For the Iande Contest/RP
We were to go boating that day. I threw up a quick haphazard prayer in hopes that I would find my sea legs and maintain my balance (as well as my lunch) over the course of events to come and set out, rather bravely in my opinion, after the rest of the party. After all, boats are nothing like horses or birds. They’re unstable and their perch is on something unsubstantial and enigmatic that simply won’t stand still.
Of course, my dubious attitude quickly faded as the boat came in sight. It was nothing like my father’s merchant ships. It did not have the aspiring, vast sails climbing to the heavens, or the cargo, whether exotic or mundane or unknown, or the bustle of colorfully toned sailors busying themselves as if they were ants and giving sideways looks as if it were them against the world. This was no grand ship; it was a boat, though just as majestic. It did not intimidate me or make me feel small, glistening red in the warm morning sun.
We climbed aboard the vessel, which was decorated much like the garden party had been several days ago, several seats were crowded together in various spots on board, and a canopy stretched over the top deck, saving us from the sun.
Of those already on board, I caught sight of the princes. I will admit that I was quite relieved when I did not notice the emperor himself. The man unsettled me more than oversized ships and wearing pants did.
Spotting a few nobles that I had made the acquaintance of previously, I smiled and made polite small talk, hoping to quell any appalling rumors that were likely circulating Bascalin. After exchanging the usual pleasantries and ceremonious gossip, I wandered over to the side of the boat, marveling at how smoothly it glided over the shining water, cutting ripples into its glass surface at a leisurely pace. Fish glided underwater much like the gulls above, like a terrestrial dance, a mirror of opposites, an anomaly.
I had never been on a boat so grand in my life, truly. I wondered at how my short stay at the palace had already changed my views on so many things. It was almost frustrating, realizing just how inexperienced I truly was in the world outside of political persuasion.
Standing by the railing, I began to take closer notice of the princes. I could see Delt grinning, undoubtedly charming the noble ladies around him. Tamd was further off; I could see him smiling as Mikani showed him her necklace. Nearer to the stern, I made out Prince Prar entranced by a book. I frowned at this. Prar was somewhat a mystery to us. I had overheard some noblewomen whispering about him. He was polite, charming even, if the occasion called for it, but he always kept to himself.
As the eldest, Prar was next in line for the throne, and thus marrying him would place one of us likely as future empress, a title that was well sought. Yet he was the one we were acquainted with the least, a fact that was frustrating several ladies. I supposed that I could make an attempt to address the prince; I doubted he would turn a cold shoulder and I was curious as to what he was reading, but I would hate to interrupt someone so immersed in his reading material.
Lady Issera wandered by, giving me a smile and suggesting I speak with some of the other ladies. Returning the smile, I thanked her and rejoined some of the others awhile before finding one of my mother’s friends, who informed me that my mother was faring well when I inquired and wished to know of my accomplishments thus far so as to share them with her.
Soon enough, we docked on the footsteps of a beautiful pavilion, solitary in a meadow of flowers as if out of a painting or fairy-tale. The only inhabitants of our place of arrival were a handful of servants, waiting to serve our meal.
We were soon seated at a single table, though the length made the strength of the fact far less intimate. The servants quickly set our meals before us and the Lady Issera stood, with a small smile, clearing her throat.
“Ladies, Lords,” she nodded her address, “It may be somewhat apparent that there is no entertainment present. That is because our dear ladies shall be providing the entertainment instead.” She turned to us, “We would like each of you to tell a legend that is unique to your region. Would anyone wish to begin?”
There were several volunteers, and story after exotic story past through my ears, each beautiful, unique, and so foreign to those who had not read of each nation’s rich histories. As for myself, I was troubled. My knowledge of Bascalin’s rich legends was vast, but it was something that my people were obviously already well acquainted with. How could I enthrall my brethren with tales they had grown up with?
But soon enough it was my turn, and I began to speak:
“The tale I shall speak is the Great Epic of Lost Kings, which lies in the beating heart of Bascalin literature. The tale is extremely long, so I will take a few liberties to condense it, and I’ll be sure to provide enough exposition for those who know little of our cultural history.”
I glanced around, making sure that I had everyone’s attention, and began to paint the story reverently with the words I knew almost from heart, “In the days of yore, when the land was united, the Father-Lord Madinach and his Queen-Empress sat the throne, ruling in a time of great prosperity that was fated to never venture again to the land. Man loved his fellow man, and there was never a child giving cry for the pains of wolves in his starving belly. So. The land was in total peace.
“Now, the Queen-Empress came to be with child, and the kingdom rejoiced, knowing that a great and mighty prince was soon to be borne to His Lordship, one who would rule with the same just benevolence. O, but the Queen grew mightily ill, her frail constitution unable to support her and her child, and a pall stood over the land.
“Madinach, Father-Lord sent forth his mightiest men to discover a cure for his Queen’s mysterious ailment, but none was to be found, even as the queen lay dying, her child still in her womb.
“At this time, a man ancient as the hills, bedecked in a great many rags, skin thin as parchment and hair whiter than snow, came to the palace. He was feeble and blind, yet the servant that led him had also no use for eyes, bandaged as they were. Yet they came, the elder begging the Emperor’s presence. His entrance was allowed, for the Emperor had grown so desperate for any miracle to take root.
“The man was taken to the Queen-Empress’s chambers, for Madinach refused to leave his wife’s side whilst she lay in that place between life and death where spirits and demons mingle in uncongenial communion.
“Madinach asked of the man, ‘Wherefore have you been summoned hurriedly hence, that you come so dismissed of sense, led by one without eyes of his own to see?’
“The aged man turned his face up to the emperor, empty sockets greeting his vision, ‘I am the seer over the sea, bade by those most holy to seek out the thrice blessed king. I could not see the divine, the mundane lay in the trappings of my mortal sight; so I plucked out my eyes for better which to see holy celestial grace, whose fires burn hotter than the eye can perceive, or orifice to share.
“ ‘The divines have grown jealous of your great fortune, for you have sat in contentment for too long, and there is a great imbalance in the world. The dark spirits grow restless, and with that, stronger. Their powers over your land have been dammed for far too long, and soon shall overcome your lands like a plague.’
“At this Madinach was overcome with contempt for the unknown foreigner, saying, ‘But what is this, that a crazed man should come and say that the richest of lands blessed by the gods should be determined for such an impossible fate? For near two score have I ruled in peace, those within my walls have loved me, and those without have feared me. Even now, our fields grow in abundance and my people are well content. But as for you, stranger from our walls, who claims to share our gods but cannot partake of the bounty, I’ve no doubt you plot ill from your jealousy.’
“Still yet, the blind was not to be unnerved, ‘The pride of kings is not so different, though true I do not take shelter in your walls. But for the sake of the gods I have been sent forth in warning for what is to come, and to end the ailment of your queen.’
“With that, the blind seer stood before the prostrate lady, speaking over her words of ancient tongue unknown to the land, passing his hand over her. But as he came to her belly, ripe with child, he stopped, and turned to Madinach.
“ ‘She carries in her a great evil. The child she bears will smite the land and tear its fields asunder, so that the people will know great war and famine, and death shall be rife among them. Already it wars inside her, fighting to be free, and causing her much harm.
“ ‘Fret not, Madinach, Father-Lord, for there is something that I may do to quell this evil. No creature of the mundane is created purely of dark or light lean, only destinies prearranged by the fates before even the hills were shaped by the sea.’
“The voice of the old seer became great and terrible as thunder, and shook the very foundation of the palace as he spoke: ‘This much I can do. What once was one now is two, where once was darkness now is of solace. But e’er these do return as one, all else shall be undone.
“ ‘I remind you, my king, that these twins your wife shall bear are tethered to the earth by the same magic, for they are two halves of a whole. If one shall die, so then shall the other.’
“And with final warning, the nameless blinded seer over the sea took his leave, his words weighing heavily in the air above.
“Soon thereafter, the Queen recovered, and it came to pass that the Queen-Empress birthed two sons, twins, tethered together by fates design for all eternity. First came Meidar, named for the hero of old in the spirit that he had vanquished his brother in the battle in the womb for birthright. Madok followed, named for his willful nature and terrible temper.
“But for all the joy of the kingdom, there was also despair in the heart of Madinach, for the truth that the blind seer had fulfilled his promise to heal the Empress and his further promise for twins proved his ability true and gave honest weight to the foreboding promise of the old soothsayer.
“So it was that the King called upon the chief sheep herder of the land in the dead of night while the world slept, offering him jewels and other treasures if he would but take his child as his own and go far, far away from the lands of Madinach, Father-Lord.
“So the two brothers were raised separate and anonymous to one another, one growing in the halls of a palace and the other in the modest faraway lands tucked away from the rest of the world. It had seemed that this arrangement would leave the prophecy amiable and forgotten. But the Gods had decided otherwise.
“Alas for their poor fates! On the fourteenth year since his infant exile, a young lamb had escaped from Madok’s flock. He searched near and far till at last he found the young animal and returned it to its flock.
“But he had been gone so long. When he returned home, he could see nothing but smoke before him and could little but for the shrill screams of his mother. And as he approached, bandits set themselves upon him, meaning to kill him.
“But our hero managed to survive the attack, left for dead though he was, only feet from the skeletons of his home and family, his eye retaining permanent damage for the rest of his life.
“For hours upon hours he lay in the fiery ruins, but the gods themselves refused to grant him a merciful death.
“At length, the lad recovered himself enough to flee the land, not looking back for fear of his life and grief at his family’s fate. Like a gazelle, he leapt and flew through the silent wood, racing as though his very being depended on it and it very well might have.
“He gradually slowed to a walk, the shock of the experience slipping over him like a funeral shroud, and he covered his face in his hands and wept from the tragedy of his situation. Yet, when he took his hand away, there were no more tears, only the hardened face of a changed boy now a man.
“With a fearful cry to the heavens, Madok promised to avenge his family and to never forget this misdeed until the bodies of every last bandit lay before him bleeding. With his newly declared resolve, Madok stalked deeper into the recesses of the forest, wherein he learned to live off the land with a newfound sense of freedom, no longer needing to pay homage to any sheriffs or kings.
“Even still, freedom was a small consolation for such a great loss, and the resentment in Madok grew and shaped him into an embittered young man.
“At the same time our young pauper became orphaned, so too did young Meidar. On that ill-fated day, the mighty Father-Lord Madinach went on a hunt, for there was rumor of a white stag in the region, promising great fortune to he who caught it.
“But at the same time, the chief advisor to the crown, a Lord Heinrich, looked upon the King in great contempt, for Madinach had allotted a portion the land of his northern subjects to those of those of the west, who had historically been oppressed by their neighboring villages and survived the years with great difficulty. Heinrich hailed from the northern lands and had been loath to give up territory for any cause, however just, but the king was stubborn toward the subject. Heinrich had long since wished for Madinach’s death, and, upon hearing of the hunt, set forth his plans, weaving magics into the arrows of the kings men.
“So it was that during the hunt, one stray arrow found its way into the heart of the king, poisoned to ensure his death. Even still, the death was thought to be an accident, and any suspicion of malicious intent was quickly forgotten.
“Because of Meidar’s young age, the chief advisor acted as regent, stripping the lands given to the west from their possession and returning them to the north, all the while turning the young Meidar’s mind against the western people, telling him of the dark history behind such an untrustworthy people, and that the western lands were cursed by the gods. Meidar was led to believe that his father’s good intentions were misguided and his punishment for ignoring the instruction of the gods was his death.
“Soon a great many displaced people soon found themselves in the very woods that Madok called home. These people assimilated into a new society within those eternal woods and, after a group of bandits raided their camps and Madok appeared to fend them off, he was accepted into their folds and quickly became their leader, though he often did not stay inside the camp and would not bother with most matters.
“Even still, Madok grew popular amongst his raggedy people as the years passed, and they quickly dubbed him ‘Bandit King,’ for he had destroyed every group that had rallied against them, proving his dominance.
“Meanwhile, Meidar, having neared the age to receive the throne, had set out to fulfill his father’s dying wish; in his days of youth, Madinach had been in possession of a bugle that had passed through familial hands from century to century. However, on a long hunting trip years prior, it had been lost. Madinach had always meant to return one day to find it, but fate had not allowed.
“Meidar had been warned that the woods of the west were plagued with stray magics and dark spirits, and that he could be easily led astray. But his pride would not allow him to break his vow to his father, and so he rode on anyways.
“He rode deep into the neck of the woods, so deep that the sun was nearly blotted out, so long and hard he searched. But even as he was about to give up, he heard a bugle call. Entranced by the forests tricks, he raced after it, and again when he heard a different call in yet another direction. Several calls rang out, all from different sides, all of unique voice, and fruitlessly he chased them all till he was completely strayed from his original track.
“By some chance of luck, the soon-to-be King stumbled out of the area, but straight into the camp of Madok! Yet still, Madok slept, for it was a dark, moonless night, and only by the few remaining embers of a fire could Meidar make out the very unique shape of bugle that his father had described years before.
“In truth, Madok had stumbled upon his find the same day his parents had been murdered when he had been out searching for the lost lamb. But to Meidar, it seemed that a bandit slept before him, having stolen the treasures of his father. Meidar saw that the people of the west were as wretched as Lord Heinrich promised, and with great rage Meidar set forward to slay the body before him.
“A stag, white as snow, shot by the two young men even as Meidar had determined to end the strings of fate tethering Madok to the world, and woke the young bandit king, though not before Meidar had retrieved his father’s bugle from the belt of Madok.
“Now their roles reversed, Madok seeing Meidar as the thief, and the two fought long and hard. The two were evenly matched, though Meidar had never slain a man before. Where Meidar lacked in experience, he made up for with training, the likes which Madok had never seen.
“In the end, both escaped with nary an injury, but both with sore egos and petty promises for revenge.
“Still yet, years past without incident, and Madinach was finally entombed with his ancient war horn. Meidar became King and passed even more stringent laws against the western woods, stating that any man within the confines of the woods could legally shoot any human creature that they found, even promising a monetary reward for recovering one of these forest people.
“Anger stirred within the forests, and the people grew more rebellious, attacking any outsiders they found and even raiding neighboring villages. Meidar oppressed the people, and Madok, in turn, oppressed the people, each failing to recognize their folly and that they were becoming the very things they hated.
“Madok still begrudged Meidar for his thievery of the war horn, and had sought near and far for information pertaining to the man who had stolen his bauble and of its location. It had come to his ears that the very king who oppressed his people had taken the war horn and buried it in the hall of the kings.
“Angered, Madok and his people started greater uprisings in the lands bordering the woods, taking back the territory that had been returned to the northern peoples following the death of the Father-Lord Madinach, demanding the attentions of Meidar.
“Meidar sent a few battalions to the lands to eradicate the threat. However, his judgment of the incident proved insufficient, for the guerrilla tactics of Madok’s people proved too much for the soldiers.
“Meidar rode out himself with several troops to fight and occupy the area, leaving his own capitol insufficiently protected.
“Madok, out of foolish pride and anger sought to take back his war horn and to defile the bones of the man who sired his enemy. He easily broke into the crypt of Madinach and scattered his bones, taking the teeth of the skull as his own, fashioning them into a necklace to prove his dominance over Meidar.
“When Meidar had arrived to the lands, he found them completely abandoned, for it was merely a ruse to remove any threat to Madok’s revenge. In great anger, Meidar turned to home, only to look on in horror at his father’s defiled grave.
“He sent out a decree then, to burn the woods in the west and to eradicate its people.
“Upon hearing of this, Madok assembled his army and rode against Meidar, challenging him to war.
“Before the battle, Meidar had spoken to his chief advisor, Lord Heinrich, telling him that should his horn not be won from Madok in battle, he should send out to kill every last of Madok’s kind, and all who may have conspired with them.
“Madok for his part promised his people that he would blow his bugle if he was to die and lose in battle, so that his people would know to destroy anything and everything they came across before fleeing to the hills.
“And so these armies rode forth against each other.
“The battle cries fell like thunder upon the sundered field and time stood still beneath the unforgiving sun. Though the world sat vigil for the fallen, for innocent blood unnecessarily lost, each king looked onward coldly upon his adversary and brother. Man after man fell before the blows of their enemies, smiting each other without mercy, for they were evenly matched, till at last a pall broke over the field of death.
“Nine thousand men rode that day, and only nine hundred reemerged amidst the dust and fatal cavity and cairn. For this battle was one of sinful nature, fought over the bones of those long past, and the moon was drenched that night in blood, weeping for the fallen, for the unnecessary killing for the pride of man.
“Even in darkness the princes fallen from light could find no peace, so plagued by hate were they, so the battle raged on, death after death after death till the earth could drink no more of the tainted blood that watered its furrows and gave the cry “O, Mikael, King Father of the Earth, O Naelua, Queen Mother of the Skies, have you no mercy? Carry upon you with wings of an eagle to deliver our land of this death.”
“But the ears of the gods were silent to their children; so much had the darkness grown throughout the land. The sun was blotted out even as the moon glistened of blood and the world cried “Cease, Cease sons of Madinach, rightful king, do you not see that you have brought your own fall?” But even the land was silenced that terrible day, till at last no man was spared of bloodshed and each was left wanting.
“The Kings now stood before another, painted in blood as gods of war upon the field of the dead and dying. Still yet, they stood proud, refusing to yield. It is said that they fought for three days and nights without rest, exchanging blow for blow till at last each was battered and bloody upon the ground.
“Even still Madok, Bandit King lifted his great horn to his lips and gave mighty blow, sounding on distant hill and the cries of each horn resounded in reply, a sorrowful mourning of his people, for they knew that all was lost. And the wanderers wept for knowing that their nation had been torn asunder, separated by greed and balefully destroyed.
“And with the promise of death upon their nations doorstep, the brothers together ended their lives that day, fully and willfully of their own choosing in one last defiant act against Fate, selflessly ending themselves to prevent the fulfillment of their prophetic legacy of doom and destruction.
“It is said that the gods took mercy upon them, so moved by the selfless act of the most unlikely souls, and that their essences partook of the gods own table, a feat that has never been nor ever will be achieved again.
“It is foretold that their split spirit has become whole in their death, and that one day the spirit of the lost kings will be restored in a new son of Madinach’s line, and this offspring ever blessed shall lead the nation to a time of peace and prosperity greater than ever before and that the four corners of the world will unite in perfect harmony.
“But till the day comes that we sing songs of rejoicing and grow fat from contentment, we must take responsibility for our own fate, for its threads are not so easily set, and the design is for us to determine. We weave our own futures. This is what separates us from the gods. We are the mundane. But we are the blessed.”
 From the original translation to modern tongue, literally ‘blind leading blind,' a testament to either faith or folly.
 The actual telling from the oracle in Bascalin story telling simply states that the soul was severed into two incomplete parts. Cyrilla’s version involves a bit of speculation courtesy of her Ayah, who felt that the seer’s views were suggestive towards the earth magic of her own people, in which everyone has a unique magic binding them to the earth, and once it has been severed, the soul is released to the ethereal plane of The Earth Mother, Creator God.
 After this exposition, the adolescent adventures of the two young princes is commonly given in a series of short fables and anecdotes, but most are left out of this telling due to time restraints, while a few pertinent to the plot are paraphrased and included.
 White stags were thought to be blessed messengers from the gods, chosen to be protected from harm. They are symbolic for fate, for they are one of the few beings tied into both the mundane world and in the heavenly plane. It is said that if one catches such a creature, they will be blessed with hearing the voices of the gods themselves.
 At this point there are two possible endings of great religious dispute among the Bascalin people, one in which a brother is fatally wounded and his war horn cloven in two. The other, upon harming him, sees blood pouring from his own chest and realizes too late who his adversary truly is, and as they die the prophecy is fulfilled, for a soldier delivers the broken war horn to the captain of the guard, who refuses to quit the battle, raging on for weeks till at last none is left alive. The other is the one which Cyrilla shares, a far more fanciful view and considered by many as blasphemous.