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.