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Celestial Symphony (Closed - Ordis)

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Nerotysia
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Celestial Symphony (Closed - Ordis)

Postby Nerotysia » Thu Aug 06, 2020 1:46 pm

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The Tale of the Six Kingdoms


A Roleplay from the Ordis Community
The following thread may contain inappropriate or adult imagery.







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O Fortune, Like the moon
You are changeable,
ever waxing
and waning.
(1)



Gartenovo
The Province of the Klove
The Tyrathian Empire
511 years after the Last Chaos

Already, sweat crawled across his collarbone. Only a few tiny, itchy droplets. The dance had not yet begun. He stared into his cousin’s eyes, which were so bright and eager, each colored a delicious crimson, like apples, and Prince Kyrsimir narrowed his own blue eyes and tried to figure out which of them had the prettier pupils. In moments the dance would start, and their mutual sweetheart would decide which of them had the prettier form. But Kyrsimir would be the authority on their eyes, damnit.

The Divine Empire, Tyrathium, an ancient state dense with magic and money and ceremony, teetered on the edge of a cold winter. It was dense with rulers, too, as evidenced by that night’s absurd feast. Two of the realm’s four emperors, Gildomir and Dalfindir of House Voltaar, had called all the (friendly) Skylords and lesser lords and even some rich smallholders to their home, the Monolith – four mammoth granite cubes stacked atop small cliffs. In the great hall their guests enjoyed a grand feast to celebrate Heia Vischacha, the penultimate festival of the Hero’s Cycle, held at the end of Autumn. Truth be told, they’d really called the feast to plot against the other two emperors, Polystasia and Hessano of House Dardellos, but the lesser lords and unwashed smallholders needn’t know that.

Prince Kyrsimir and his apple-eyed cousin Tessimir needn’t know either, of course, though they were central to their elders’ plans. They were both seventeen, still boys by Alvish standards, but Kyrsimir was Dalfindir’s firstborn heir, and both were grandsons of Gildomir.

Thus the two men had arranged for their progeny to perform the crucial Heia dance during the feast. The performance would not only cement their faces and names in the aristocratic crowd – largely composed of Voltaari allies – it would also show off their skills with fire magic, considered essential for any Tyrathian ruler.

Tessimir bit his lip and grinned impishly. “Ready to lose, Kyrsi?”

Kyrsi restrained his chuckle. “He already knows I’m better, Tess.”

“Yes, but I’m prettier.” Tess stuck out his tongue.

The two stood rigid, face-to-face, each clutching a thin black sword, waiting for the music to start. Silence gradually dampened the room, and at the last moment, the two princes snuck a final glance at him – the tall, muscled, thick-shouldered knight leaning against a pillar near the hall’s arched entrance, his lips curled in an eager smile.

Tess choked on his breath. “Kreisel, he’s actually watching, Kyrsi. Closely.”

“Of course he is, you oxman. We are both to dance in short tunics and silk stockings. What did you think he would do?”

Not that Kyrsi’s guts weren’t tangled into knots.

Tess went on stuttering – “I dunno, I –”

And then the first crash of the drums cut through his whispers, and the two leapt to action.

The Heia dance symbolized a pyromantic duel, and normally dramatized the climax of the Chomithorian Heroic Cycle – the clash between the Prince and the Shadow. However, the dance predated Chomithorianism, and could take many forms. Tess and Kyrsi had chosen one more commonly associated with the mythic duel between Rhaethor, among the first “Blessed Fifty” followers of the prophet and the fabled progenitor of House Voltaar, and his wife Alithora. They’d both wanted to play Alithora, but Tess proved to be the more stubborn.

And so they twirled and leapt and tapped their swords together and flung fire from their fingertips. While they danced they watched the crowd. A few noble guests had already grown rather drunk, and could barely pay attention – the Emperor Gildomir, however, watched them as closely as the muscled knight, his bushy eyebrows drawn, his eyes flicking from the crowd to the princes. His hawkish nose and sharp cheekbones seemed forever disapproving. He was taller than most, even slumped as he was in that vast velvet throne near the back of the room, surrounded by family, friends, and courtiers. After a while Kyrsi tried to ignore him.

The drums snarled and stomped and the trumpets barked and the strings rocked back and forth like ships atop waves and even the granite walls seemed to throb with the rhythm. Though the orchestra sat entrenched behind a thicket of white marble pillars in one corner of the massive ballroom, their music reached all the guests equally – the work of a few simple spells. Those sorts of soft magicks, those that only made the world a little nicer and easier, those that didn’t kill anybody – they were the spells of farmers and fishermen, not warriors and kings. Nonetheless, they had their uses.

The two dancers kept on, whirling around each other, their thin silk robes spinning like snowflakes, their pale skin crawling with rivulets of flame, their foreheads gleaming with sweat. Kyrsi wore a sleeveless, thigh-length tunic colored in vertical stripes of scarlet and gold, his legs clad in skintight white stockings, his arms and calves garnished by twinkling gold bracelets. Overtop the ensemble he enjoyed a cloth-of-gold chlamys hanging from his shoulders to his waist, the glittering fabric whorling with chains and stars and crescent moons and freckled with pearls. Tess wore much the same, though he’d accented his silver hair with a glaring scarlet feather, at which Kyrsi had rolled his eyes. They both clattered the marble floors with light whitewood shoes, adding their own percussion to the ferocious music. Indeed, Klovish dance favored the legs, which the two princes kicked and snapped with practiced fury, spitting out little tongues of flame from their toe tips, drawing gasps from the crowds. Amidst the song’s crescendo they interlocked their hands and spun from their blades a corpulent ring of fire, which billowed outwards and burst against the crowds as a flock of shadowy doves. A few onlookers fainted – the rest bathed the room with shouts and cheers and whistles as the two dancers halted exactly on time with the final flare of trumpet. Once again they stood rigid like toy soldiers, back-to-back, arms tight to their sides, and gulped at the air while they waited for the applause to fade.

….

“Wonderful work, my dear princes!” said Gildomir in his rubbly voice, which more often than not seemed to hover on the edge of laughter.

Dutifully the two boys had walked straight to their grandfather’s proud, arched throne after the applause, as the crowds spilled back into the wood-paneled dance area. Normally they might only bow, but a compliment from an emperor demanded a kowtow, at least in public, to demonstrate humility.

“Thank you, grandfather,” said Tess and Kyrsi at the same time.

“Up, you two.” Gildomir slid further into the throne, scanning their faces as they arose. The Emperor wore his full civilian regalia – a knee-length tunic of thick blue-and-gold silk, woven with pearls and diamonds, cut in half vertically and horizontally by broad bands of gem-speckled cloth-of-gold, accented by carmine fringes on the sleeves, themselves woven with sapphires and scrollwork of white silk. Underneath he wore trousers of the same blue-gold silk, tucked into tall carmine boots studded with pearls and carved with white scrollwork. Overtop the costume he sported two more famous garments: the celestial stole and chlamys, both cloth-of-gold and woven with brilliant diamonds, meant to signify the stars in the sky. After all, the emperor was a child of heaven.

Kyrsi rather liked the ensemble, but then again he tended to enjoy elaborate clothing.

“The imperial regalia fits you well, grandfather,” said Kyrsi, wooden with manners.

“Please don’t compliment this absurd waste of gold, child. It makes me fear for your mind.”

Kyrsi smiled. “That is not the reason you should fear for my mind.”

The courtiers laughed politely.

Gildomir nodded. “No, you are right: I suspect it’s the Mincker boy who will rot your mind.”

More polite laughs, and Kyrsi blushed slightly as his thoughts returned to the muscled knight.

Tess interrupted. “How can love rot his mind? Love is pure.”

Gildomir snorted. “The love doesn’t worry me. It’s the other part.”

Now the laughter was genuine – a talent which Gildomir prided himself on. Nonetheless, the conversation had so far proceeded exactly as planned, save for his grandfather’s mischievous innuendo.

“Where is father?” asked Kyrsi. Emperor Dalfindir was nowhere to be seen.

“Attending some business with some other guests. The empire does not halt for our festival, unfortunately. Though I suspect your father welcomes the extra work, given his pronounced distaste for fun.”

As he joked and his courtiers laughed, Kyrsi ran his eyes over the two men closest to his grandfather. To the emperor’s right sat Ascher af’Mossenauer, handsome scion of the third-richest family in the empire and current Phoenician Prefect – responsible for the army’s phoenixes, the army’s stores of white fire, and any other magicks the army might need. He winked at Kyrsi from beneath his yellow bangs. To the emperor’s left sat Svesser af’Kōnicker, draped with black robes and black gems and black hair, his black eyes running over Kyrsi like he was an insect on a table. The man was Master of Shadows, responsible for the imperial government’s network of spies, and Kōnicker’s official black robes fit him far too well. He winked at Kyrsi too, oddly enough.

Gildomir interrupted his reverie. “Boys, I have something to tell you before you run off.”

Both of them knew what was coming. Tess nodded eagerly. “Yes, Your Majesty?”

Kyrsi barely twitched his head. His eyes wandered.

Gildomir’s smile slipped, but still he glanced around at the assembled men, and projected his voice across the hall.

“My noble grandsons! I plan to name both of you as emperors upon the death of my beloved wife, Rhaethir Polystasia. Both of you are Chosen Sons: your phoenixes are destined to grow larger than mammoths and rain flame upon the enemies of our Divine Empire. Both of you are immensely talented pyromancers, and surely destined to be great warriors. Moreover, the tutors tell me your minds burn hotter than your fires. The Celestial Throne begs for young men of your caliber.”

As practiced, Tess and Kyrsi dropped again into a kowtow, pressing their foreheads to the chilly marble as the great herd of nobles clapped their approval.

“Thank you for this vast honor, grandfather, for it does not suit me,” said the two princes at the same time.

Behind his careful gratitude, Kyrsi whispered a chuckle. Five emperors! He hoped the throne was wide enough for five asses. In truth, his gut churned at the prospect. Part of him wished the empire would fall apart before he took the throne.

The two princes stood slowly as the applause died down. Lord Mossenauer spoke first: “I believe we can all agree that His Majesty has made the right choice.”

“Indeed,” said Lord Kōnicker in his soft, breathy voice.

Gildomir studied his grandsons. “Prepare yourselves accordingly. I fear my dear wife may depart this world soon. Your destinies will be upon you.”

Tess cocked his head. “Huh? Has Her Majesty fallen ill?”

Gildomir smiled, a little too widely. “No, no. But – I fear she will soon.”

Thick silence mushroomed between them. The courtiers glanced back and forth between grandfather and grandson. The alliance between Houses Voltaar and Dardellos, cemented by Gildomir’s marriage to Rhaethir Polystasia, had brought peace to the empire some twenty years ago. Unluckily, their union bore them no children, and seemingly little love. After a moment, Gildomir winked at Kyrsi. His smile never slackened.

Finally, Kōnicker nodded. “I fear your grandfather is right, Highnesses. The capital’s climate does not agree with Her Majesty.”

The two princes glanced at each other. Eventually they turned back and smiled politely, nodding their agreement.

And so, with their words itching at his mind, Kyrsi bowed and departed the group with Tess.

Almost immediately, his cousin grumbled and clutched his stomach.

“Dear Gods, that was awful. I think I might’ve eaten grandfather had that gone on any longer.”

Kyrsi’s mind was elsewhere. His eyes wandered the walls, draped with vibrant tapestries and magicked purple candles. Every so often the flames would change color, bathing the room in rainbow. Idly Kyrsi told himself he’d have to learn that trick.

Tess somehow appeared in front of him, and Kyrsi nearly tripped trying to stop. “W-what are you doing?”

His cousin’s eyes combed over his face. “What’s wrong? You’re not talking.”

“I never talk.”

“To me you do. Are you tired from the dance?”

Kyrsi shook his head. His eyes drifted to a corner of the great hall, to an odd fold of stone in the wall, hiding a small staircase.

Tess furrowed his brows. “Look, let’s go find Persi. He’ll cheer you up.”

Kyrsi mumbled – “no, that’s fine. I’m – I’ll be right back.”

Without another word he shouldered past his cousin and sliced through the crowds and found the wooden door guarding the staircase, and then up he went, taking the steps two at a time, up and up and up and up

And before long he’d pushed aside a trap door of crude iron and emerged onto the flat, open roof of this tallest section of the Monolith.

The wind surged around his skin and up his nose, heavy with the salt of the sea, and Kyrsi inhaled and tasted liquid in his lungs, and exhaled with a sigh, and his bones seemed to settle in his skin now that he’d escaped the rigid, stagnant air of the great hall. Smiling at last, he wandered into the center of the gigantic granite platform, as broad as the city plaza, the stone wet with recent rains. No guardrails of any kind circled the edge, which sloped away like rounded cliffsides. In three directions the landscapes of the empire stretched to the horizon – squared little farms intercut with fences and trees, and beyond them a carpet of forest, the countryside striped by three silvery ribbons of paved road – the Great Seaway running along the coast to the east and west, straight through Gartenovo, and the Second Stoneway unraveling outwards from the coast and vanishing over the horizon, parallel to the mountains in the distance. To the north, however, dwelt only the endless Urbaltic Sea, stubbled with waves and colored a dark, rich blue tinted nearly black by the night. Kyrsi crumpled to a seat on the damp stone, ignoring the chill of the water, and squinted to catch the sails of the ships speeding away from port. A few, he thought, sported cloth of checkered black-and-gold, the colors of his family, House Voltaar. Others sported other colors, unfamiliar ones, or just plain white.

Kyrsi sighed and sprawled on his back and stared at the stars instead, little milky dots on a black curtain, picking out the shapes of heroes and prophets and farm animals: the constellations differed from sect to sect, and varied by profession, and Kyrsi’s astronomy tutor insisted he memorize all of them. Directly overhead he could trace a fat pig in the sky – supposedly a sign of good harvests to come. He grimaced. I hate farmer’s magic.

Before long, a low, keen screech split the quiet. Kyrsi didn’t bother moving.

Moments later came a thump, and then a smooth mass of white feathers blotted out the sky, and Kyrsi giggled, reaching up to scratch at the beast’s skin. The creature turned her head downwards, presenting her broad flat snout to the prince, and snorted, engulfing his head with heat and smoke. Kyrsi tried to laugh through his coughing. Her breath smelled of burned meat.

“Good evening, Blackie. How was your dinner?”

The phoenix whined, pressing her nose against his chest. When she’d hatched – only days after Kyrsi was born – she’d crawled out into his crib no larger than a pigeon. Nowadays she could swallow a flock of pigeons whole. Her head had grown to the size of Kyrsi’s torso, her neck stretched longer than his legs, her tail was twice his height, and still she hadn’t finished growing, not even close. Really she was still an adolescent.

He’d started riding her only a few years ago, but he could barely remember the time before. Her feathers were white as snow, tipped in scarlet down her spine, but her teeth were black as tar – hence her name, Blacktooth.

She whined again. Kyrsi shook his head.

“No riding tonight, pup. I’m tired.”

Suddenly her head snapped upwards, staring towards the stairs.

Kyrsi closed his eyes. He knew who it was.

After another few moments and a spattering of footsteps, Tess’ voice appeared inches away from his face, apparently unfazed by the feathered wyvern glaring down at both of them.

“Kyrsi? You okay?”

“I came up here to be alone, you know.”

Tess ignored him. “Can you tell Blackie to relax, please? She’s scaring Persi.”

Startled, Kyrsi opened his eyes, twisting his head to see. Indeed, their beloved muscled knight hovered back near the stairs, pale as marble, pinned in place by Blackie’s flat red eyes.

Kyrsi laughed. “He’s a friend, Blackie. Stop staring at him.”

The phoenix swiveled her head at the prince and snorted again. Then she leapt back into the sky and darted away, drowning the two princes beneath a gush of wind. For a moment Kyrsi couldn’t breathe, as her wings seemed to suck all the air upwards. He and his cousin smiled impishly at Persi as he drifted over to stand above them, glancing nervously at the sky.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen her before,” he said, his voice like pebbled chocolate even as it shook with nerves. Kyrsi shivered happily.

“You’ve never even been up here before. This is my roof.”

The knight finally looked down, gathering himself. His pale blue eyes skewered Kyrsi’s heart. He grinned.

“Well, my prince, you belong to me, so technically, this is my roof now.”

Kyrsi giggled. “Not yet. We’ve not had the ceremony yet. Don’t get ahead of yourself.”

Persi sat cross-legged near his head, ran a hand through Kyrsi’s blue hair. “Yes, but – you’ve been speared, Your Highness. Therefore, you’ve been claimed.”

Persi blushed, Tess laughed, and Kyrsi bit his lip and replied – “I expect you’ve speared dozens of boys. Do you claim all of them, too?”

“I’ve speared half this town. Frankly, I think I have better rights to the city than your blasted grandfather.” Persi nodded in mock-seriousness, and Tess smacked him, giggling.

“Don’t insult our beloved emperor, you fiend!”

Persi stroked his chin. “No, no, you’re right. A good husband should not insult his lady’s family. Especially when he has two ladies from the same family.”

Tess went on laughing, and the two went on sparring, but the mention of Gildomir soured Kyrsi’s stomach. He returned his eyes to the sky.

Tess noticed first. “He’s upset again.”

Persi looked down. “Tess tells me you’ve been brooding.”

Kyrsi growled, clenched and unclenched his fists. “Soon, we will move to the capital, and that damned imperial crown will burn away our old lives like paper. I think I have a right to brood.”

Persi cocked his head. “Kyrsi, you – that won’t be until Her Majesty’s death. The Emperor just wanted to announce you as his heir. That’s all. You’ve still got a while.”

Kyrsi snorted. “I see you don’t know my grandfather, Persi.”

The knight looked between them. “What do you mean?”

Suddenly the anger seeped out of him, and Kyrsi’s voice lost its edge. He just wanted to sleep. He just wanted to forget. Why did Persi have to mention that damned old man?

Tess mumbled an answer first, eyes averted. “When our grandfather wants something, he takes it.”

However, Kyrsi’s patience for delicacy had drained with his anger. “Her Majesty the Rhaethir will be dead within the fortnight, I expect. Probably poisoned. He would not have been so bold as to promise us the throne unless the moment were near. And then our beloved grandfather will be Rhaethir, able to appoint as many new emperors as he pleases. And the only Dardelloi left on the throne will be Her Majesty’s poor son. I just hope grandfather leaves him alone.”

Silence.

Tess turned and laid on his back, pillowing his head on Kyrsi’s stomach. “I mean, Her Majesty deserves whatever she gets, but – I suppose things will change for us.”

Everything will change.” Kyrsi closed his eyes again. He worried he might cry.

Persi leaned his head over the two princes. His voice came soft and warm and gentle. “Kyrsi, both of you will make fine rulers.”

“I don’t care,” muttered Kyrsi, clenching his fists. “Fuck the empire.”

Tess sighed. “It’s your own fault. You knew this was going to happen, Kyrsi. You should’ve been prepared.”

Kyrsi opened and closed his mouth. His cousin wasn’t wrong, and not just because the two of them were among the few proper phoenix-riders in the empire. Kyrsi had been born in the Hall of Ash itself at the Celestial Palace, only hours after his father had been appointed emperor. Though it had been rather blatant on Gildomir’s part, Kyrsi nevertheless enjoyed from birth a better claim to the throne than anyone else in Tyrathium. Even Tess hadn’t been born in that sacred Hall to a sitting emperor, and neither had Rhaethir Polystasia's son Hessano.

No, only Kyrsi enjoyed that sacred title, “born in the ash.” Only Kyrsi was truly and properly trapped by the Celestial Throne’s great obsidian jaws.

“Fuck the Hall of Ash, too,” spat Kyrsi, finally.

Several quiet minutes passed. The wind whistled over the roof.

….

Persi eventually opened his mouth to speak, but the crack of iron against stone interrupted him.

Kyrsi nearly jumped out of his skin. Persi stood, squinting. “Hello?”

The voice rasped like sandpaper. “You’re not s’posed to be up here.”

That’s when Tess and Kyrsi leapt to their feet as well, their skin crawling.

Three cloaked men had emerged from the staircase onto the granite roof, their heads shadowed by hoods, their hands gloved. Each clutched a heavy mahogany crossbow, already loaded, silver-tipped arrows glinting in the moonlight. The man in the middle stepped forward. He raised his crossbow towards Persi.

“You’re not s’posed to be up here, boy. Just the princes.”

Persi slowly shifted his weight. His body coiled like a spring. “You will never escape the castle. Lay down your weapons now, and you’ll live.”

Tess backed away, muttering under his breath. Kyrsi’s intestines twisted in his belly. His heart seemed to freeze. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t move.

The lead assassin laughed. “You live, we don’t escape. You die, we escape. Easy choice.”

Persi took a step closer. “The Voltaari will double whatever you were paid.”

The other two raised their crossbows. Persi halted. One of them shifted his arrowhead towards Kyrsi’s heart.

The lead one chuckled again. “Voltaari ain’t rich enough for that.”

“We’re the second-richest family in the empire. Of course we’re rich enough,” insisted Tess, still backing away.

The lead one sighed. “No, you aren’t.”

A thwip crackled through the air, like ice snapping underfoot, and Kyrsi threw himself to the left but nonetheless his right arm exploded and spiralled pain all through his body, and he screeched and tripped and cracked his scalp on the granite and his vision blurred, and then more screeches, and some grunts, and more thwips, and the clatter of wood against stone, and Tess screaming something, and flame flowering overhead, and Kyrsi curled and cried and squirmed against the pain, the awful awful pain, like termites chewing the underside of his skin, chewing his veins and muscles and bones, and then another spike of agony spasmed through his right hand, another arrow, and finally finally finally that sweet cold blackness swallowed his mind, only moments after the low keen screech of an adolescent phoenix split the sky and billowed through his ears.






1. Taken from the poem "O Fortuna," part of the Carmina Burana manuscript.

2. Appendix: the prominent ducal houses of Tyrathium: their history, principal members, and allied houses.
Last edited by Nerotysia on Mon Aug 10, 2020 5:26 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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