I’m back from a relatively long hiatus caused by holidays and the like, but mainly moving house and getting a new job. But also the fact that I’m constantly saying “I’m going to write X piece”, and then never doing so, getting distracted by the shiny world of cultural criticism. So I decided I wasn’t going to write more for this blog until I actually had some fiction of my own to add. I’ll let you all read it first and then discuss it a bit.
Not sure what to call it either, but it’s a very brief folktaley story about the coming of age of one of the most influential characters in my Mists of Albion setting. I’ll be writing some more pieces outlining the setting more generally in the coming weeks, but this will do for starters.
This is the tell of Most Blessed Cæstron’s youth, from when he came into the world, by the will of the Ancestors and by the fortitude of Brighild, Blessed Mother of Cæstron, to the blooming of his friendship with Jir of the Plains.
So it was that Brighild was born to the people of the Great River. The people were unhappy at this time, for they were constantly hunted by the horse people of the Great Plains to the north, and Brighild often had to flee to a new home, in fear of her life.
And so the time came when she tired of running, and stayed behind when the people of the Great River fled. And she saw that the horse people burned and destroyed their food, and killed any left behind. As she saw their flames consume her home, she wept for the destruction that had been with her all her lilfe. And her tears formed a stream, that led her to the banks of the Great River.
She reached the River’s banks by nightfall, and could weep no more. And there she cried out to the Mists at the river’s banks, saying:
“The Horselords have taken my house, my hearth
Give me a way to drive them to the ends of the earth”
And the Mists answered her, and Brighild went back to her people.
After a time, Brighild was with child.
And at her appointed time she had a son, and she named him Cæstron. And he grew hale and hearty, never ailed by any illness even in the tenderness of his youth. He was running with the warriors of Brighild’s village by the time he was ten years of age.
The first time he ran with the warriors, Brighild begged him not to go, fearing for her child’s life. But Cæstron said to her:
“You are a mother, it is your place to care. But I am a warrior, it is my place to go.”
“You are no warrior,” said Brighild, “You are a mere boy.”
“I was a warrior before I was a boy,” Cæstron replied, “I was a warrior there, and I am now to be a warrior here.” At that, Brighild fell silent, and Cæstron ran with the warriors when the horse people next fell upon their villages. He fought bravely, and slew many of them with sword and spear. And Brighild rejoiced, saying, “surely you are a warrior, for you have brought down the heads that have troubled me with sword and spear. For this you shall have the spear of your family, so long as you swear that each time you wield it you bring back a rider’s head, as wergild for the family that gave it to you. ” Cæstron swore this, and Brighild gave him Eagar, the River’s Spear, which she had kept with her.
Cæstron grew to love Eagar, and both spear and boy were keen to avenge the people of the river. Eagar slew many riders from the plains, and they grew to fear it and the boy who wielded it, for Cæstron slew many horsemen. And so the river’s people remained in their homes by the river for longer than any cared to remember. As the seasons turned, Cæstron began leading parties to raid the horsemen in their own camps, and Egar gathered more blood.
One time, the riders left their horses on the plains and crept through the trees by the riverbanks silently, cloaked in the mists. So it was that they happened upon the river’s people on a sudden, and many were overcome before they could lay hands on a weapon. Cæstron fought them with Eagar, slaying many, but there was one, who fought with a bright steel sword, who he could not best, and it was only the valour of Hilfbora that saved him.
Cæstron pondered this in his heart, and swore that he would find and kill the horselord who had the temerity to defeat him in battle. While before he was eager to fight the horse tribes, now he was constantly baying for their blood, and it was rare to find him neither raiding the horselord’s camps or planning the next attack.
One day when the trees were turning red, the horse-lord appeared, garbed in the finest clothes of his people, but without any weapon. He called out for Cæstron and Eagar in anger, demanding that the boy and his spear answer for the horsemen that they had slain. Cæstron came out and faced him, Eagar in hand.
“How much more of our blood must you and your viper’s tooth spill before you are sated?”, the horse-lord cried. “Will you only be satisfied when our blood is poured out like the waters of your river? Have your people grown so used to water that they must now sup on blood?”
“And how is it that your people came to prey on mine? Do they grow tired of their herds and turn instead to the husbandry of humans? How many more must I cut down to ensure you learn that the river people are not to be hunted like deer, or speared like fishes?”
“One,” replied the other, and knelt. “Slay me as final wergild for your people, and we will trouble your land no more.”
Cæstron was filled with admiration for the horselord at this, and asked, “May I know the name of the man who would ransom his people with his life?”
“Jir, lord of the people of the plains of Alyr. I die gladly to ensure their future.” He bowed his head, and waited. Cæstron raised the spear, suddenly unwilling. Then a cry came from his house, and Brighild ran to him.
“You cannot do this, my son. You deny the blood of your fathers if Eagar is to go hungry from this day on.”
“Then the blood of my fathers has no place in me,” replied Cæstron, and he broke Eagar on his knee and took Jir by the hand, raised him up and embraced him. “My blood now lies on the plains, with noble Jir and his people. Henceforth the blood of Cæstron and the blood of Jir will be as one.”
So ends the story of Cæstron of the Rivers, and begins the story of Cæstron of the Plains, and all that happened thereafter.
That ending to me feels really awkward, but I’ve got another short story brewing about what happens to the pair of them afterward, and most particularly about Cæstron getting a not-so-shiny new sword. Any suggestions on how to wrap it up better would really be appreciated.
The first thing about this is that I intended it as an in-universe fireside tale, so there’s going to be a lot that gets assumed (at least, that’s my excuse for being unclear/skipping bits, and I’m sticking to it!). If there’s any way it can be expanded on, please let me know. And also, as it’s a fireside tale things like the descriptions have to be limited as people won’t remember that much consistently. I’d imagine anyone actually telling this would elaborate on the details, miss the more formal bits out, and the like.
I’ve also been getting my Elder Scrolls geek on, with some very complex debates about in-universe cosmology currently happening on the Elder Scrolls lore forums. Complex enough that the uncertainty and debate has spawned twelve threads and counting on this one obscure topic. It even got down to numerology of in-game texts. So I feel that some sort of discussion of mystery and new ideas in fantasy is required, after Nostalgia Chick’s passing comment in this fantastic review of The Fellowship of the Ring that there aren’t any new ideas in fantasy. This complaint does have some mileage, so I’ll be going through it soon, alongside some more general cosmological pieces on Mists of Albion. There will be a few uncertainties in there, to keep things open and keep things interesting. As we go, as ever any comments would be great.