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Starwatch


As Derenx crumples to the ground, the tension dies with him. Normality returns.

Some of his followers step in to drag the body - and the severed head - away.

Daylight creeps in around the edges of the worn wooden doors - had they ever been black, and cold? And that, and the skylights, are what makes the interior of the temple visible, not the black glow of the Deathlight.

Aurel is an old man again, grandfatherly, reassuringly real. "Now", he says gently. "If that unfortunate interruption is over, shall we proceed? My Lady?"

Seledd steps forward in response - and this, too, for the Legion, is normal. They have seen her carry out this evening ritual for more years than some would care to count. Normality. Security. Had that great statue really moved? Surely they must have dreamt it - except that this is Humakt's Hall, where dreams and illusion do not enter except by his leave. And this ritual will ensure that.

For once, Seledd is explaining the ritual as she goes, for Karrath's benefit, and he listens with a strained respect.

"Ritual guard posts at the eight points of Rigsdal's Rune. The primaries link with the temple guardians, when you're carrying out the rite in an existing temple as we are today. Those need to be chosen for power and alignment, where you can. The secondaries, north-east, south-west, and so on, I prefer to let the god choose for us when I can. Unless you have any specific preference..?"

Karrath shakes his head, perhaps still numbed by the earlier experience of feeling the breath of his God.

Jamal steps back slightly, although very familiar with the ritual of Star Watch, as a non-Hum'Akti he has very rarely become involved in their actual enactment.

Besides, Seledd has centre stage here, and was obviously enjoying the attention. This was not the time to steal her thunder.

Instead he turns to face the setting sun, and begins to silently intone the prayer that marks the passing of the Ersoon of Idovanus for another day..

She places a small crystal in the centre of the floor, adjusting it so the light catches it - or rather, it catches the light. And splits it, sends it out again as eight rays, four stronger than the others, reaching out into the crowd. "There. Now we spin it, and see who is chosen tonight."

The lights whirl, dizzying for a moment. And then stop. The four main beams reach out, highlighting individuals. One of Hengist's men. One of Derenx's. One of Karrath's who had been drinking with them earlier. And... Yrsga? Who is not even an initiate, yet.

Karrath almost laughs. "Is this what chance gives you?"

Seledd looks uncertain for a moment, but only a moment. "If this is what the god decrees, we do it, although how... Lord Aurel, would you be so good as to support her in this?" He nods, and moves to stand with the girl.

"And afterwards, we can perhaps try to understand why," she adds more softly. Then her usual certainty returns. The rest of the ceremony is not only familiar, it is under her control. The four primary positions are chosen by her, not by the caprice of any deity. Landros for the west post. Two of her own followers for south and east.

And in the north - normally the Legion reserve that position for the North Wind, and the most magically powerful Hereward initiate present - or a Devotee, if one is available. For once, with the majority of the Legion assembled, there is more than one Devotee present, and a choice to be made. Seledd considers it for a moment, her expression giving nothing away, then nods. "Dorinda". She motions towards the empty space.

Dori steps forward a little hesitantly, glancing apologetically towards Siggyr - her senior as an officer and as a Devotee, though their comparative strength in Truewind magic has not been tested recently.

Siggyr's face remains impassive, but his mind is working. In the Temple's service there are many trials and humiliations that must be borne for the greater good, and this barely ranks alongside the most mediocre that Siggyr has suffered at Seledd's hand. Rather than dwelling on his feelings of affront, the Ten Thane instead is adding to a mental 'to do' list.

It might look something like this:

TO DO (double underlined in red ink)
1. punish a few of the cohort just to remind them who's in charge;
2. especially anyone - yes, like Shrev there - who is having difficulty stifling their grins;
3. try to patch things up with Seledd - one day we will be joint hundred thanes, and eventually she will be my Senior Hundred Thane;
4. watch Seledd closely, find out what her game is, and be prepared to kill her and then jump up and down on her body;
5. the Dorinda situation:.......

Siggyr has gone that far in just a second or so, when he realises that Dorinda is still wavering, unsure whether or not to step forward in response to Seledd's call.

"Legionary" Siggyr screams at her in his best Senior Tenthane Voice. "That wasn't a request Lady Seledd made of you - it was an order!....." Siggyr trails off as his good eye falls on a familiar figure stepping forward from the shadows.

"Belay that order, Legionary, step back!" Siggyr rallies.

A murmur, a swell of surprise ripples through the temple. What is this? Is Siggyr mutinying? Seledd herself looks as though she may be heading towards a mighty rage, and one hand falls instantly to her spear... "What is the meaning of this Siggyr? My order was clear!"

"Yes, Ma'am," responds Siggyr. "I countermanded your order as there is one here more rightly qualified than Dorinda to take the honour, Ma'am."

Seledd regards the Cohort Standard Bearer with distaste, and replies in a voice that rises to a shout: "I am the judge of that, Siggyr, and I did not chose YOU..."

But a calmer voice interrupts. "I rather think Siggyr was referring to me, Seledd," says Lord Illig Stargazer, suddenly at the front of the temple ranks.

Dorinda steps back, ceding her place to Illig with a look of great relief - and genuine delight at his arrival.

Seledd is momentarily disconcerted, but then her usual calm control returns. Illig motions for her to proceed, and the ritual goes ahead. As normal - but those participating, including Aurel and Karrath, can feel the potential imbalance of power between the posts. The North Wind is muted, held in check, so as not to overwhelm the others, but the contrast is obvious to all. The circle is completed as Aurel helps Yrsga to link to the Temple guardians, Deathlight flares round the temple, and Seledd hands the completed defences over to Karrath as Humakt.

Normality returns, though with that extra feeling of security that always comes when magical defences are up.

CategoryRitual
CategoryChronicle
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