Red Riders of the Realms
A Mark or a Curse
By the time they arrived in Selgaunt Clayne formulated a new plan. Straightaway he took Isuelt and Diamatte to the Temple of Pelor, convincing Isuelt that he would leave the two at the temple to receive their blessing while he arranged for provisions to return back to Featherdale. Once away from Isuelt, Clayne obtained directions to the roughest part of the city. He was sure that the burdens he had carried from Featherdale would look like assets to someone with enough coin and no morals, someone who wouldn’t mind owning a slave or two. Unfortunately for Clayne, the worldly knowledge of a boy from the dales is infinitesimal compared to just about anyone in a city the size of Selgaunt. Therefore, after he asked a member of the city watch, who was sitting in his favorite dodgy inn enjoying ale on his time off, “How much are you willing to pay for a couple of female slaves I got for sale?” Clayne discovered that he was incapable of mustering a convincing enough argument to keep him from being imprisoned and summarily hung for soliciting human trafficking.
Isuelt and Diamatte each received a blessing from Alarad, a priest of Pelor, on the same day Clayne was arrested for a capital offense. Alarad, who was not used to dealing with many rural folk, thought the idea that Diamatte’s birth being the result of an elvish curse rather quaint. But he was intrigued by the child’s appearance and especially how dissimilar it was from Isuelt’s. He even asked Isuelt more than once if the child was hers. And then he inquired as to the father’s appearance. As he heard Isuelt’s description of Darryn, the circumstance of his death, and Diamatte’s birth, Alarad became sure that there was an explanation. One most likely unknown to farmers in the Dalelands. Alarad believed Diamatte to be star-marked.
He attempted to explain to Isuelt that Diamatte was possibly marked for a special destiny based on the location and movement of the stars at the time of her birth. Because of this, her appearance had nothing to do with curses or her lineage but instead what was suited to her destiny. Alarad knew little of the star signs and their meaning. But being a priest of Pelor, he regularly came into contact with devotees of other deities who sought some of the healing and protection that came with the blessings of the god. Among them were certain followers of Sehanine who he knew to be a goddess in tune with the paths of the stars. Alarad sent a runner to the nearby Temple of Sehanine to ask if Isuelt might get an audience with one of their priestesses and, soon Isuelt and Diamatte were on their way to discovering that for Diamatte, the future held more than just the life of a farmer’s daughter.
Isuelt met with Calyndra in the Temple of Sehanine that winter afternoon and presented her child to the priestess. Significant moments in a person’s life can usually be recalled only after one has reached a certain age, an age where they can appreciate the importance of such moments. For Diamatte, the fact that she was an infant did not diminish her ability to recall the first time she ever saw Calyndra and every time she recalled Calyndra’s face, she inherently knew that the women played a vital role in the direction of her life. The priestess was not a regular member of the order of the Selgaunt Temple of Sehanine. She was a Rotaran priestess, a member of a particular sect of Sehanine worship, who travelled from place to place playing a rote and singing of the destinies to be revealed in the stars. She also visited other temples to find candidates and aspirants suited to rigors of a whole hearted devotion to the goddess. A distinguishing feature of the Rotarans was the star markings tattooed in their skin. Their belief that the path of the stars and heavens guided everyone was displayed on their bodies for all to see. Each Rotaran was permanently painted with their own star charts, describing the possible course of their destinies from birth to their ultimate death.
Calyndra was beautifully painted. Her face a canvas describing in colorful geometric patterns and awe striking whorls, galaxies and stars unseen to the naked eye. On her face, each of her tattoos detailed how the stars guided her interactions with others. It was that face that Diamatte would remember all her life thereafter. As she grew, there might eventually be times when she would find it difficult to remember the faces of those she cared for, her mother or lovers past, but she would never forget the face of Calyndra, even if it was only with an infant’s eyes she ever saw her.
Calyndra was struck by Diamatte’s tiny features as well. When Isuelt introduced herself and Diamatte, Calyndra was immediately compelled to hold the child closely. Isuelt permitted this and after a moment Calyndra pulled away the infant’s carrying blanket, pushed apart the baby’s legs and gasped at the dark, burnished mark which was located in the center of Diamatte’s right inner thigh, positioned directly on top of the child’s liver line. Calyndra looked closely at the rest of the child’s body and found identical marks directly below the child’s navel, at the center of her chest, and just below the juncture of Diamatte’s jaw and neck. Calyndra covered the infant and held her tightly for a moment looking abstractedly at Isuelt.
“My child,” She said to Isuelt after a few moments of silence, “your daughter is marked by the goddess.” Isuelt found that she could not have been more relieved and at the same time more ecstatic. She had believed Diamatte’s appearance was a sign, an intentional act of the gods and she now knew she was right. She asked question after question of Calyndra. About what the markings meant, what good fortune did they entail, and would she be able to return to Featherdale with her child and find that everything would be all right? Calyndra chose her answers carefully, telling Isuelt that she did not know exactly what the markings meant, whether it was good fortune or bad, or whether her child’s marks would have any bearing on the status of Isuelt’s relations with her husband’s family. She informed Isuelt that the only way to know more of the child’s path and of Isuelt’s, Calyndra would have to prepare star charts and study their import as well as pray to the goddess.
Calyndra made arrangements for Isuelt and Diamatte to lodge in the temple in an unoccupied cell. A runner was sent back to the Temple of Pelor to leave a message to be given upon Clayne’s return letting him know that the mother and child would have to stay in Selgaunt for some time and that he should go back to Featherdale. Isuelt was never informed that Clayne did not return to the temple and it never crossed her mind to inquire about him. She was far too occupied with her excitement over what purpose Diamatte’s marks served. Calyndra spent nearly three weeks in study and fervent prayer to discover the path that was laid before Diamatte by the stars. Between her sessions of research and meditation, she played the rote for Isuelt and Diamatte, regaling them with beautiful melodies, singing allegories which described the role the stars played in the lives of all creatures.
On a day when it seemed that winter was finally about to break its hold on Sembia, Calyndra announced to Isuelt that she had discovered clues the stars held about Diamatte’s destiny. She explained to Isuelt that the lives of men were not governed by the stars but rather described by them. To help Isuelt understand, she explained that a person’s life was much like a recipe and the stars detailed the method with which they might use events in their lives as ingredients. For some it might be a recipe for cake and for some it might be another dish. What the stars could not detail was the quality of their lives or whether for that person they would be satisfied with their meal Regardless, every person would find that in the end they were eating the product of their recipe and ingredients, no matter if it was good or bad. This way of explaining such complex ideas satisfied Isuelt. She felt she understood and she desperately wanted to know what Diamatte’s and her stars described.
Calyndra was careful in continuing her explanation for there was something unique about Diamatte’s stars. She explained that, like many people, Isuelt’s stars indicated she was making cake. With a recipe that would rely on many unique ingredients, like the birth of Diamatte and a period of travelling far from her home. Soon she could settle down and finish baking. And in the end, Isuelt could have a meal she would enjoy. But for Diamatte, there was no recipe in her stars, only the mark of certain events that might occur in her life. She explained to Isuelt that Diamatte’s star chart showed her to be present when an event may occur but they did not describe how she arrived at those moments, what choices she might make, or where her path led from there. To the Rotaran this meant Diamatte’s ultimate destiny was hidden from the stars but at the same time, she may likely be a key ingredient in the destiny of many others.
Isuelt understood, in her farm girl way, that this meant in the long run that her life would be good. She never desired anything more than the life that had been placed before, except that she longed to have Darryn back. But she knew now that cake was in the offing, and she could accept that. However, she didn’t quite grasp what all this meant for Diamatte. After giving Isuelt her explanation, Calyndra said little else to her about destinies and recipes. Instead, she told Isuelt that her child’s path must diverge from her’s sometime soon.
Calyndra explained that she saw no possibility of Diamatte finding acceptance in the Dalelands. Instead Diamatte would benefit greatly from study amongst the sisterhood of Sehanine and in so doing her life would be free of many of the cares and worries of a farmer. Isuelt knew from the initial reactions of Darryn’s family and her own experience living in the dales, there was little chance Diamatte would live a peaceful life in those fair fields. Every time a sickness struck a household, or a disease infected a crop, Diamatte would be an easy target for blame. Her features, the obvious difference between her and those that inhabited Featherdale, were unexpected qualities. And there was no suitable explanation for those qualities that would ever satisfy the farmers. Calyndra proposed that she accompany Isuelt back to Featherdale at the turn of spring to see her own family. Diamatte would come along and, after Isuelt had said her goodbyes to the child, Calyndra would escort Diamatte to a particular temple with an open invitation for Isuelt to visit the child at anytime. Isuelt agreed and she and Diamatte spent the next few weeks as guests of the Temple of Sehanine.
Continued in – Rotarans