Wednesday 2 October 2013

Ealdormere’s Newest Mu'allim (Winter War, March 6, 2004)

By THLaird Colyne Stewart

Greetings unto his grand exaltedness, the Sultan, from his most humble servant Khuzaymah al-‘Abbas,

As per his mightiness' decree, did I, a most humble scribe to his court, travel from our beautiful lands to the far-off realm called Ealdormere, to witness the elevation in station of one of our countrymen. I will herein endeavor, with the aid of Allah, to describe with detail the events of my passage to that far off land, and my time spent amongst its natives.

By camel I traveled to a trading port where I purchased accommodation upon a small ship. For may days the ship traversed the waters of the world, finally depositing me on an outcropping of rock, which the ship’s captain assured me was part of the Kingdom of Ealdormere.

There, I was met by a local who called himself Steinbjorn. This burly man loaded my belongings upon a thick chested horse, and then led me off into the thick green forests. Truly this land is blessed with much rain, for it to support so much vegetation.

Finally my guide and I arrived at a great hall of stone. It was simple in its construction but was hung with many glorious banners. Beside the hall was spread a market place where local inhabitants bought and sold fresh produce.

The tales I had been told of this land often featured the words 'cold' and 'snow'. Snow, so my sources told me, was white flakes which fell from the sky and coated the earth in their blanket. When I arrived there was no evidence of this snow, though it was cold and damp, with a sometimes harsh wind blowing. It was a strange thing not to feel the comfortable and familiar baking heat of the sun on my head.

As we entered the hall we passed many local inhabitants wearing many forms of foreign dress. Some wore tight coats covered in pearls, some wore large flowing black skirts with black hoods, and others wore wrappings on their legs. I was, apparently, not the only visiting dignitary from our corner of the earth, for I saw many dressed in the fashions of the desert peoples.

After passing through the gate where we had to pay a tax to the local magistrates, we walked into a large room. As the weather without was foul, the day's events were all to happen indoors. The hall was a great rectangle, and though we had arrived early in the morning, already the room was crowded. To the left several tents were set up beside which sat several musicians. Beside these tents merchants displayed their wares; several tables, most already full of people, were spread about the tents and merchants. In the centre of the hall was a dais, upon which rested the thrones of Their Majesties of Ealdormere, Cennedi and Susanna. Behind this dais was another tent, presumably one for the royals to retreat to should they need to rest or confer in private.

To the left of the dais a small section of the room had been roped off. Within this area men and women dueled with thin blades of a style I have never seen before. The entire right half of the hall was likewise roped, and within it many, many men and women fought with a variety of weapons. The peoples of this land are vigorous indeed, and many did not lay down their arms until it was time to feast.

Throughout the day I heard music, some of it familiar to my ears, and saw dancing. Some of the dancing was strange to me, but much of it I recognized from our mighty culture. I also witnessed many people playing at games. Again, some of them were known to me, but some seemed puzzlingly obtuse to me.

Not soon after our arrival, Their Majesties of Ealdormere were brought before the crowd and they called for the attention of all. A few awards and titles were bestowed, including induction into an Order of the Crucible, to one known by many as 'Uncle J'. His Majesty was heard to remark that this J was now the 'Honourable Uncle'.

As well, Rakkas al-Bassim, Ra'ee al-Saleh Sheikh al-Zubeyd al-Sharef Valizan ibn Fredeh was brought before Their thrones. He was asked if he had thought long and hard on whether or not he wished to be elevated to the Order of the Pelican, and this good man said that he had indeed thought long and hard, and that we was willing to accept the honour and burden this represented. The Order, and a local warrior, one of those called knights in that land, escorted him to the clutch of tents set to the one side of the hall. There he sat in contemplation--a vigil, as I heard it called--where he was visited by many. Beside the tents the musicians played long and loud.

I spent most of the day either watching the tournaments upon the fields of battle, learning local games, or speaking to local dignitaries upon your behalf, oh great one. I believe you will shortly be hearing from representatives of one of the local baronies who are interested in importing spices and dates from our fertile lands.

The time sped by faster than I thought possible, and soon it was time to dine. The meal was exquisite Persian fare, and I heard many complementing it as one of the finest meals they had ever had. Throughout the meal there was dancing and music. It was a most entertaining and satisfying time.

When the tables had been cleared, Their Majesties again held court. They handed out more honours and awards, a few of which impressed themselves upon my memory.

One man, a bearded northerner, was told to come into Their Majesties' presence, and bring with him his thrall. They were told that his thrall had been acting above her station, and that this would not do. The king then fined the man one mark of silver for this indiscretion. Then, so that the thrall would no longer act above her station, they raised her station and bestowed upon her the title of Lady, thus freeing her. Having now deprived the northern man of his thrall, the king recompensed him by paying him one mark of silver. I cannot understand the northern tongue well, but I am told that the once thrall has been given a new byname, as her old one exclaimed her bondage. Her new byname is, as I understand it, 'little Mrs. fancy pants'.

As well, that Order of the Crucible I have already mentioned, was called before Their Majesties as a Saxon, known as Sir Ed the Red, and a local baroness, Alyce de Sheppey, were added to their number.

Finally, the Order of the Pelican was called forth, and Valizan was led through the crowd of onlookers, preceded by a woman who spoke for him, and followed by his banner, which bore a proud peacock. As he slowly approached the thrones, he was ceremoniously stripped of his outer garments and jewelry and was adorned with oil. All this was done by representatives of the Kingdoms of AEthelmarc, Atlantia, the East and the Middle.

Finally he stood before his king and queen. The king told Valizan to bear his breast, as a pelican bears its breast for its young. Valizan opened his shirt, but this was not enough for His Majesty, who strode forward and ripped the garment from Valizan's body.

Placating himself at Their Majesties feet, Valizan then heard the words of many who would speak on his behalf that day, praising his deeds and great worth. The king's sword of state--Gwaylor, I have learned it is called--was brought forth, but before the king would allow Valizan to swear fealty and accept induction into the Order, he was to be outfitted with symbols of his rank. He was dressed in new clothing, and given medallions and cloaks. Now elevated, the newest Pelican turned to be greeted by an audience on their feet.

When the court was over, a local song singer wearing what to my Eastern eyes was a blasphemous explosion of colour, was handing off pieces of Valizan's torn shirt. I am pleased to report, your Mightiness, that I have acquired a portion of that garment for you.

I was then invited to a local hostelry where a celebration was to be held in Valizan's honour, but as I was tired I retired with my guide to our inn to sleep. Come the dawn I began to retrace my steps and began the long journey back to my beautiful home.

All this I saw, and I swear it is true.

Khuzaymah al-‘Abbas

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