One of the sometimes-frustrating things about creating a multi-book fantasy world is how much extra world you build that never actually ends up in any book at all. This excerpt is one of those situations. Lord Ronin Entila made a brief appearance in Tales of Blood & Light Book 2, The Cedna, in a flashback explaining how the Cedna herself came into existence. Lord Ronin Entila was her sayantaq father, an explorer/conqueror from the southern lands. At some point in my writings, Lord Ronin wanted to have his perspective known, and so I gave him the opportunity to narrate a travel journal–though it was always pretty obvious to me I wouldn’t use it in any book, and after edits, events in The Cedna ended up contradicting his tales, as in his journal he spends a long time with the Ganteans, while in the book, just a single fateful night. So here are the opening entries of the impossible journal…
A Travelogue, by Ronin Entila
Those who know me well know I am not much of a writer. I am a man of action rather than words, but it seems if I am to explore these cold lands, I must record my impressions, for I have so many thoughts I cannot hold them all tightly in my head. I came north with the blessing of His Highness, King Tryphon I Galatien, in this fine year the 804th of the nation of Lethemia, domain of the Holy Amassis. I came to discern what prospects these lands held for us, if they had any merits for trade or cultivation, and to finally bring the Ganteans under the shroud of our holy country. Too long have the residents of the northern isles been practicing unholy ways. I shall write more of these ways later. But we have long known they practice some strange magic up here.
A family of our own kind, of an evening, might gather together, and the father might read to his brood from the Book of Amassis, or of our history, or even, were he liberal, from one of the great poems. But the Ganteans do not gather to talk at night, or if they do, they do so out of my presence. What I feel from them all is this tightness, this secrecy, this wall of silence. I know we call them barbarians, but that is because of how rough and dirty their life appears, isn’t it? They have no plumbing, no steel, no bitumen, no engines. They live up here in this blasted cold. But it seems to me they have a deep and complex society, full of all kinds of rules and niceties I can barely discern. There are times I feel the fool.
The role of the woman they call Cedna is unclear to me: a queen, a soothsayer, a goddess? All three? To be sure, she holds their magic more than any other, and is often inebriated with their foul plant broths. So, I think, she is a shamaness, a soothsayer, more than anything.
But then I see how she lives, with those around her giving her deference and space, much as we would do with the Queen. She is cared for more than any other, and in a place where life is cold and hard, she is given more: her food is prepared and brought to her by others, her fires made in her stone house before she arrives. These are not a deferent people: each and every one does their own work, and such work it is to keep them busy just to keep themselves alive. (I cannot help but admire the stout and hardy dispositions of the Ganteans. They do not complain.) And so when Cedna sits idle when all those around her scurry about with the exhausting business of her survival, I think of a queen, more than anything (no disrespect meant, of course, to our Majesty Halcyone, whose wisdom precludes any notion that she does not deserve her leisure!)
But there is something more in the way her people treat her, something I have never seen before except in our temples of worship in Lethemia. A heady combination of fear and awe—as if Cedna was to her people as the dread god Amatos is to us. Holy, yes, but terrible, too. A goddess then, in the minds of her followers.
The woman herself is something to remark upon. Her hair is such a glimmering auburn I could best only compare it to a flame, but such cliché would cheapen the reality. She is youthful and yet old beyond her years, she speaks little and watches everything. ‘Twas this young thing who greeted me when I made land, and offered me warmer welcome than I had come to expect. I suspect the other tribal leaders put up with me only because of her apparent liking, but I find it strange she has no lord of her own. No one stops her when she takes me into her stone house at night (and I do not stop myself, though Amassis knows I should! What can I say? Her flesh burns even warmer than her hair, and I have never been one to turn away a willing woman!) Even so I can see the tribal leaders do not like that we share a bed, but they are too in awe of her to put a halt to it.
Every third sennight they perform a ceremony of some kind, and Cedna is away the whole night through. She returns in a drunken state and pale as snow, looking weak, almost bloodless. I cannot explain the strangeness of these nights. There is a flavor to the woman’s kisses that fills me with dread, and yet I hunger for it even more than the touch of her flesh. A bitter, strong flavor, I believe it is the plant drug they imbibe to worship their gods, or whatever it is they do. I know I ought not taste the plant, but I cannot help myself, and following her kisses I spend a sleepless night, wandering in dreams I cannot be having. I can barely recall the elusive madness the next morning, but I know I see her, Cedna, in those dreams. She carries a flame in her bare hand, and holds it against me, so warm in all this ice. Ah, but her tears! So many tears. A thousand tears to wash away the warmth.