When our lands first became one,
When the will of men was done -
An Ibisian Empire born -
This was said on it's first morn:
"Everything that's made must die,
All that lives is born to cry,
God and Goddess willed it so:
What's raised high still falls down low!
Even empires pass away
At the dawn of a new day."
|Opening Verse of Claye's The Founding Of The Empire|
It was noon, but the sky was cloudy and overcast. At least, that is what historians say now that it is over. Two weeks haven't passed and they're already making up lies. Cloudy and overcast. May the Goddess' own hounds rip their testicles off and feed them to the damned! I was there, boy! I was in the streets of Derry when the sky inverted, the clouds boiled black and the sun vanished from our eyes. Lightning flared in the south in colours no eyes had ever seen, shapes were seen - shapes that drove men to madness and worse - flickering in that lightning, flying through those twisted clouds.
There was no order, then. Guards dropped weapons and prayed with commoners, people cries out in fear and terror, thinking the end of the world had come. They were almost right, it sometimes seems. No one looted streets or attacked each other, not yet. We were too damned scared, boy. All we did was watch, numb with nameless horrors, as Ibis itself glowed with dark magics in some horrible parody of dawn. Someone said Arkida was finally getting what she deserved. I don't remember how many pieces the crowd tore her into. Poor girl. Arkida was evil, but she was the Empreror, and preferable to the darkness burning in the sky, the night that seemed to have no end. She died, and a few of the folk who went mad, but the rest of us ... watched.
There was nothing else we could do, except witness it. Finally, when the mind was numbed enough that even horrors become common, or shut out from the mind to keep us sane (Sane, when the world was turning to hell! What a lovely thing!), someone suggessted asking the Oracle.
Only They know why we didn't think of it before, but we found her, oracle of the Goddess, almost dead in the first temple of Derry. The sacred grove was ashes and the ground smoking and sizzling with magics. The Oracle lay somewhere in the middle, alive by the grace - or curse - of the Goddess and the God. No one could approach her. One man tried. After he stopped screaming, everyone backed away. I think a guard tried to shoot her, to end the pain, but the magic was too great.
Somehow, she knew we were there. Even through her pain and agony, she raised her blind eyes and ruined face to the crowd and spoke softly: "Arkida does not like to be told the harsh truths. As if there were any other kind." A truth, for she could tell no lies, spoken somehow through that pain and hurt. It ... humbled us, then the words sank in slowly.
The Emperor had killed an Oracle. It was then that something boiled over in the crowd, something horrible and awful strirring in our hearts. Buildings burned then, men drew weapons and prepared to march on the holy city: for the first time in living memory there was rebellion in the heart of the Empire. But a few of us stayed by the oracle, perhaps to offer comfort, or just to see her last moments ... I don't know. I was there, but I don't know why we stayed. Even so, those of us who stayed heard her begin to sing, softly: "Everything that's made must die, All that lives is born to cry." You know the rest ... Claye's work on the Empire, not long after it was founded. She didn't sing well, but there was such saddness in it. It touched us all, like a gift.
No matter what Arkida had done, we remembered what the Empire had been. I cried also: this was the Oracle speaking. It was over. Everyyhing known became unknown, all that had been certain was uncertain. And Derry burned behind us and around us, normal flames starkly contrasted by the boiling skies ....
Well, you know the rest. The men of Derry arrived after Arkida died. We paid honage to the new King. No Emperor, now. The trade routes have fallen, the army is on it's own. So much has changed ... so much is still the same. And we have no more Oracle in Derry.
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