We are the mothers of the Knights of Silver

Culinary books were not her thing. She just wished to find a simple information regarding the tradition of steak flambé in Marali, but the book she needed, systematic and describing the social aspects of food and people had not yet been written, or, most likely, had not yet been acquired by the Mirithian librarians, great lovers of meandering language and metaphorical style. “101 Ways to Cook Gaper Meat”, “Meat around the World”, “Put the Flame in Flambé”, all but recipes, recipes, and, at most, tips on how to find the fresher ingredients, usually preceded by three paragraphs of utterly irrelevant reflections on the (often boring) personal life of the cook and winding debates on the benefits of wooden spoons versus copper forks. Fed up, she closed “The Maralian Diet, Seasons and Seasoning” and prepared to get it back to the higher shelf. With some difficulty, given the weight of the tome, she climbed on a stool and gripped the shelf, for stability. That’s when she saw it.

Well hidden and dusty, there was a slim pamphlet on the second row. Cassandra had realised, long ago, that the second, and sometimes third row of the library was often more interesting than the façade, but one had to know where to look. Juggling the cookbook on her right hand, and grabbing the pamphlet with the left, she managed a quick exchange, almost falling off the stool. Balance was not her thing either, and she was afraid of heights.

The pamphlet was written in a mysterious language she had never seen before. The characters were elongated and lunar, drawn in a light tone of purple, who has likely been brighter many centuries before. There were few drawings, but they all represented a city she didn’t know, or symbols she had never seen. “The most curious books are those where we don’t understand a word,” she thought, but this was too much. However, luck was on her side that that and, as she kept perusing the pages, she found that someone had been working on the text, likely many years before. Between two pages, a single piece of paper contained what seemed to be the beginnings of a translation, written with a hesitant hand.

She was in Mirith. She had little information on the subject, but she knew enough to deduce that the translator had been interrupted, and likely imprisoned, poisoned, hanged. She knew that the only reason she was relatively safe holding that document in her hands was that the current king was a dandy and the remaining authorities were more concerned keeping track of him than with the contents of the library.

Carefully, she hid the book in her bag, making sure no other library users were looking. Finding a new translator would be very hard, but she had to try. She wanted to know the story of those women of Neiv, announced in the title. “We are the mothers of the Knights of Silver”. And it was about time for their story to be known.





[to be continued…]
[This is “fanfic” and “unofficial” lore, prompted by this http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20200930-nshu-chinas-secret-female-only-language?referer=https://www.bbc.com/.]

Comments

  • - This will be expensive.
    - Money is not an issue in Mirith.
    - You’ll have Mirith paying for this?

    The translator burst out laughing. The wizard smiled, calmly. She had her ways, she assured the other.

    - Has the banker position been filled?
    - Vacant, as most positions are in Mirith right now. But I’m telling you no secret.
    - So, you’re going to pillage the city you pledged to protect, in order to pay for a translation on one of her enemies?
    - “Know your enemy”, isn’t that how it goes? We can consider it part of the defence budget. I’m sure the Royal Guard will agree.

    The other smiled. An old Duldrusian exiled in Andris, translator by profession with the heart of a druid, and a talent for the manipulation of emotions in beasts and people alike. “Are they that different?” she’d ask, before casting a provocation spell during a library staff meeting, just for the fun of it. She had been a recommendation of Ambrose. Or someone through Ambrose - Cassandra didn’t get to talk to him directly. She understood, however, that the translator was not the usual go-to person of the Senate. She was considered fickle, dangerous, tricky, skillful, but, above all, the best. On top of that, she was from Duldrus, which, in this case, could prove to be a very useful connection. Maybe her grandmother knew the secret language of the women from Neiv? Maybe her mother used it still?

    - Will you do it?
    - Of course, my dear. I am already doing it in my head.
    - When can I come back?
    - When the moon of blood is full, if you are not too busy.
    - Portals make life easier. I’m sure Marali can defend her backyard without me.
    - Your resentment towards Marali is legendary. You should let go of that one day, dear. It’s bad for the soul.
    - Hey! There’s no resentm—
    - * clar bur ber *

    [to be continued...]
  • “Hello? Is anyone home?” the wizard asked, knocking, once again, the heavy door of the abode of the translator. It was the fifth time she tried to reach the old woman, but not a sound came from inside. “Is Nansy Wik around,” she asked the Andrisians at the tavern. “The wicked Nansy, you mean? Haven’t seen her in ages,” she would hear as response, in the best of cases. “Never heard of her”, replied a strange majority of folks.
    About to lose hope, Cassandra had another idea: the library of New Mirith had not been censored by Brigobaen. As far as she knew, the king ordered books from different and random sources, and no one really took care of the catalogue. Maybe, just maybe, she could find some information there. Otherwise, there was always Rellia’s library… But she wouldn’t go there without a book to trade with the new resident mage. “Let us start by the artificial island.”
    Grabbing a new robe and the rings a dear rogue had recently offered her, she took the portal to Lerilin, and rafted to New Mirith. The shores were much calmer than last time she had visited, in the middle of the wet season. Under the warm sun of the Bleeding Moon, the island was much prettier, almost pleasant. Almost a good idea.

    [to be continued...]
  • “What a bloody waste of time.” The wizard left the island, appalled by the manners of the improvised librarian and the lack of interesting titles in the improvised library. She would write to the King, asking to be allowed to make a list of tomes to buy with the crown’s funding.
    She headed to Marali, where, at least, she could let go some of her annoyance by fighting a troll or burning a bracken to ashes. Her original plan had been to visit Rellia’s collection but the sight of a magic tree reminded her of something else. She would try the Plum Library first. A catalogue still to explore, for her.
    And so, she made her way through the woods, until she reached the magic ring of mushrooms (sylphen work?) that gave access to the hidden grove.
    She didn’t know the librarian well. Yet, this was a staffed library, and that person was there to help. “Do you have anything on the women of Neiv?” she asked at the desk. Nothing. “On the wives of Duldrus?” Nothing. “On the Knights of Silver?”… The answer came from a robed man in the corner. Did she recognise his voice? The accent was clearly Maralian, but spiced with Mirithian mannerisms. Alas, his face was hidden in the shadows, and he did not seem willing to reveal his identity.

    “You may want to start with the Nightingales,” he said. “There should be a chapter on the Sisterhood of Tin somewhere. Maybe in the tomes that came from McTyr.”

    [to be continued…]
  • “Marali sent the late commander’s books here?” asked the wizard, incredulous. As much as the new commander didn’t seem interested in the arts (other than the art of clothing), she would not be so insensitive as to throw away all the music books in Evroulf’s chambers.

    “No, silly. His greatgrandfather’s.” Now the stranger was sounding like Eechie Ochie. “Edwarg McTyr.”
    “What is it with McTyrs and names starting with an E?” thought the wizard, but she didn’t say it aloud. Instead, she asked: “Was that Edwarg a Nightingale?”

    In fact, she had no clue what exactly the Nightingales were. She seemed to recall a reference to a guard of Ybarra, but all that belonged to the mythical past. Or to Peytra Gray. That was it! Gray and his harpies. The man who almost ruined Mirith not that long ago and had caused a diplomatic incident that they were still to see the end.

    “Yes,” answered the other. A curt “yes”. He raised from his chair and approached the bookcase. “You should find more answers here, he said, handing the wizard a book with a purple cover.

    “It has a lock!” the wizard shouted, surprised. “Life has never been easy. Go find the key,” laughed the other. The wizard felt suddenly very tired. Behind her, however, a smiling librarian was standing, making a clinking sound. A ring of keys! For once, things were easy. “Would it be possible to have some tea?”

    “Ginseng or hibiscus?”

    “Smoked lotus,” she replied, hoping a Maralian library would be stocked with the rough flavours of the north.

    [to be continued…]
  • “Are you Birek McCalla”, she asked after the third whisky, prompted by some kind of liquid courage the court new so well. The other hid deeper in the shadow. They were now around the table with the frugal supper the librarian had prepared for them. “You didn’t need to know my name to stay in this library after hours, locked with two strangers, drinking whisky.” “That’s true, I guess.” “You don’t need my name now.”

    “Fine, let’s see if I got it all well. The Sisterhood of Tin were the rejected daughters of Neiv…”
    “… trained by the Nightingales of Ybarra.” The stranger finished her sentence. She was beginning to overstay her welcome and she could feel that, but her questions were not over.

    “Were they fighters? Rangers? Wizards, maybe?”

    “In the beginning, most of them were rogues, though with a solid training in the arts of rangering. You see, Marali had to be discreet, with the seasonal influx of daughters without a family. These girls were the perfect soldiers, or seemed to be. They were grateful enough to Marali to be fiercely loyal, and they had no family, which allowed them to risk almost anything with a courage hard to match.”

    “But…”

    “But. This lack of roots also made them unstable. Some of them were caught in the promises of people with evil intents, others defected to a different city, others took up their vows. It was clear that they needed a sense of purpose and belonging that the Sisterhood itself could not give them.”

    “Doursa Lachon comes from Neiv?” the wizard suggested, unsure of the soundness of her instincts.
    “Don’t say that name here!”
    “You have a problem with names don’t you?”
    “They are dangerous things.”

    Cassandra could feel the growing impatience in the other’s voice. It was time to wrap up and think of the next step.

    “Did they know that weird language I found?”
    “Most likely.”
    “Who were their mothers?”
    “You didn’t get it yet, did you? The women of Neiv.”
    “But why did they abandon their daughters?”
    “That story is not for me to tell. I don’t know the details. In Marali, we just knew that, once a year, we would be receiving a group of new girls to train.”
    “So you are a Maralian!” The wizard grinned, more certain of her suspicion.
    “I am from nowhere. You, however, as a good Mirithian, you should go back home.”

    That wasn’t enough. She had set out to travel around the world looking for the story of the mothers of Neiv. She had found her daughters, but the story was still as uncertain as a provocation potion.

    “Where can I learn more about the women of Neiv?”
    “Well, there is someone who may help. Have you met Miranda? She keeps a good stock of books in her frozen island.”

    The wizard nodded. She asked the librarian for one more drink for the road, and returned the purple book to its place. She would sleep in Marali and set out to the seas of ice early morning.

    “Thanks, Mr. McCalla.”
    “Don’t call me that!”
    “You prefer ‘Royal Guard’?” With a grin, the wizard shut the heavy door behind her. It was time to dodge the sylphs and return to town.

    [to be continued…]
  • It was her first time at the frozen island. She had heard of it, but didn’t have a reason or the curiosity to travel there. Ice was not her thing, she preferred it as a prefix than as a state of the water, that she liked to see flowing.
    She had no difficulty finding the house, however. The seas were pleasant that day, and the wind blew in the convenient direction. She hoped that Miranda’s disposition was alike. Upon reaching the shore, she squeezed the hem of her robe and quickly combed her hair a little, with her fingers - a rare gesture coming from her, but she wanted to give Miranda as fewer reasons as possible to dislike her. Someone living in an island like that ought to be rather misanthropic, traumatised by community life, or both…
    So the silent around the island was not too surprising. She didn’t expect a fanfare or a drums to welcome her. The door was half open, and she felt free to push it. “Hello? Is Miranda here?”
    No answer. She ventured in. The house was strangely welcoming, with all its bookcases and the smoke of burnt wood coming from the fireplace. On the table, she noticed a piece of parchment. She couldn’t help but glance at it.

    “There’s a Mirithian looking into the Mothers. I leave it up to you to decide what to tell her.”

    Cassandra looked around, feeling watched. There was a spider on the ceiling. Would it be Vorund? No, she should not be so paranoid. But things felt as if prepared for her, as if she had to find clues to make progress, as in a game. She gave a closer look to the book titles. There was a section on Duldrus. Maybe this little library had its secrets in the hidden row? She tried to take a heavy tome from the shelf, as a sudden and glacial draught ran through the room.

    “I see you have arrived,” said a crystalline voice. At the open door stood a gentle woman, shaking the flakes of snow off her coat. “I am Miranda, and here it is always Winter, I’m afraid.”

    [to be continued…]
  • The two sat by the fire for a long time. Miranda, the wizard found, was soft-spoken and kind. The reasons for her exile were becoming clearer. In fact, their conversation started by her tale and her family’s. An old line from Duldrus, as Cassandra realised.

    “My sister used to bring me a flower. I miss those days. I miss seeing her paintings come to life with each stroke..”

    Miranda had moved to the island of ice, both to stay away from the city of her trauma, and to stay as close as possible from her estranged sibling.

    “She was one of us, she spoke the lunar language. Now she says she has no family. My mother died of sadness.”

    “But what did Alastor do to her?”

    “Nothing. As far as I know, he treated her well. But those were dreadful times for Duldrus. Rittah’s paintings started to be gloomy and dreadful, as if she was channeling some kind of very dark energy from her surroundings. She wasn’t doing well, but she would never admit it.”

    “She seems fine now.”

    “Yes, she is doing much better. When the Knights found her, she had shaved her head and was covered in blood. Little by little, they brought her back to her feet, even built her that little house you’ve seen.”

    “Why did they do that?”

    “First, because she was a woman in distress. Then, because of their loyalty to Duldrus and the old site of Neiv. Finally, because she was their sister.”

    Miranda lowered her eyes. The wizard could feel that had been unsure of how much to tell her so far. The family history had been a way to buy time, to get to know her, to get old sorrows out of her chest. Now, however, the story of the Silver mothers was not possible to avoid. It was time to speak, after all those centuries, or to send the wizard away, with only the consolation of a day well spent.

    [to be continued…]
  • “What exactly do you know?”

    “Very little,” replied the wizard. “I know Mirith and Brigobaen, somehow, betrayed the Knights, in ancient times. I know they have been hiding and, possibly, protecting the Shrine of the Atoll. I know that now, one of them seems despaired enough to seek Mirith’s help. Not that I’ve confirmed he was a Knight, but, giving his chivalry and his methods of dealing with liches, I strongly suspect it. And I know they are a lineage of men, who seem to be very unease when talking to a woman! I’d say they prefer dealing with liches.” The wizard winked, but Miranda only smiled out of politeness.

    “And now you found this in Mirith?”

    “Yes. And I talked to Nansy Wik in Andris, to some illiterate librarian in New Mirith, to a man in the Plum Library. I had planned to go to Rellia’s library or even Brigobaen, when that man sent me here. Was he the one sending you that note?”

    “No. And do you follow any advice men give you?” Miranda’s sudden change of tone made Cassandra reach for her pouch of reagents. Instinct.

    “I do not, but he seemed trustworthy. I think I know his identity, but I couldn’t swear on it.”

    “Fair enough. So, tell me, have you never wondered who those Knights were born?”

    “Someone once told me they were one of the guards of Elara, or something. Ybarra had the Nightingales…” Miranda interrupted her.

    “That’s not what I mean. A group centred in valour and chastity, which, as you noticed very well, has not been used to the female company, without lineage themselves, no children, no known parents… Did you think they were born in eggs? Fabricated by a necromancer with good intentions?”

    The sarcasm left Cassandra uncomfortable. In fact, up to then she had never spent much time thinking of Silver family reunions.

    “You said Rittah was their sister. Figuratively?”

    “No, actually. She was the sister of some of them, no doubt about it. For some time, her shaved head would even trick people into thinking she was one of them, but that was soon discovered.”

    “What?”

    “That’s a story for another time. You wanted to know about that pamphlet you found.”

    “Yes.”

    “It is actually a directory of sorts. And it must burn!” Before Cassandra could react, Miranda snatched the booklet from the table and threw it in the fire, blocking the wizard’s path.

    “What have you done?” screamed Cassandra.

    “Do you realise the danger that puts us in?”

    “Will you at least tell me the story?”

    “Yes, if you swear to die with the secret.”

    “I do.”

    [to be continued…]
  • edited October 2020
    “That lunar language you found,” said Miranda, returning to her softer tone, “is the women of Neiv’s defiance of their fate.”

    “But Neiv disappeared so long ago! Most people have never heard of it until recently!” The wizard didn’t like puzzles with mismatching pieces, and her frustration was mounting with this one.

    “You, of all people, should know that things from the past can survive a long time. The language, while liberating, was also part of their downfall. It is still used, however, by very small number of people who were but little girls in the 420s.”

    “Like you?” Miranda nodded. “Like me.”

    “As you may know, the Knights of Silver were devoted, primarily, to the defence of the disciples agains the forces of the Black Plague. This first generation swore to be loyal to the disciples only, taking no woman, forming no family, knowing no human bonds other than fraternity and honour.”

    “Octar would like that. He used to claim those were Maralian values.”

    “Some Maralians did adopt the tradition.”

    “But Marali always had a problem balancing their pride with their pretence humbleness. Look at how grey robes are now despised by the—“

    “Ybarra had a child.”

    Cassandra was not too surprised. Peytra Gray did claim to be an heir of the Maralian disciple. But she had to remember to make some joke about it with Octar next time she saw him. Which she hoped would happen soon, anyway.

    “So, with the first generation of Knights being killed and persecuted by Mirith, the ones that remained started feeling old and worrying about their guard. At the time, as you may know, Valdonna had offered them protection in Neiv, but all that was covered in secrecy and the utmost discretion. Valdonna could not afford to buy an open war with the city of Elara, even though that war was inevitable.”

    “But Neiv was destroyed by an earthquake, right? People like to accuse Mirith of all things…”

    “Sure, it was the earthquake. But Duldrus was built under Mirithian domination, who moved their dukes there, to guarantee the survivors would never declare independence.”

    The wizard thought it better to shut up. Mirithian territorial politics had never interested much, until the days of Casden Pernell, and there was no point in grudging the dead. Maybe Duldrus should have her independence. Maybe she should be allowed to flourish and follow her own path. She would defend that for Gast, why not Duldrus?

    “In any case, the Knights needed a plan. So it was decided, by the community, in assemble, as they did those times, that, once a year, a group of mothers-to-be would go to the mountains and volunteer their child to the cause. How exactly that was arranged, doesn’t really matter now. The legend varies, depending on how immaculate the storyteller wants them to be. Some say this is the reason the dove is the symbol of Valdonna.”

    “So the boys were raised by the Knights, and the girls were sent to the Nightingales?”

    “You got it. To guarantee anonymity and to be fair to the mothers who would lose their child, the girls too were sent away. That way, those mothers-to-be returned to their homes empty handed, all of them.”

    “That may be the most cruel thing I’ve heard in a while, and I live in Mirith…”

    “That is why the secret language was invented. Unbeknown to the rest of the community, even to Valdonna, they say, these mothers found a way to communicate and keep track of the fates of their children, boys and girls. They form a sisterhood of sorts, with eyes all over the continent, to exchange the results of their investigations. The booklet you found was a contact list of sorts, with information of the youngest women still around.”

    “But how did this stop? What happened?”

    “Well, there were many reasons. First, the earthquake, of course. But the Knights didn’t end there, neither did the Sisterhood of Tin. Things were just more… improvised, let’s call it that way. But they were used to clandestinity. Besides, you cannot forget that Neiv took the Knights are their collective city and responsibility. They pledged to help them, and that vow was stronger than the moods of the earth. And they all knew the Knights still had a role to play.
    On the other hand, as I told you, the language itself became a problem. These mothers would often travel to Marali to watch over their girls. One day, one of them had the idea of telling the Tin women about the lunar scripture. That created the seeds for revolt. The girls were no longer thankful to Marali - they started hating the city for taking part in this scheme. And, above all, they got back in touch with their mothers…”

    “The man in the Plum Library said they would sometimes follow the wrong cult, or end up disgraced, somehow.”

    “Yes, of course. Others ended up choosing a civilian life instead of the military and moving to other parts of the world.”

    “Were there never girl Knights?”

    “Yes, disguised as men. And, as you may have guessed, when the younger Knights themselves would become aware of this story, not all of them accepted the idea of being separated from their sisters like that. But the line continued, due to the true passion of their leaders to their cause.”

    The wizard felt exhausted. Those were stories hard to digest. The role of Mirith in them worried her, but, above all, the moment in time when myth touches factual history had always fascinated her. Neiv was ancient, mythical, forgotten. The Marali she knew belonged to the modern times. In Mirith, dynasties had changed and changed again since. The Knights and their mothers seemed to be a bridge between those mythical times and the new. She recalled for a moment the face of Rugier de Neiv, the man she suspected to be a Knight. How would his line end? How did he deal with all this?

    “How is it now?” she asked. “The Knights are still around.”

    “Yes, but the tradition is lost and the women of Duldrus, while still aware of it, won their liberation. This is the last generation of Knights. Either they adapt to modern times, or they will die out pretty soon.”

    Cassandra nodded. She would never see Duldrus in the same light again.

    “Thank you, Miranda. I promise I will never tell this story to anyone.”

    “Thank you. Though this all seems to be in the past, the women of Duldrus still don’t trust Mirith. Nor Marali, really. They fear retaliation for keeping the Knights alive, but also for sending to Marali the origins of huge danger. But the sisterhood persists, with the last remaining members hoping they will live to see their city restored to her ancient status.”

    “And who is Nansy Wik?”

    “Cousin Nansy? She should be here in a couple fo moons. She’s touring the world with a copy of the book you found, meeting up with the last sisters. She sent a bird warning me of her arrival.”

    The wizard smiled. Her little saga in the search for the mothers of Silver had, at least, a happy end of sorts.
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