Burning Desire

1626, Earth Season, Fertility Week


Berra has been purifying herself to reach out to Humakt. She has brought with her the silk dress that Xenofos gave her, still in its wrapping. Session 2.7.


Berra enters the Temple on the last day of her ritual of purification and supplication, and walks to a cross-shaped outline of charcoal, woad, and blood a little longer than her body, and a little wider than she would be, hands outstretched. She takes off a backpack, and unbuckles two swords from her waist. One goes at the foot of the cross. The other, Wind Tooth, is kissed and buckled back on.

From the backpack, she pulls out a bulky, cloth-covered parcel, slightly crumpled from having been forced in there. She puts it down for long enough that she can set the backpack neatly against a nearby wall, and bring back an empty brazier. That, and the dress, are taken up to an altar, one of several in this huge hall. A sword-shaped depression is in the top of it, and the number ‘2’, in Thelayan. If Berra could read, she would know that it is a well executed piece of engraved calligraphy. The brazier, and the package, are placed on the altar, and Berra kneels before it, head down, arms extended so her fingertips just touch the base of the great stone.

For a time, there is nothing but silence and stillness in the area. Other Humakti are in the Hall, but none approach. Yet, after a while, they seem distant, and Berra stands, her eyes sharply focused on nothing visible within the Middle World. She steps over to the altar, and draws Wind Tooth, using her sword to cut open the cheaper outer cloth of the packet. Silver and dark silk nestle within.

“I have promised I will look at this,” Berra tells the altar, or the thing that leads her now. “So I do this, as I said.” Wind Tooth is sheathed, and she picks up the dress that was in the package. The heavy, slippery silk helps it slide off the altar, and she looks at it dispassionately, then with the care due to a sacrifice lays it along the length of the stone.

The dress is worthy of any Lady of Nochet. The indigo silk is dyed so dark it almost looks black, in the dim temple light; only a change in the shimmer as it moves gives an indication that the silk is any other colour. There is a lot of silk there, a sea of sharp pleated waves making a skirt that would allow movement while showing off just how much material is required. Picked out against the darkness are Runes embroidered in silver thread. Death and Truth, on the front, a great handspan high apiece. Water and Movement runes are embroidered at the hem and necklines. Berra lays out the dress in the shape of the Death Rune, showing no puzzlement at the short, half belled sleeves, no wonder at the expensive feel of the heavy material, no care for the way the skirt should fall.

“Bear witness,” she says to the air. “I have done as I said I would.” Then she draws Wind Tooth. “I put you from this place,” she tells the dress. “Thing of the world, you pass away. You are gone to Humakt.” As she says the name of her god, her voice has an odd quality that makes it hang in the air, the sound not entirely fading as she holds her sword above the dress, reversed in her hand. She stabs the cloth, and Wind Tooth goes down, and down, and down, through silk and through where the altar must be. The silver tarnishes in an instant, the embroidering becoming nothing more than a metallic suggestion of texture within the darkness.

With Wind Tooth snug in the altar, Berra pulls the dress downwards, slicing up towards the neckline. Her bronze blade sheers the material as if it were Grandfather Mortal himself, his skin split by Death. After the first cut, Berra makes another and another and another, pulling the dress past the blade so that the masterpiece of the tailor’s art, now dead, is also butchered. As each piece becomes small enough that it is only tatters and dark ghostly glitters, she lays it aside by the brazier, and finally she passes her hand over the altar, flat, as she walks around it. When she has circled the altar just once, and her hand has made an Air Rune, and the Rune has ended where her sword is, and Death has finished her relationship with Air, she puts her hand onto the brazier, flat as on the altar, and compels flame from its magical matrix.

With little to burn the flame totters, begins to die, but Berra puts a piece of the cloth into it, and then another, feeding the flame as she watches it, until nothing is left to burn. Around her, the darkness is absolute. There is no Hall here now, only the blackness, and the altar, and the flame, and the sword.

With her hand still black from the sacrifice, Berra reaches unerringly for Wind Tooth, drawing the blade from the altar and sheathing it. She bows, and steps back, and the world asserts itself once more. Her eyes, black like the Rune of Darkness, stay dark as she begins to paint herself with blue-black ash.