Monday, February 11, 2013

Travels In the Blessed Land Part 2

Travels In the Blessed Land Part 2;

The Goddess

The Goddess

When we left Jergs home it was late. Harj told us that he'd made sleeping arrangements for us and tommorow we'd be traveling north to the Holy City of the Goddess, or just The Holy City as the Blessed Landers referred to it. We where taken to a tavern that was noteably empty of patrons. Harj asked if we'd like some wine, some thing I was quite grateful for, having been dry as a bone thus far. Sarah declined not being much of a drinker. Speaking charitably the wine was not the best quality. When I asked about the vintage and vineyard he told me it was a native Blessed Lander label. As with most things grapes grew weak and sour in the Blessed Lands soil. Still I managed to drink several cups as I listened to Harj tell us the official version of the country's history.

According to his story a little more then 300 years ago there was a prophet living in Bariba far to the South. One night while tending the financial aspects of his incense business he was visited by a vision of the goddess. She told him she'd be arriving soon and that he must travel to Novsta (what is now the Blessed Land) to greet her. That evening he gave his business to his chief servant and left never to return.

His pilgrimage was long and hard but along the way he told people of the Goddess. Five people in total followed him all the way north to Hooksbay where they took a ship to Waterhart (what is now the Port of the Goddess). A few legeots north of Waterhart on a tall hill they waited for the goddess. Days passed, until the moon was full, and then with a flash of light she descended. 

From there they marched all the way north to Barbia Keep where the country's king lived. At first they where denied entrance but with persistence they where allowed into the castle. The king at the time Harj (no relation to our guide, just a common name in the north) took one look at the Goddess and swore off his false gods. He stepped down as king and gave the country to the Goddess.

When his son Yorja heard of this he turned his army that was campaigning to the east back. They traveled as far as Fort Coldrak (what is now the Fortress of Purity) and laid siege on it. How ever the now Blessed Landers held out. Three weeks into the siege King Harj climbed down the fortresses walls to speak with his son and try to convince him to join with the Goddess. The son refused and challenged his father to a duel which resulted in Yerjas death and a mortal wound to Harj who died several days later. With their young leader dead the army fell apart. This is the story of how the Blessed Land came to be.

However, the historical record, which is suspiciously missing on the matter, disagrees with this version. According to to writings of Vasper, a notable historian of the time, the Goddess entered Waterhart where she quickly developed a cult amongst the locals, in particular the soldiers. After her worship was firmly established she took her new force north to Barbia Keep where a bloody battle ensued. Survivors of the battle who escaped Barbia would speak of a massacre of almost all who lived there.

The goddess was capable of doing this with such a minimal force as the majority of Barbias army was campaigning with Yerja to the east. When Yerja heard about his fathers death he turned the army back and marched to Fort Coldrak where he was met by forces loyal to the goddess. They began a seige. One morning his second entered his tent and found him dead, deep punctures riddled his body (a cause of death that would be mirrored by many of the Goddesses detractors and critics). As in the official story after Yerjas death the army fell apart and the Goddesses control was cemented.

We drank a few more cups of wine after the story before I staggered up stairs into my room. Sarah demanded we have one together and I think our guides thought we where a couple.  I knew she'd want to sleep in shifts with one of us holding the butter knife I caught her slip into her pocket during our dinner towards the door. That wasn't going to happen. I was going to sleep shortly after I smoked the mellograss I'd hidden in my boot.

Our room was simple like every thing in the blessed land, with a single double bed, a dresser in the corner, a basin and a mirror. A jug of water sat on the window seal next to a bouquet of moonbuds. With a smirk I fished the mellograss and paper out of my boot and smirked at Sarah. She smirked back, Sarah was a particullarly sober individual but mellograss  always got her attention. She smirked and pulled a tiny glass vial from her own boot, I knew the yellow liquid inside instantly, it was a flash vial. The flash vial was Sarahs favorite, it was a chemical mixture which when exposed to oxygen exploded in a furious burst of light. She stuck it back in her boot and told me "In case things get creepier." I nodded. I was glad she had it, things where getting creepier. We smoked the mellograss for a bit then both wafted off to sleep.  I intended for her to have the bed but she declined it. When I woke up the next morning she was slumped next to the door.

The next few days of our trip where uneventfully spent in a horse drawn carriage as we moved from the Port to the Holy City. Sarah spent her time fidgeting and I spent mine talking to any one but Harj. His demeanor was beginning to annoy me. Pomp and feigned perfection is the most boring thing in the world. Occasionally we passed a cart carrying an average citizen. As much as I'd like to talk to them Harj wouldn't let us telling us that "They are far to busy to deal with us pestering them."

Eventually we reached the Holy City. Its building where much older than the ones in the port city being made primarily of stone instead of brick how ever the occasional newer construction stuck out. We spent the evening in another Inn which was similar to the previous though the wine was better. We where told the next day we'd be taken to see the soldiers and be given a demonstration of the Blessed Landers martial prowess...

Editors Note; Unfortunately we had to cut this part of the article in The Weekly as the news of Pirate Lord Gerals assault on Milton seams a more pressing matter to publish. Look forward to reading about the martial arts of the Holy Land in Vanzettos Yearly Compendium

Soon the big day was on us. We'd been good guests apparently and we'd be allowed to meet the legendary goddess. Sarah was sure this would be the time they killed us and cooked our corpses or what ever horrible fate she had in mind. We where both given white wool robes to wear as was tradition. Harj and our guides told us not to speak out of turn and simply greet her, thank her for allowing our presence, and step aside.

The great temple was a massive dome construction made of marble and stone. It was leafed with gold and silver inlays. It was in some ways rather gaudy. Priests and clerks bustled around the hall ways attending to the business of the realm.  We where taken to an antechamber where we sat on uncomfortable stone benches covered in wool cushions. Harj busied him self talking to the other priests. Soon a retainer dressed in the same white robes as every one else came out of the gold leafed wooden door that lead to the goddesses chamber and whispered some thing to Harj. Harj motioned for us to get up and we walk to the door he told us "Remember what I said." the two ornately armored guards at the door opened them in a practiced motion. 

The room inside was a massive dome, 10 guards stood on either side and several tables where arranged around with scribes jotting things down. At the center of the room was a golden throne where sat a woman that was clearly not a human. Her skin was white, not a pale pink like the rest of the north landers but truly white like snow or clouds. She was tall at least 16 hands tall. For reference I'm a tall gentleman who stands at around 12 hands. Her eyes had no retina and where simply black. Sarah looked nervous, I must say I was a bit to. 

We approached with Harj in front and the two secret policemen on either side. Harj spoke to the goddess "Hello Goddess, these are the two travelers from the outside." she nodded and spoke with a quiet voice "I expected them. Step aside Harj." 

"Greetings, Vanzetto and Sarah correct? I've expected you I'm quiet glad you made it alright. How are you enjoying my land?" she asked us.

"Its lovely, thank you for having us." I said. 

"I've quiet enjoyed your writings Vanzetto. I feel the outsiders have a incorrect view of the land. I hope you will educate them about the truth. "

I was a bit flattered. A goddess read my work! Or at least a being that claimed to be a goddess. "I hope my article will help enlighten the world about your kingdom."

Harj looked nervous suddenly "Its not a kingdom, she doesn't rule, she simply guides us."

She smiled "Its okay Harj you may relax. Its not uncommon that outsiders do not understand completely. What Harj says is true. I do not rule, the people simply follow me out of the goodness in there own hearts."

"I see." I said. What I've seen was rulership but I wasn't going to mention that to her. "I understand." I wanted to ask questions but I figured it was best not to, what with the armed guards flanking my sides.

"I would love to speak with you longer," she said "But many people need guidance today. Thank you for coming and exploring my land."

Harj lead us out of the temple. We spent the evening at the same inn we stayed in that evening. The rest of our trip back to the Port was spent with Harj mostly questioning what I was going to write. I told him only glowing things and what he wanted to hear. 

Over all the trip to the Blessed Land was unlike any thing I'd ever experienced. There was clearly an air of oppression. I don't know if the goddess is a real goddess or not but she doesn't appear to be human and despite what she says she has absolute power.

Editors Note; We here at the Voltonese Gentleman's Weekly neither condone or condemn any religion. All the opinions of the writers are there's alone.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A drawing of me by my companion Sarah. I doubt she'll draw her self as shes loath to stare at a mirror for to long. I'd comment on her looks but I know she'd slap me.

Part 1; Journey to the Blessed Lands Published the 53rd of Falling Sun 1233 Imperial Era in The Voltonese Gentleman's Weekly.

This adventure started in Hooksbay when my companion Sarah and I received a letter bound in gold twine bearing the seal of the Blessed Land. I didn't read it the first day having spent the majority of it partaking in the many delights Hooksbay excels in. For those less traveled that meant I was absolutely drunk out of my wits. I had Sarah read it to me apparently. When I woke up the next morning (afternoon) to find her packing our bags I was confused. As it turned out we'd been given an invitation to write about the Blessed Land in my journal. It was a rare thing. I was pleased, Sarah wasn't. As she put it the Blessed Land was a kingdom wide cult who worshiped the enigmatic "Goddess". Despite her protests we where soon off to Melton where the Goddess kept one of her few embassies.

Our journey to the embassy was uneventful sans the tales of a rowdy ship hand but those stories can't be printed for multiple reasons, reasons which can't be printed either! Hooks Bay as you may know is famous for its bureaucracy. Its known around as the meeting place of The Islands.  It took us a while to find Blessed Lands embassy but after several embarrassing encounters we managed to locate it. It looked no different then any building in the town, mostly wood, its double doors bared the symbol of a woman's profile in a crescent moon. Two guards in iron breast plates welding flintlock rifles stood at the door. We showed them our letter, one read it, and we where let in.

The buildings inside was a testament to simplicity. The walls where painted white and nearly every room had a only a few things in it. The decor, which I'd come to learn was pretty standard Blessed Land , usually consisted of a table in the middle of the room with drawers or smaller tables in either corner. Every room bore the goddesses moon and face symbol above the doors. "The Goddess is the gate way to all things. So its fitting her image be put above all doors!" our guide Harj would later tell us.

We spoke with the ambassador who seamed a finicky and and a bit nervous. He read our letter and told us that he expected our arrival even if we where late (only by a day mind you). This strict adherence to a 'to the letter' style of living was my first taste of the Blessed Lands peoples social moores. It stemmed from... We'll get to that. Either way he educated us on our up coming trip. In a weeks time a party of guides (secret police) would arrive. We'd take a schooner owned by a captain of the Blessed Land to the Port of The Goddess. Our bags would be checked and there was a long list of things we couldn't bring with us, weapons of any sort, arcane instruments of any source, food and drink (which we'd be provided), and a collection of strange specifics, no animals, art, religious iconography or text of any kind, and much to my chagrin alcohol or other liveries. Sarah, who was woe not to have her alchemical supplies with her at any time was clearly uncomfortable with this. But she'd never been to this strange land and despite her discomfort I think she was as curious as I.

A few days passed and the 'guides' arrived sooner then expected. Sarah tried to sneak several potions passed me but my watchful (lucky) eye caught her and managed to convince her not to pack them.

"A cult" she said to me. "There all a cult and they'll sacrifice us to there damned goddess the second we step out line." I knew she meant me when she said we. I couldn't blame her, I had a certain penchant for... tomfoolery, yes, tomfoolery that sounds nice. After what can best be described as a disagreement where in things and harsh words where tossed in my direction we went to meet our guides.

There where three guides in total, a tall bulky man named Ard, a skinnier but still fit man named Murv, and a chubby older gentlemen by the name of Harj. Ard and Murv had the look of soldiers about them, the double barreled pistols and curved short swords they wore about the waists of there white tunics added to my assumption that they where fighting men. Harj how ever had the body of a priest and the demeanor of some one completely certain they where right. I'd go so far to call him a zealot but never to his face as the pistoled men jumped at his every word. I figured they feared reprisal from Harj superiors as the other two men seamed completely capable of killing him ten times over before he could gasp a "Praise the Goddess!"

After they searched our belongings and made sure we weren't trying to smuggle any contraband into there country they took us to a small schooner called The Breath of The Goddess. It was to my surprise not piloted by natives of the blessed land but mostly people from the local islands. The captain Rusk, the quarter mistress Gella, and our three guides where the only Blessed Landers aboard. I asked Harj about it and he told me the the foreign sailors where chosen so that the Blessed Landers "Didn't have to suffer leaving the holy land."

We arrived at the Port of the Goddess, the only public port in the enter Blessed Land a little under a week after we left from Hooksbay. The trip was pleasant enough even though we weren't allowed to speak with the Quarter Master or the captain. I spent most of my time helping the sailors in what ever way my old body could. Once a sailor always a sailor they say. Sarah spent her time winning at Fanora. By the end of the trip none of the sailors would talk to her much less play her.

The port first seamed to be no different then any of the countless others I've been to. It was busy with longshoremen hoisting cargo on and off ships. Here is where the first major difference, none of the longshoremen where native. Harj told me it was "To keep people from having to interact with non believers." He spent an hour or so showing us the docks. Other then the longshoremen nothing stuck out as strange.

Soon we left the docks and where taken to a gateway. A wall separated this district of the city from the rest and Harj told us there was only one gate to travel through which had a the same crescent moon symbol hanging above it as the doors back at the embassy. I noticed there where canons on the wall, not only facing outward to the ocean but inward towards the city as well. I'd learn most things in the Blessed Land where built to keep the people in as much as foreigners out. Harj showed our papers to the gate guards who carried the same curved swords as the two secret police that accompanied us. They're called Crescent Blades and are used in a martial art taught to the soldiers. Harj said he'd set up a demonstration for us when we reached the Holy City.

The rest of the city was unlike any other place I'd ever been to. Every other city I travelled too was in a state of constant repair. The streets where filled with animals and children running equally wild. Buildings where collapsing and new ones where being raised. But here in the inner parts of the Port of the Goddess things where almost sterile. All the buildings where brick and painted white. A few had splashes of blue or red paint. There where few people on the street and those who where marched with intent. There where no drunken thugs hanging out in dark alley ways. There where no men and women courting each other at market stalls. In fact I saw no markets at all, as it turns out food and other necessities had to be requested.

Harj led us around the city for a bit showing us diff rent buildings, apartment complexes, warehouses that stored goods, taverns where people congregated in there free time, and the like. As we walked from one warehouse to another we heard a loud female scream followed by a the recognizable bang of a gun shot. Harj rushed us away from the area.  Later he'd tell us that it was some ones whale oil lamp exploding. We both knew he was lying.

When the gun shot incident settled down Harj took us to see an average Blessed Lander family. They lived in the top story of an apartment complex, the inside of which was as minimally decorated as the outside. The family seamed normal. There was a father Jerg, a mother Rilda and a son Raff. All of them had the dark hair and light skin of a Blessed Lander. The apartment was decorated similar to the embassy, with little furniture, a table in the middle with a oil lamp sitting on it, a the Goddesses sigal. There was the door to another room, the parents bed chambers. A cot was rolled up in the corner where I assumed Raff slept. I'd studied Blessed Lander economics before a it began to dawn on me one of there biggest imports was wood since most of the natural forests had been long since cut down. This explained the lack of furniture.

We ate dinner with the family, which was a nice lamb steak with a side dish of mashed potatoes. For desert we each had a hard candy stick that tasted like cinnamon. The Blessed Lands soil was for the most part rocky and not great for maintaining large live stock like cows or ox. Sheep and lamb where common as they could be moved from grassy knoll to grassy knoll with out much difficulty. Potatoes supplemented most meals as they grew decently in the rocky soil.

As we ate the family told us how much they loved the goddess, how they thanked her for every thing they had. It was fanatical. They seamed to have a fear of the outside world which was no doubt instilled in them at an early age. They also seamed afraid of Harj, as they talked they would glance over to him to make sure he approved what they where saying. After dinner the son told us a fable that I feel illustrates a good bit of Blessed Lander Nature...

"Along time ago there where three sheep in a pen. One day the first sheep decided to go where he'd never been. He walked over to the fence and slipped under, but a few hands away he slipped in mud and ran home crying louder then thunder.

Not to long ago there where three sheep in a pen. One day the second sheep decided to go where he'd never been. He walked over to the fence and jumped it, but a dred away he got caught in thorns and ran home throwing a fit.

Yesterday there where three sheep in a pen. One day the third sheep decided to go where he'd never been. He walked over to the fence and went around, but a legot away he wandered into a wolves hunting ground."

The moral of the story, I was told, is never to leave the area your gracious herder has fenced in for you.


More to Come Soon, We meet travel to the Holy City and meet the Goddess.