Second Sight: How Heroes Become Stars
This weeks post steps away from the story and scene of Chapter 1: Call of the Emissary so that I could answer viper_virus081 question on Instagram. Viper requested to know more about Azriel's dialogue to the stars, stating that it was confusing. This is completely understandable given that the dialogue was designed to give a brief insight into the vast lore of Gaulantis. I cannot completely answer viper's question in this post as there is quite a bit of lore, but it more will be given as the story progresses. Also, the Book of Lore should help provide a wider knowledge of general lore. However, in this post, I did want to provide some context for the people and heroes Azriel talks about.
As always, I will dive into your questions and into the material you are most interested in. So, ask away and make requests. I might not be able to deliver it the week after like I have with viper's question, but I will do my best provide content you want to read.
4 Years Before Azriel’s King Emissary Banquet
Jerusha tended to the bubbling contents of a generous pot within the hearth. The roiling surface no longer reflected the unflattering silver streaks in her dark brown hair. She quirked her head to the side as if working out a tight muscle in the neck. “Mustn’t be vain.” The hearth’s blackened roof and the pot were her private confidants.
A firm tug on one of Jerusha’s long coat tails pressed the bottom button of the waistcoat uncomfortably into her stomach. Turning, her little great-niece held the coat tail up to her chin with both hands, her green eyes seeming larger when complimented by the purple cloth. Behind little Eliora, her twin brother approached with one arm holding the other behind his back and his chin hanging near the notch of his collar bone. Eliora tugged again. “Auntie Jeru.” Tug. “Auntie Jeru-ah!”
“I’m listening, Eliora.” The corners of Jerusha’s mouth tugged down, no doubt emphasizing her wrinkles, but a lesson was needed. “You must be patient. Give people time-”
“Guess what I did, Auntie Jeru!” Eliora tugged harder. “I was playing at the pond and I was making a mud castle when I saw a toad this big!” She released the coat tail to hold her arms as far out to the sides as they would go. The coat tail fell back into place, now a veteran of dirty fingers.
“I saw it first.” Shiblon’s head shot up indignantly. “And it was this big.” His demonstration still gave the toad an impressive length equal to that of the boy’s stomach. Jerusha reached up for the bowls of spices and cut foods placed well out of inquisitive little fingers’ reach on the mantle as she chuckled. That would be an intimidating toad.
“No, it was this big.” Eliora amended her toad size dramatically, taking it to a more realistic size.
Jerusha dumped some of the ingredients into the pot and began to stir them in. “That is quite the toad.”
The twins nodded eagerly. “I caught it!” Shiblon announced, puffing out his chest.
“No, you didn’t. It jumped away from you.” Eliora snorted. “You got your shirt all dirty. Mommy wasn’t very happy.” Her brother ducked his head, his cheeks pink. Eliora stepped a little closer to the pot. “What are you making?”
“Eliora. Shiblon, come away from the hearth.” Leena whisper barked from a makeshift bed between the hearth and the entrance to the home. Propped up with many pillows stacked against the wall, she reclined while gently rocking a bassinet in front of her with one foot. Her upper half was covered in a blanket from which protruded two pairs of curled and wrinkly newborn feet. Her young face was grey and sagged a little, but that was to be expected after the long delivery the day before. But she’d done well. Better than many of the women Jerusha had midwifed for over the years.
After some protest, the twins hurried over. “Quietly.” Leena reminded them. They tip-toed the last few steps, then stood stiffly before their mother as they eyed the newest additions to their family. “You know you shouldn’t be near the hearth when someone’s cooking.”
“I was being really careful.” Shiblon piped up.
Leena’s grin spread with some effort. “I know you were, but I’d still prefer you to not to go near the hearth right now. Go play with Sarai and your siblings.” She nodded to the opposite side of the room where, in front of the stairs, Sarai, a young girl herself at ten, played with Leena’s first set of triples. The three year olds played with blocks and dolls, watching and mimicking Sarai’s advanced form of play.
When Sarai heard her name, she waved her niece and nephew over. “Shiblon, I have your soldier here.” She held up the toy. Shiblon hurried over and Eliora followed closely after.
Jerusha grabbed a bowl of dried meat and stood where the twins had just been. “Here.” She plopped some in the young woman’s mouth, who chewed eagerly. “The soup should be done soon. But I expect it’ll be just in time for those little ones to be hungry again.” Leena groaned.
“Just a few more.” Leena accepted the meat twice more before, then Jerusha retrieved a cup of water and helped her drink. “Thank you.”
“I wish you’d slept more today.” Jerusha put the cup back on the mantle a little harder than she’d intended.
“People were very kind to stop by.” Leena laid her head back and shut her eyes.
Biting her lip hard, Jerusha turned back to her private confidants. “Kind?” She tisked. People from all over Ramoth had stopped by to congratulate Leena and Abiathar on their new arrivals. They’d brought plenty of food, which Leena had already made a significant dent in, but they’d barely given the poor woman any time to rest. The baskets of food were still stacked on and around a small table behind the main door. Even between visits, the children would be so excited and overtired due to all the activity that chaos and noise continuously reigned. When Abiathar had been called away earlier that day to attend to his Warden duties, Jerusha had made sure to keep these visits of well-wishers short, which had given Leena some small moments of rest.
But now, a sort of peace fell over the large dual sitting and cooking area for the first time that day. The children talked and claimed toys. The pot bubbled and the three newborns grunted.
Just as Leena began pulling the little ones out from under the blanket, the front door opened slowly. Jerusha pulled the spoon out of the pot and placed it on a hook beside the hearth’s mouth. She scowled at the door as someone started to poke their head in. No. No more visitors. She stepped off the raised stone before the hearth. This nosy trespasser would get little kindness from her today.
Jerusha paused, one foot still in the air when she saw the intruder was Abiathar. He took in the room slowly. When he saw he’d been unnoticed by his children, he grinned at Jerusha, mouthed thank you, and then held a finger to his lips. Jerusha immediately turned and bent toward the child in the bassinet. She fussed with the blanket though the child was swaddled tightly. Leena watched her briefly, then returned to her task of burping one of the newborns, her husband remained unnoticed.
Abiathar kept his finger to his lips as he turned back outside. A corner of his mouth quirked up and his eyebrows wiggled. A corner of Jerusha’s mouth tugged upward as she watched. Her nephew was well suited to the task of fathering so many even though his own clan produced so few children. Though his position took him away for long periods and at odd times, he somehow always had the energy to come home and play with his children and help his wife. Even though he was still young, she’d never known anyone else to have his social stamina.
Opening the door a little wider, he and Prince Azriel crept into the house. The young prince matched his uncle’s bent, forearms drawn up to the chest position and movements. His excited smile stretched from ear to ear. Abiathar crept to his wife while the boy prince made his way over to the children, who were still oblivious to their father.
Jerusha returned to the pot, adding more ingredients. She kept one eye on the children and the other on her nephew and his wife, knowing the delicate peace would break at any moment.
When she saw them, Leena smiled broadly and stayed quiet. Reaching her, he gently kissed his wife, then kissed her again on the forehead. “How are you feeling?” His head was close to her ear. He picked up the baby waiting for her turn to be burped and lifted her to his shoulder.
“Tired.” She replied softly. She placed a cloth on his shoulder and under the little girl’s chin. “Several people came by. It’s been a busy day for the children. Jerusha and Sarai’ve been a great help.”
His eyebrows drew downward as he briefly watched his children play fussily on the other side of the room. In a rare moment, his jovial nature turned into one of slack shoulders and jaw. “I’m sorry I had to leave you.” The rhythm of his thumping hand on the infant’s back was irregular.
“I know you would’ve stayed if you could.” She leaned her head against his, her smile weary but content. She brushed his jaw with the back of her hand. The child in his arms released a healthy belch. Pulling her away from his shoulder, Abiathar and Leena grinned animatedly and congratulated her as she stared blearily.
Leena suddenly groaned. Jerusha paused, studying the younger woman’s face for pain.
“That smells so good.” With feverish green eyes- the kind only a nursing mother gets, Leena stared at the pot. “I could eat the whole pot.”
“That hungry, huh?” Abiathar dug into his jacket pocket. “Well, it’s a good thing I stopped by your favorite bakery.” He produced a loaf of sweet bread with an arcing flourish. Before the movement was complete, two large crescents indented the top. Leena worked quickly to swallow them. Abiathar’s eyes widened. “Oh no. The ravager has returned!”
Leena snatched the bread from him and took two more large bites. “Yes, she has.” She closed her eyes wistfully as she took time to enjoy the bread on the fifth bite. Abiathar chorted. Leaning back on the pillows with her, he ran one hand slowly through her hair as she ate. The little girl was cradled in his other arm.
Tranquility began to settle more deeply upon the room.
“Hello!” Azriel leaned over the other children, investigating their play.
“Azriel?” Sarai stood. Her skirt knocked over a tower of blocks, much to Shiblon’s chagrin. “When did-”
“Father!” Zulfaa, the only girl in the first set of triplets, scrambled to her feet and led the rushing stampede to her father. The prince ran with them and Sarai brought up the rear.
Abiathar pecked his chuckling wife’s head, then moved away from her bed. When Zulfaa reached him, he pulled her into a one armed squeeze. After greeting each child and allowing them to jump and pull at him for a few minutes while protecting the little one in his arms, he herded them all in front of him. “Alright, we’ve got to be quiet now so the babies can sleep.”
“But they’re always sleeping.” Kish displayed his fat lip.
“Well,” Abiathar pressed his lips together and raised his shoulders to his ears, “being a baby’s hard work.”
“Sleeping isn’t hard.” Shiblon waving a firm finger. “Once, when I was having a hard time sleeping, I didn’t count deer like you told me to. I counted bears!”
Abiathar gasped. “Bears?” The boy nodded enthusiastically. “But they’re so scary. How did you ever fall asleep?”
“I’m brave. That’s how.” Shiblon giggled as his father ruffled his hair.
“Yes, you are.”
“Guess what!” Eliora pushed her way between her little brothers, Kish and Burhan whose faces immediately screwed up and brewed with tears. Sarai appeared next to them, patting their backs, before Jerusha had placed her spoon on the hook.
“Eliora, don’t push your brothers.” Abiathar frowned. “Say you’re sorry.”
The little girl turned to her brothers. “Sorry.” She faced her father again. “Today, I-”
Abiathar pulled her tight to his side and looked down at her with a kind smile. “I know you have so many things to tell me. I want to hear them all! But-” he wiggled his eyebrows dramatically at her and all his children, “you know that when I come home, it’s special family time. Can you wait until after we’ve read from the holy books to tell me your wonderful stories?” Eliora nodded. “Thank you.” He squeezed her tight. “I know it’s hard to wait.”
Abiathar bent low. His children crouched and stepped toward him, watching him with bright eyes. “First one to sit in front of the hearth gets to pray tonight!”
The little bumping and scurrying herd raced around their mother’s bed. A few of them bumped the bassinet causing the little one within to cry. The children sat before the hearth in a cacophonous chorus of giggles and pouts. Azriel had raced with them, but he now sat stiffly. He watched the other children. His attention lingered the longest on the twins, paying close attention to what they were saying and doing.
Jerusha kept an eye on him as she went to the little one in the bassinet. The prince was a frequent visitor to Abiathar’s and Leena’s home, but he seemed to get overwhelmed at times with the number of children here. Picking up the second little girl of the new set of triplets, she swayed, shushing in her ear.
Abiathar returned the child he had to his wife, then went to a bookcase next to where the children had been playing. He pulled down seven tomes of varying thicknesses. Carrying them carefully to a wooden chair between the hearth and Leena’s bed, he set them down gently on a small table beside the chair.
Abiathar sat. “Alright, let’s choose what we’ll read today. Shall we read about the Padan’s history? About Athalia the First perhaps?”
Azriel stretched his hand up into the air and nodded vigorously. Eliora had nodded as well. When she saw Azriel’s raised hand, she mimicked him. The three-year-old triples all scooted forward, crying in the affirmative. Shiblon, placing his head in his hands, shook his head.
“We have five votes.” He grinned at Sarai. “What do you think?”
“We just read of the Padan yesterday.” Sarai reminded him.
Abiathar turned the cover toward him and regarded it as if it had been magicked into his hands. “Did we really?” She nodded. “How’s it your memory’s so much better than mine?”
Sarai folded her arms and smirked. “Sometimes, I wonder if you’re even my brother at all.”
“Oh-oh!” Abiathar pressed a hand to his heart. “Sound hit.” Sarai and the other children giggled. Abiathar tenderly set the Book of the Padan down as he chuckled.
“Well, let’s see. Maybe another one.” He picked up two leather-bound tomes. The first was thicker than the second. “What about the Thyatira or Jerrick? In one we could read the stories of Abram and his magics of fire. In the other,” he nodded to Azriel, “we could read about your ancestor, Laban the Great.”
“He’s in the holy books?” Azriel looked at the book half in wonder, half as if he expected his ancestor to jump out of it.
“Yes, he is. Most of the book focuses on him actually.”
“I want to read about Abram!” Shiblon now raised his hand high. The triplets again exclaimed their approval of the story.
“Alright, four votes.” He returned the two and held up a fourth. “Would you like to hear stories about your mother’s ancestors, the Dothan.” He looked around at his children, who reacted animatedly.
Eliora slid up next to her father’s chair. “Father, why are the holy books about our ancestors?”
Abiathar gave her a wide grin. “That is a fabulous question!” Eliora, quite pleased with herself, could only nod under her father’s praise. “The holy books are about much more than that. They are of our ancestors, yes, but they are recordings of their experiences, the lessons they learned in their life. Most importantly, they show us Elohim’s hand in their lives, just as His hand is in our lives, and what He would have us do to return to Him. Abram, for example, was blessed with powerful fire magics for his diligence in following the dictates of spells given him through messengers like Priests and even Sorcerers!” The children oohed.
“But they’ve all died, haven’t they?” Azriel piped up. “Father says there’s no point in learning something new if we’re all just going to die.”
There was a short pause. Abiathar's eyes flitted to his wife’s and Jerusha’s. Jerusha pursed her lips. The king’s proneness for such nonsensical and flippant statements were no good to a curious child.
“That’s a good question too.” Abiathar tapped his chin, then he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. “You should always learn, Azriel. Did you know that Abram’s blessings continued on even after his death?” The prince shook his head. “You know what. I have a verse that I think will answer your question.” He opened the Book of the Thyatira. Staying close to the beginning, he carefully turned the thin pages, running a hovering finger over them until he found what he was looking for. “This is before Abram reached the height of his ability. He is returning from the East. Before returning home, he travelled through Rephaim. There, he crossed paths with a Priestess of the Silver Cloth.”
“Did she have her Silver dragon scale?” Azriel was leaning so far forward, his palms were flat on the ground and his rear elevated slightly while his legs were still crossed. “Did she have a Starlight blade?”
Abiathar chuckled. “No. Not in this account anyway. But while they talked,” he continued, “Abram asked the Priestess a very similar question that you just asked, Azriel.” Abiathar returned to the book and began to read.
The Priestess and I shared with each other our journeys thus far, rejoicing in each other’s successes and weeping for each other’s sorrows. Afterwards, we shared our knowledges of the Fey Realm and Sorcerer kind. After some hesitation, I posed to her a question I had long been pondering, but seeing as she worked with the dead, I thought she might be able to provide some insight. I asked her, What becomes of us after death? After some thought, she confided that she too had wondered, and after some study and guidance, she had come to learn something precious as it pertained to wizards, my kind. I learned this: As soon as we die, or our Fey souls depart from our mortal body, we are taken home to Elohim. We are returned to a higher world, known as the Fey Realm, where we are given peace from our mortal cares, sorrows, and troubles—where we rest with our ancestors and watch, with great hope, our descendants on this Mortal Realm. Our experiences and learnings come with us and we build upon them little by little, spell by spell to eventually become Cherubs and even Dragons ourselves. So, shall be a wizard’s inheritance if we are true to our bloodline’s spells.
“Did that answer your question, Azriel?” Abiathar smiled a little as he watched the prince sit there for a long moment with his eyebrows drawn together.
“So,” Azriel began slowly, “Abram can still use his fire magic?”
“Yes.” Leena adjusted her position on the bed. “All we learn here will always stay with us.” She picked up a surviving bread crumb and placed it in her mouth.
Sarai twirled her long, dark brown hair around a finger slowly. “If we’re in the Mortal Realm,” she paused to get a confirming nod from her brother, “and the Fey Realm is higher, where is it?”
“It’s above the clouds.” Eliora nodded sharply, the matter solved. Abiathar nodded slowly to that. His eyebrows drew together and he tilted his head. Jerusha chuckled as Sarai looked between her niece and her brother, her forehead scrunched.
Azriel nodded sagely as he sat properly again. “Do our ancestors watch us from the clouds?”
Abiathar shrugged. “The holy books don’t elaborate much on how our ancestors watch us, but we know they do. And we have many, many ancestors that are concerned about us. So many in fact, that sometimes when I walk outside at night, I like to think of the stars as my ancestors and I’ll talk to them.” Abiathar chuckled to himself. His wife’s eyebrow shot up. He shrugged again. “On the rare occasion.”
The two didn’t notice Azriel mouth to himself ‘stars are ancestors.’ Jerusha paused her swaying. Should she correct the misconception? The little boy’s eyes brightened as he turned toward one of the home’s small windows through which dusk could be seen to be settling in. No, that boy needed as much hope and goodness as he could get. He would learn the truth as he got older.
Jerusha returned the now quiet baby to the bassinet. The liquid within the pot on the hearth languidly produced thick bubbles that popped dramatically. She declared the soup done.
Upon the declaration, Abiathar asked everyone to form a circle and hold hands. “Who was the first to sit before we read from the holy books?” Eliora, Azriel, and the three triples raised their hands.
“It was Burhan.” Leena turned a stern eye on the others. “Remember, we do not lie. It is unkind.”
“But I thought I was first.” Little Kish, who was on his knees, slid his feet apart and let his bum fall to the floor.
“You’ll pray next time, Kish.” Abiathar turned to Shiblon who was holding his right hand. “Shiblon, will you help Burhan with the prayer?”
The boy scrambled to his feet. “Yes, Father!” The circle shifted to close the gap where Shiblon had been and to make space next to Burhan. “Bow your head, Burhan.” Shibon bowed his head though he watched to make sure his little brother did as he asked. The others in the circle also bowed their heads. “Dear El-”
“I know what to say.” Burhan glared at his brother. His scrunched eyebrows contrasted his lighter skin, which was lighter than all his other siblings.
“Oh, yeah? Then say it.” Shiblon tilted his head back and forth with each word.
“Shiblon. Burhan.” Abiathar, his head bowed slightly, looked up at the boys. His forehead wrinkled as his eyebrows pushed upward. “Be kind to each other.” The two boys hung their heads. “Keep helping him, Shiblon.”
“Do you need help starting?” Shibon asked? Burhan nodded. “Say this first, Dear Elohim.”
“Dear Elohim.” The little boy peaked up at his brother. Shiblon smiled and nodded.
“Say what you’re thankful for,” Shiblon encouraged. Burhan nodded and bowed his head further, his eyes screwed shut. The next words to come from his mouth were produced in a barely audible mutter. Shiblon stared. Then, looking between his parents, who both nodded their encouragement, he leaned closer to his brother. “Talk louder, Burhan.” The little boy’s voice raised a little.
“We are thankful that Mommy and the babies are okay. Thankful that Sarai played with me. Thankful, um,” he scooted closer to Shiblon, “what should I say?”
“We thank thee that Father came home safely.”
“Thankful that Father is home safe.”
“We thank thee for this meal that Auntie Jerusha made.”
“Thankful for soup by Auntie Jerusha.”
“Now, ask for things.”
Burhan nodded and concentrated for a moment. “We ask that the food will be good and that we’ll have fun playing. Also, ask that Mommy will get full. Amen!”
“Amen.” The room chorused. Leena’s cheeks were flushed. Her husband winked at her as he chuckled.
“That was a wonderful prayer, Burhan.” Abiathar stood. “And thank you for helping him, Shiblon.” Both of the boys puffed out their chests.
Jerusha left the room to fetch bowls. When she returned, Abiathar had become the children’s favorite toy. Even Azriel joined in. Jerusha and Leena let them play while the latter inhaled three bowls of soup. When Abiathar and the children finally ate, Eliora shared her story with her father, and many more besides.