus the chain of communication breaks and the collective loses your perspective and personal knowledge when you lower yourself requiring others to learn what you once knew and piece together your progress until you return.

With a method for a clear exchange of information our greatest limitation appears to be our physiological failings. But even those can be advantageous for those willing to wait. For if you realize that your existence and your perception of time is entirely contained within the measure of your expectations you can free yourself of that pressure. There will come a point when your physiology will break, it will cease to function through misfortune, strife, or entropy and when that occurs the prepared Observer will rise and claim a timeless presence among those who Mediate. Providing an unbroken stream of knowledge and wisdom. With a single perfect gesture, they can relay all they once knew, all they know, and all they foresee. They are the cornerstones to our pursuit of our perfect intent.

Thus within ourselves, we possess everything we need to locate the perfect meal the first time and every time. But we must know what we need before we want something that we are distracted by. We must free ourselves of the confines of our expectations. When we first Observed the table we knew it to be a bounty of food because we were told it was food. But we made the mistake of assuming or someone told us that there were options on that table that are NOT food. This could be the cutlery, the dishes, the candles, or the flame. Once we free ourselves of the expectations of limits we can observe the meal that does not exist as a choice in the first place. We can consume the essence that is the concept of the perfect meal rather than the fruit, dessert, or delicacy of our misinformation.

This is the pursuit of Eidolon and by conducting yourself within the expectations of your Atma you may cloud your possibilities with the tradition, bias, and restrictions yoked upon you by those who found themselves yoked by others not knowing any better. If unclear by not the perfect meal you seek is an allegory for choice. They are the choices that are presented to us each moment and in every breath. Sometimes you will have to choose between your loyal friend or your lover as the hand of a madman swings a blade beseeching you to choose. While limited the pursuit of Eidolon allows you to observe that your options may include to accoste the madman, to deliver news that brings them to their knees or has them weep in anguished regret. The truth is that there are rarely any good choices from our single Verge as a single Observer. We must do all we can to elevate our understanding so as to take the single perfect step and bring out our perfect cascade for then, and only then, will we have walked the path.

The Clan-less Clan

In the days before Rogalian occupation, when the Dunns were all free men and women, it was only a little better. The clans fought over resources, over love favors, over blood feuds.
One such clan was MacRairich. Long had they been proud healers and fighters, and their clan leader Fiann doted on his daughter, his only child. Brigid was her name, and though she was fair of face, her beauty paled beside her indomitable will. She learned to wield her father’s moor sword with grace and skill, to tend to flesh and bone and heal the damage it caused.
Three men wished to court her, particularly as her father waned in age, each aspiring to rule both their clans. Their aspirations were no secret and the three turned to fighting over who might have the right to wed her in the end. Their fight grew to encompass their clans and before long it had spiraled into something monstrous that men were dying over.
At the final battle, Brigid herself waded into the fray, dealing each man a wounding blow and causing the fighting to cease. As they clutched their wrent flesh, she spoke so that the depth of her voice was carried to all along the battlefield.
“Ne’er once did any o’ ye seek te ask my thoughts on this. Lives ‘re lost an’ blood spilt fer yer foolishness. As men ye sough’ only te bring death, fer tha’s all ye can do. Ye need a woman, one who c’n bring life te rule beside ye, bu’ I’ll ‘ave none o’ it. None o’ you.”
She left the field, left the men with mouths agape and some hope they’d been put in their place.
Upon returning home, Fiann expressed his disappointment that she had not let them fight it out and allowed the strongest to court her. Brigid’s mother had far kinder words, knowing the wisdom her daughter had spoken, for had she not spoken to Brigid’s father in much the same vein when they had wed? And yet she had given Fiann a chance and found him suiting.
So disillusioned was Brigid that she left her homestead for forty days and forty nights, returning more steadfast and stubborn than ever.
Some time after her return, it was noted that her belly was beginning to swell with child. No pleading, no bargaining, no cajoling, nor threats would loose the father’s name from her tongue. As the days came and went and the moon waxed and waned, Brigid and her father argued in a heated fashion, tempers flaring.
Fiann argued about what the babe might be called since none would know the father and a bastard child would bring shame to their clan. She argued that it would take on her name, for was she no less worthy? Was her blood not equally in the child’s veins?
In due time a daughter was born, and instead of calling her Roisin MacRairich in honor of her grandfather, Brigid called the girl Roisin inn Brigid, after herself. Her father raged, howling that without ‘Mac’ in her name that the baby girl would have no clan. Brigid raged back that it was better to be without a clan, for clan allegiance meant clan wars whenever a hot-headed chieftain declared it so and that healers such as they should have no clan allegiance for was not their duty to all who might need their skills? In true temper she declared that if he did not accept her and her wee daughter, she would leave the clan and leave him without an heir, take her daughter and her skills and her moor sword passed down and never return.
Realizing that Brigid would make good on her threat, Fiann relented. Seasons turned and when he passed away, Brigid took control of the clan. She declared that when her daughter came of age they would no longer hold onto a clan name, but would be healers in truth, putting the lives of men and women above the importance of clan allegiance. Furthermore, since one could always be certain who the mother was, but less so the father, a child could be given the mother’s name, for there was no shame in being born of woman, for that is the lot of every babe. Her wisdom was heard and seen and to this day there are those given their mother’s name, healers without clan, a long line devoted to life moreso than death.

Le Sorelle Pirati

A sturdy stonework hut somewhere in La Montanara, Hestralia:

“Why do we live here now papa?”, asked the child, scribbling absentmindedly in the dirt using a stick.
“So, I can work and so we can eat”, replied the man as he dumped a bowl of chopped meat and vegetables into an iron pot that hung from a chain above the hearth.
“There was no work on the island, papa?”
“Not for me, paisano.”, the man muttered as he tossed some dried herbs into the pot for flavor. “There’s nothing good in those islands for us now.”
“The islands have bad-guys, papa?”
The man pushed the pot to a different position over the fire so its contents would boil more gently. “Of course! You know about Le Sorelle Pirati, no?”
“No papa, tell me about The Pirate Sisters!”
“The Sisters Pirates.”
“Cosa?”
The man laughed. “The Sisters are the name of all the islands. The islands, they have pirates, si.”
“The pirates are not sisters?”
“They are all kinds, but yes they have a lot of girl pirates, girl captains, and a girl ammiraglia. I think they have a lot of girl pirates for the same reason you were confused by the name. It is an amusing coincidenza, no?”
“Co-in. Coinzi”, the boy struggled with the word while using the stick as a cutlass and dueling the empty wall while his father smiled.
“Can I be a pirate, papa?”, the boy asked innocently while the man checked on the pot. His smile half faded, and he lied in the easy way that only a parent can, “Of course you can, Sergio.”

———————————————–
Organization: THE SISTERS PIRATES
Type: Outlaw
Ties: Many formal and informal throughout Hestralia (and likely beyond).
Tier: 4 (estimated)

History:
There are those (especially that live in the islands in question) that believe the recovery of humankind started from the aftermath of the Age of Witchkings in the islands called The Sisters. These are remote enough to not be easily reached by unskilled navigators, and small enough that they could be reclaimed one by one. This allowed the fledgling new civilization of human refugees from the ancient disaster to raid and conquer their way into the continent and establish the nations we know now. Interestingly, the same remoteness and beliefs about the history of The Sisters is assumed to be why they were the last to join the Unified Hestralia, and even to this day often ignore the rule of Aquila. It is also known that the reason the Sisters Pirates are often held in a degree of reverence is the belief that they are continuing the lifestyle of the original warriors and raiders that launched the recovery of humankind so long ago. (This savage time before the Age of Heroes is poorly understood, and nearly undocumented.)

The Sisters Pirates have been involved in almost every major conflict accessible by sea in the eastern part of the world. They have been known to appear and turn the tide of a battle, but also to betray a side they were hired to fight for. The motivations of these pirates would seem to be strictly profit motivated, but there is some evidence they work, in a roundabout way, to maintain the freedom of Le Sorelle.

The Sisters Pirates are organized loosely after the model of a naval fleet. There is an admiral that rules over the whole organization, four commodores with logistical and political duties but no fleets of their own, and a lot of captains that command everything from whole battlegroups to individual ships.

The Laatzen Archers

The Laatzen Archers are famous throughout the Throne.
Laatzen troops are relied upon in the Gothic army. As such the lands are populated with veteran soldiery and their children. Every adult man carries a bow while traveling, as do many women and children. Former soldiers will also carry other weapons. A handful of villagers is usually more than enough to deal with any bandits that might wander into the area.

The peasants, and minor nobility, hold to a tradition that before a bride accepts a proposal, a man must prove himself an able provider. A target is placed and he must strike the bullseye, before she will accept.
Sometimes, it is a token gesture and the Groom stands but a pace away. However, many a maid has placed the target at great distance in order to make him work for it.
A woman with many suitors may be the subject of a competition.

There are even stories of Nobles, being attracted by the competition and donning masks. Winning the fair maiden’s hand they whisk her off and farm girl becomes nobility overnight.