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The reception of Margrave Aerenth
by G. Ménager

On the appointed day, the 4 Nasir of year 1415, the flagship of the Celpalar navy, the “Kyria Avarea” enters the port of Areneth. On the bridge, the famous world-navigator Admiral Kattor explains the defensive assets of the Zea military position with its large masonry dikes and its many towers and walls.

The large lord of the Laria’rathi listen politely but a careful observer can notice he is staring to this white pearl of the sea, Areneth, the ancient stone capital of Celpalar: as far as sight goes it’s full of houses, palaces, wharfs, temples, barracks, all made of the same white stone. Trees are few and old, contorted ourolon (olive-tree like), most of them are encircled with low, masonry walls to protect them.

The ship reaches the wharf, soon a footbridge is laid and the sailors prepare for the landing. On the wharf, a small group of old humans are waiting. Dressed in different shades of togas, their faces are solemn as the first laria’rathi guards land to form an honor guard for the margrave. The little footbridge ploys under the weight of the mighty creature (!) . One of the men, maybe the oldest, greets Aerenth in a formal but uneasy laria’rathi. He then introduces his party as envoys from the Meltolyn and asks Margrave Aerenth to honor them by visiting the city.

The delegation, some twenty old men, a dozen of large Laria’rathi, an even larger alien lord, slowly moves out of the port. The city is built on a rock, so the streets are narrow, but today they appear very clean. The first stop is in a small temple, narrow and with tall columns as if trees of stones where sustaining a mineral roof. Inside, many humans are gathered, singing in low tones. There is an altar, made of a white cubic stone strained by dark red spots. Before this altar is a large-shoulder man, draped in red, gold-inlaid toga, turning his back to the newcomers. In the bottom is a huge statue of a human-like being, maybe four laria’rathi high. It is covered with gold and another white material which is not stone.

As they come, the man in red lays a bloodied knife aside, washes his hands and turns to them.

“ I am Bar-ri, king of Areneth and Grand-Priest of the Celpali. Be most welcome in our city, margrave Aerenth on this good-fated day as we feast the renewal of life! Here is Cethurun, First High King and God of Rian a’Avaerand, we worship him as founder of the State, mighty on Earth, mightier in the sky !” Doing so he designated the statue, and Aerenth now understand: it’s covered with ivory, it’s a chryselephantine statue. How strange the cult of these humans: they are worshipping a block of stone, metal and bone ! Aerenth smiled inside of the spiritual superiority of the Laria’rathi who knew of Kel’ren’aie. Meanwhile he notices that the statue has the strange looking associated with the Lords of the Sea in the legends of the Laria’rathi, a long vanished people of mariners who learned ship crafting to the laria’rathi in past eons. But those were masters of air and water magic and they ruled the waves at their whim – at least in the legends- if the Celpali are their distant offspring they lost a lot in few millennium. On the other hand it is another link…

Soon the prayers are over, and the priests open the large bronze doors. The Celpali leave in good order the temple and with sound of flutes and panpipes they array in along column. Coming first is the king Bar-ri, covered with his red toga, then come the men of Meltolyn, the priests and then the common folk of Areneth, the citizens first, then the lowers classes, male and female mixed. The Margrave is amazed of this promiscuity, but is sharp mind notices something more useful: all the citizens in the long column share with the diplomats he met these grim faces and muscular built he came to consider as common for humans and the others, supposed lower classes, workers and merchants are much different they look weak, frail, their faces are open and they look wildly at the laria’rathi. Their females don’t have the tan and the bright eyes of citizen’s wives. What is at work there ? Chiron always said there was no nobility on Celpalar besides the two kings. Are those citizens a form of nobility ? That would be much more fit for allies …

As the procession climbs in the city, town folks throw flowers at the attendants as more and more join the ranks of singing Celpali. They finally reach a plateau overlooking the city. There is a large field where many young’s humans are assembled, exerting themselves in many sports, their body covered with oil, but astonishingly, they are naked, all of them. They smile joyfully at the procession.

As everybody stop, king Bar-ri bestow a benediction on the crowd and turn his red coat to a priest, under it he’s only wearing a leather armour, which though well-made is unadorned. Common folks go down to the city with the priests while most of the citizens and their wives stay on the plateau.

After a time, comes a woman, clad in a black woollen cloth. She is middle-age, her tanned skin, her long black hair done in an intriguing pattern, the fire in her green eyes, the grace of her walking, everything designate her as a member of the ruling elite. The laria’rathi guards being well groomed avoid carefully too look at her, but the margrave is not one to lower his eyes easily. Which is fine because the show is intended for him…

As the high-pitched sound of a lone flute arises in the silence withheld by thousands of lungs, the woman slowly let her cloth fall to the ground. She starts a dance made of languor, as if her body, a perfection of form and coordination was intently moving far slower than it could. There is definitely something reptilian in the movement of this woman, decides the margrave. The sound of the flute is faster now and the dance follow, small flutes start playing around the main theme. And, lo, young human females, maybe 12 or 15 years old come dancing around the woman, altogether naked, their body covered of oil. As the pattern of the dance unfolds, the margrave understands it must be a ritual dance for all the moves are perfectly coordinated. Time as suspended its flight for the attendants, its Spring itself showing to the Celpali and Laria’rathi. Girls and women continously flow in the dance till they reach the age of the first dancer, full blossoming of feminity. Then a young girl closes of Aerenth, and removing a collar of flower from around her tender neck, she hands it to the margrave, who is thus decorated of a much unexpected order.

While the sound vanishes, all the women lay on the ground; slowly one man move to them and cover a woman of his coat, but it’s king Bar-ri and he covers the first dancer. Carefully he takes her, covered with oil and sweat, in his arms and bring her away. One by one and then by small groups, the Celpali men from age 13 carry their fiancee, wives or sisters back at home. Some very old men and all women over 35 stay on the field with the somewhat impressed laria’rathi. A very old man, looking much like an ourolon (also called wisdom-tree), with withered flesh but peace on the forehead speaks to Aerenth in a quiet, low-tone voice: My Lord, I am Iarech, and the doyen of the meltolyn, being born on Golaren over 100 years ago, and seing you here gives me the last and one of the sharpest joy of my long life. When I was a kid, even before joining the barracks ( age 7), I saw one of your race in the forest, he was fighting an uruconda (terrible man-eater snake of the jungle) barehanded. When I went home I was struck for a liar, they said:” Larias don’t exist it’s a tale for kids !”. And when I was elected meltolyn for Golaren at 65, one of my surprise was to learn the council knew of your existence.

I am a very old man now, and I’m glad to see another of you, a mighty lord as it appears, because now the whole part of Golaren is going to have a voice much stronger than mine in the Council. And when I join Eternal Avaera, you my lord should be the protector of humans on Golaren island in front of the ephors.” As the old man with sparkling, tearful eyes, achieve his declaration, the men come back on the plateau as the children and the old women go away.

The king Bar-ri leads the Margrave to an hemicycle, carved in stones where 10 000 humans may seat. While they walk, the king explain the ceremony which happened: “ We see Nature as a woman, a manifestation of the gods, and every woman has a link to her. As I, the king, am head of religious ceremonies, mainly the sacrifice to the gods of the city, my wife Queen Ellinora celebrates the rite of Spring. Every free girl and woman as the right to participate to the rite provided she knows the dance and is old enough to understand the gift of fertility. But actually as it is very formal, only the citizens’ wives take the time to learn it to their daughters. You see, we are a rather traditionalist society and Ray-a-man and me are often confronted to heavy resistances to changement.”

As they speak, the king leads the margrave to a high seat facing the assembly, there are 3 of thoses seats, and 28 others in a semi-circular pattern facing the rest of the crowd. Above those 31 seats (Aerenth remarks that his is new) there are 5 simple chairs on a plateform which is overlooking the whole scene. On those, five aged men, the youngest being his “old” friend Chiron.

Most of the men in the assembly have those stern looking faces of those who spend their lives in a military structure. Quickly the ranks are filled and one of the 30 (now 31) starts:

“ Ô Appela of the people of Celpalar, hear the word of the Meltolyn ! You are now to approve the following law of the state of Celpalar.

The people of Celpalar and the Laria’rathi are friends. They decide to face the world together and to unite their strengths in the respect of their diversity.

Citizens of the two people have the right to move as they wish in the two states, subject to restrictions for their own safety, and securtity of the aformentioned states; as defined by the governements.

A joint school of magic is to established on the island of Golaren where the colony of Tol Naur conjug the great forest, the precise location is to be set by mutual agreement, students will be sent there as soon as the Academy is ready; as decided by the masters of each school.

Military alliance is established and staff consultations are to begin as soon as possible. Military units will keep their racial coherence for the time being. The personnal forces of Laria’rathi nobles and the aulic guards of Celpalar temple will remain unchanged. As for the police forces of both states. Naval forces will cooperate now on.

A special market place is to be built on Golaren island to negotiate trade with the Laria’rathi. No foreign trader will be allowed in.

Each Celpali ambassade will have a laria’rathi attaché, as long as desired by laria’rathi government.

The existence and location of the Laria’rathi state is to be considered as a secret of the State of Celpalar, any indeescretion is to be punished by death. The presentation of individual Laria’rathi to the rest of the world is to be determine by the Laria’rathi government, we will stick to what is determined.

The Margrave Aerenth will receive a seat among the Meltolyn, by accepting it, he engages to be a loyal friend of Celpalar as long as he lives and to work for the renewed friendship among us. He shall never be put in conflict of loyalty because of Celpali actions.

In each new colony of Celpalar and Laria’rathi, an opportunity will be offert to settlers of the other race to come and thrive.

A temple to the Kel’ren’aie god will be erected on Celpalar for the use of laria’rathi here and for those of the Celpali who may wish to follow their ways. This temple will be built by the Kings’ treasure under the direction of a L’R (sorry!) architect.

It is not yet known if procreation is possible among our races. Any attempt to procreate shall have the permission of both governments. Failure to comply is punished by death of the offenders.

From now on Celpalar and L’R government shall have the same friends and the same ennemies, to be sure to always fight side by side.

It is the will of the Meltolyn that this law become a law of the State of Celpalar. Now, you, Appela of the people should vote.”

Then a huge and loud cry rises in the hemicycle, echoing on the stones of the mountain, deafening the attendants.

The same meltolyn then says: “Your vote is registered. Who is against the law ? “ A perfect silence is then observed for a long minute.

An old and harsh voice come from the platform over the Meltolyn:

“Then this is the law of the State of Celpalar, because, we the Ephors accept it as you voted it. May the gods ensure victory to the righteous and curse the ill-doers !”

The voice of Chiron, softer yet more resoning, rises in the circle: “ Margrave Templar Prelate Aehrenth, Knight-lord of the southern Marches of Su’ral, defender of the river Ran’i, retainer of the sacred sacraments of Kharuj, you are, by the will of your Prince and of the people of Celpalar, granted this seat among Meltolyn, the council of Celpalar. Do you accept this charge, margrave Aerenth ?

- Yes, I do ! “ And as he speaks, a bird comes on his shoulder and it is a tora bird, full of colors and with a marvellous song, indded it is blessing from heavens.

The tumult is terrible in the assembly before the military discipline takes over. The tora bird is considered sacred in Celpalar, a most fortunate omen. Chiron speaks again:

“ – We received you like no other, and indeed we were right because you are like no other. You are the bridge to a new world where every dream is possible and where the ancient legends come true !”

That’s all folks !