NOTE: This story contains depictions and themes that are mature in nature. If you find the use of foul language or the depiction of sexuality and violence to be distasteful, it may not be for you. Some content may also be sensitive in nature for some readers. (Please heed this.)
Author’s Note: “Waters of Bitterness” is not a chapter in “When Comes the Firetide: Emergents.” It is a short story, separate from the novel. It is set prior to the first book, and the current Tybraes Cycle “When Comes the Firetide,” which is set in the year 8178. “Waters of Bitterness” tells a portion of Tybraes history dating back to the year 7453. As these events are not in the novel itself (part one or two,) nor fit within the general timeline of the ‘Firetide‘ Cycle, there are no ‘spoilers’ contained within the short story. It serves only as background information about the world, its history and a compelling story of some of Tybraes’ legendary figures whose lives and actions helped to shape the world you know now. Enjoy.
This is an excerpt. The full short story is on the blog here: firetidecomes.blogspot.com/
In Kyr 7, the Year of 7625, slavery was officially abolished throughout Tybraes. Firm laws were set by the Jaed Aonach and the Temple Omíkhlæssectia, enforced by the Advocacy and the Ganroth Kiths. In honor of this social progress, the next, and sixty-second Liturgical Era was named for the Martyr Melandre Jaed, whose story was heralded as a catalyst for change within the Aonach. History was romanticized as it was retold among Shae, Ganroth and Erahs of all ages, men and women alike. The story of the brave Jaed’s daughter, who boldly spoke out against the Aonach on behalf of the last Venerate of the Jasuuk clan. The wise, exceptional young woman who fought for a people who were not her own in the name of the Goddess Naaris. She, who weilded compassion and knowledge as any knight brandishes a sword. The story of the beautiful Martyr, who sacrificed herself to expose the viper within the Temple poisoning the wellspring of the Jaed Seat, the Aonach and the Temple itself. It was a tale of a saint, a savior, who put her life down for the reaping to clear the curse of secret Malifica from her father’s crown, thus bringing an end to Jaed Wyshard’s tyranical reign of blood.
This is not that story.
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Viridian Cattedrale, Viridian Enclave
1st Som in the month of Inundation, in Kyr 7, the year 7453 of the Liturgical Era of Precisian Esseylt
Deep chiseling in the clouds gave the appearance of shattered rock. Hard granite with a rough, tumultuous surface caught the light, hid it in deep crevaces. The distortion of the day gave what ambient glow remained a sickly yellow hue, perhaps indicative of coming rain. Melandre preferred to believe it was the goddess Naaris indicating her opinion on the proceedings in the plaza below. All the enclave was gathered to hear Jaed Wyshard speak upon the first day of the Cleansing Festival. The sky did not show signs of blessings to come. Rain, yes. Lush crops to be well-fed, yes. But the sallow cast did not speak to the Jaed’s daughter of a goddess’ approval. She very much doubted there would be many children bestowed upon the Shae this season.
Arms folded, she stood in one of the four large windows of the northeast tower. The two facing east overlooked the plaza. Below her the throngs loyal to the holy seat crowded against the line of Knights awaiting word from their God-King. When her father finally stepped out upon the balcony to address them, the sycophantic cheers churned Melandre’s stomach. For that brief moment, her lies of feeling ill rang as truth. Half-turning away, she leaned against the stone window frame as the ‘Herald of the Second Purge’ raised his voice and the fur of her hide.
“Good people of Tybraes, blessings of Telloran upon you all!”
Unable to restrain her snuff of agitation, she hung her head. The arrogance, to invoke the name of Telloran in opening a festival of blessings from Naaris.
“In this apex marking the era of Precisian Esseylt, I feel we need be reminded of her struggle. We live in impious times. People have become reckless. Laws are disregarded, devalorized. Far more egregious, the will of the gods is cast aside in favor of debauchery! ”
A sneer twitched her lip as she turned back toward the window to study the crowd. Uncommonly quiet, no cheers of agreement, or rally cries were uttered. Among the crowd she saw mostly Shae, Ganroth, beside some of these on one knee was their Erahs slave. Faint nausea echoed the disgust she felt that they would bring them here. She had no doubt most others standing about had a house stable of their own. However, they had the decency not to bring them here, to subject them to–
“Have the executions begun yet?”
Hands lowered to her hips, drew her back from the window just a step. The wave of qualm she felt had not just been her disgust. It was the Waverer as he entered the tower unseen. As the man nuzzled at her neck, she muttered, “give him time. Of course, his supporters all brought their… pets… will force them to watch.”
“Naturally. Must keep them kowtowed.”
“It is for their own amusement,” she hissed. “How can you be so dismissive?”
Jaed Wyshard’s voice rose up in a roar, “we will embrace our Erahs neighbors to broker peace. However, I swear to you on this, the first of the Cleansing Festival, we will remain steadfast by Precisian Esseylt’s example! The sanctity of the Temple comes above all else! The purity of the Jaed Throne sits above all others. So yes, we shall embrace, but it will not be as whores bedding away our principles in the name of a hollow peace!”
The Jasuuk wrapped his arms about her, held her tight. “I am not dismissive. You have known this all your life… all of your not yet second tenth year, yes?” Melandre dipped her head in shame. His nose nuzzled at her long, draping ear lobe. “I have known it centuries, and I will know it many more. My people have known it for Kyr beyond the counting of it.”
Ashamed, feeling childish, she whispered, “I am sorry, Shon.”
Gentle hands turned her to face him. His black eyes sparkled with an amusement she was never certain was not mockery. That he was so much older, impossibly older, yet dallied with one like a baby to him–
“You are doing it again.”
Lengths of ravenesque hair swung down in front of her face as she lowered her head. A lilac-grey hand rose to caress her cheek, his whisper husky, but earnest. “Mel… if I wanted a mere daliance, there are far less deadly beds to find such fun.” Though he lifted her face, he kissed at her throat as his other hand roamed to grip her buttock firmly through her gown. “Freer women…” his hand slid from her face down her neck to push at the shoulder of her dress. “Less formal women…” A pant of desire puffed her breasts as he exposed one. “Easier to see…”
With a tug, he drew her further from the window toward her chaise. “Perhaps not in the dark, my Mith’Enndrejatr,” he winked.
(“…my Little Wisp.”)
In their staggering, his fingers deftly pulled the ribbon ties to let slip the upper fold of her dress. The neckline fell aside, without hesitation, he pushed the silk back over her shoulders. Her hands reached down, unclasped the hard leather loin-guard and tailer of his ceremonial armor. Decorative more than functional, Melandre relished the look of it, like enormous dragon scales. Under it, he had the wrapped linen skirt but no breechcloth.
“Do the other Palignr know you wear so little under your armor?” she giggled into his ear as her hands parted the folds open to caress his bare skin.
Like a dominant dance partner, he backed her up to drop onto the chaise. On his knees, he crawled forward over her with a sly grin. “It is not part of our daily inspections.”
Desirous hands took hold of her with reined passion, not too aggressive, just a reflection of her own want. He met and held her gaze as their bodies joined in a slow, focused connection. “Sylf thae’esh hal, Melandre.”
(“I love you, Melandre.”)
“IT SHALL NOT BE TOLERATED!” Jaed Wyshard’s voice bellowed out again, rising through the window in a fevered pitch higher than his previous droning. “The allowances I have given, clearly have proven to be too much freedom! NO MORE! We will begin this Cleansing Festival with a true cleansing. Before we can plant the seed of progress and conceive of bringing together Shae and Erahs–” a brief pause preceded, “and of course Ganroth, our laws must be understood and mutually agreed. Foremost of these, we cannot as a society abide the blasphemers who would defile natural law, Temple Law and by doing in turn defile the gods themselves!”
“Het… sylf thae’esh era,” her gasped reply was hardly necessary. She had told him a dozen times.This time felt different, however. Perhaps she needed to hear herself say it. Clutching to Shon, Melandre shut out her father’s voice as best she could, focused only upon her lover. Suddenly, she heard no voice save Shon’s. Felt nothing save him in the most existential way. Then, she felt his hand cover her mouth.
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