The kingdom of Eternity neared a renaissance. This was a land where magics thrived. Those of magic were known as Jahem; people who could harness the powers of the land and wield it for their own will. Man, who was greater in number, lead by their construction of townships and infrastructure. Their way of organizing far exceeded the Jahem practice of cultural mainstay. These two people cohabited reasonably well for more years than either people could recall. Yet they were different in many respects, each fighting to maintain their way of life, and not wishing to have either side dominate in a way that infringed that respect. Tales of the past spoke of one race. A people who shared the judgment of the humans with the magic of the Jahem. Such tales were now told only to children, as both races seemed intent on keeping their ways separate.
The Jahem believed they followed the stars. That light guided their doctrine. Prophecy was written above, and sent down to the land and woven into each tree and plant and grass. The secrets that all life was given were the rules that governed their ways of life. Those Jahem who could decipher these secrets, and manifest those qualities at will were the keepers. Keepers of the magics and their ilk were elevated to the heights of Jahem society.
Within this creed, there rested an understanding of ways. The Jahem bore their beliefs into facets, nine in total, and it was a philosophy to understand and absorb each facet and all laws, traditions, and stipulations they entailed. It was keeper of magic made it their quest in life to obtain this knowledge, to grow closer to the stars with their magics, and to take these teachings and contribute to their people’s understanding of their world and beyond.
There was an authority among them. A council in most regard, known as the Elders. Five keepers of magic who commanded the future of the Jahem people were sentries of their ways and traditions. These Jahem were the most powerful of all, making sure the amassed magics were kept safe and used for the good of their kind.
Though the Jahem were one under the magics, they were fractioned under culture. There were a total of nine major Jahem villages; each founded by the folklore of a joined history. These villages all had different cultures; each mirroring a facet of Jahem belief, each with their own dialect and rules. Each village delegated themselves as they pleased. It was on the command of the Elders, when and if that decree came about, that they joined under blood for whatever the keepers decided.
This way of life had been successful for the small Jahem populace until a century ago. There were nine villages now there are eight. The village of Tear Moon was slaughtered in one night by a neighboring human village to the south of Eternity’s main provence. To this day no motive has been discovered.
The Jahem are a svelte people. Their men, Hann, are tall and lean. Their chins are long, and their cheekbones high. Most have almond shaped eyes and all have ears crecent like the moon. Jahem women, Nonn, are wide eyes creatures, with arched brows and curly or wavy hair. Although human coloring varied the warmth of the earth, Jahem coloring was organically monotone. The hues of eyes, hair and skin matched with ridged variety. The only distinctive markings on their bodies were spots; pigments of on their skin that looked like the dried cracks of the desert floor. Like freckles on human skin, their individuality was striking.
Altho hypocritical of each people wishing to maintain their individuality, the denseness and longevity of the people living together did yield children from human and Jahem parents. These unions resulted in Ki-Ohg, or Star Watchers, and their appearance vastly differed from either race. Humans varied the colors of the earth, and Jahem their monotone, star watchers bore the most vibrant colorings; forrest green hair, ocean blue eyes, fire red freckles. These exotic people were a sight to behold. To view a young girl with lavender hair, orange eyes, and dark brown skin was a stunning vision, yet nither would accept them. These children were considered born of lust, ill happenings between something that should not have been. That is why they were marked to loudly by the elements of nature. To be a warning to others. Therefore they were taboo, and often abandoned by their human or Jahem parent(s) at birth.
In the past, select Jahem often were contracted to counsel the human King. A tradition that has been in practice for over 90 generations, the Sorceress (Efayah) was a pivotal key to the Jahem’s accumulation of knowledge and magic. A very special Nonn, chosen at birth, was groomed as a vessel for her people and way of life. Plucked from one of the nine villages by the Elders, this girl child was an ideal, a symbol as much as a conduit. She would be raised by the Elders and intensely taught the ideals of magic and the old ways. The magics she was trained to possess were released to her use once she was given access to the outside world. There she would absorb all she could, and return to the Elders, where they would add her studies to their pool of knowledge. This cohabitation between Jahem and human life was a practice that kept their ties to the magics strong, diverse and challenged. A practice that flourished until one century ago.
This story is not about that. It is one of love. It is the tale of a newly trained Efayah, a special keeper of magic who has come to her power after a long absence in human culture. It is when she discovers the human world through through her service to her King that she learns about true loyalty, trust and dedication.
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The Efayah had not served in the King’s court for nearly one hundred years. Yet when the new King decided to reinstate the position many in the newly joined kingdom were unsure. The Jahem Elders had actively separated their council from the human court, and for many, that arrangement was agreeable. This divide had washed over the people of Eternity creating a great rift that had become tolerated if not unjust. King Henry though it time to mend. His first step in this process was to absorb the smaller kingdom to the north, Horizon, by taking the King’s only child, Kayla as his wife. There was a great Jahem populace in that land, many who fled Eternity after Tear Moon. For sixteen years he had worked on the unification of these lands, to moderate success. Now the King sent word to the Elder council that he wished for an Efayah to aid in his ruling. When the King originally made this quiry, the young Sorceress was no older than fifteen years. She had not ripened to her craft, and the Elders were curt with their rejection to the human king. Still, King Henry asked year after year, seeking permission to have an Efayah in his court, and more than ten years later, the Elders decided to succeed to his request. The King saw this agreement as a beacon of hope to have a newly trained Efayah in his charge.
Altho not in practice in a human court, the selection of the Efayah had still continued even after the massacre at Tear Moon. The importance to their way of life was far too great, and altho the last few Efayha’s were never unlocked of their grifts, their presence was greatly valued by the Jahem people. The Elders made certain of that.
The Elders resided in castle carved into a mountain side near the west of the kingdom. It was as old as the mountain itself. It was a school for those who showed talents with the magics. A place that spawned diplomats, officials, and leaders of their people. The prestige of the Elders castle (Nious) saturated the Jahem populace. It was a holy place and was protected as such.
Today was a special day, as one young woman was to discover.
“The Efayah,” an Elder spoke, “will come forward.” A slender young woman cloaked in traditional robes of tan and red stitching stepped across the marbled floor of the wide and darkened hall to five throned leaders that sat high above. She remained hooded, as was the expectation of such a meeting. The Efayah knelt down within arm’s reach from the steps of the Elder’s balcony. Swirling lights that hovered in lanterns pulsed above them showing the dust in the air.
“Efayah Ra-ain,” an Elder’s voice echoed, “tell me of your creed.”
“To serve my people by summoning magics of new and dynamic sources.” Her reply was almost soldier like in tone.
“And how will you do this?” another asked.
“I will champion the land and lear its offerings.”
“The time has come for you to take your position as a messenger of magic in the royal court.” The Efayah looked up, for the Elder was speaking the human’s language. It was a bit startling, she had not been practicing as much as she should have.
“The royal court?”
“The King,” another Elder began, “has shown great interest in having you in his charge. We have been reluctant to grant his request, as I am sure you understand. Yet our magics have stilled, and you are untapped. So we have granted his request for you.” The Efayah paused. Should she reply in the human language or her own? Did they seek a reply from her? Were they waiting?
“I see...” She said in the human voice. “What is it you wish of me?” She asked in her native tongue.
“We have taught you all we can,” another Elder spoke.
“It is time for you.”
“To serve your duty.”
“I understand,” the girl replied. Her softly pointed chin peeked from beneath her hood.
“The King’s guards will arrive tomorrow. It is the next day that you will depart and become a member in the court.” The girl looked up and through a sheer veil of crimson, her face was exposed. Calling her a girl is a bit understated. She was a woman by her mature yet youthful features. It was the gaze in her eyes of a lack in experience that made her seem so young.
“Your handmaid will attend you until then.” Efayah stood and bowed to the Elders. “So starts your journey, Efayah Ra-ain. You are now cordoned until Cler-Jen. Do you understand?” Had it happened? Had it begun. Now it would start. She had not said her good byes, or taken a last stroll with some pupils or spoken to the cook in the main kitchen on how to prepare her favorite cold grain. Yet by this decree, they would no longer be allowed to speak to her. Her breath had quickened in her clumsy pause. Ra-ain took leave after moments of silence grew uncomfortably long. She walked briskly through a corridor lit by tall windows of painted glass to where her handmaid, Leepa was waiting.
“So soon, Ra-ain?” Leepa asked. It was improper for a servant to speak to an official in such informal tone. Leepa knew this, buy Ra-ain never thought to correct her. She was a fiery girl, gifted in magics as well, only far too emotional to truly discipline herself. In Ra-ain’s chambers they chatted as they had done when they were girls in class. She and Leepa grew up in this castle, the sister neither ever had.
Ra-ain paced around the room, removing her cloak, shaking with nervous energy. Ra-ain flicked her thumb and forefinger together casting off excess magical energy into the air. It always gave the air a static charge that made her hair stand from time to time. Leepa was always irritated by her habit, but never told her. “Tomorrow, I can not believe so soon!” Leepa thundered.
“Nor I.” She paused by the door and held herself about the shoulders. She grew cold just then, more from the fear of what she did not know than the temperature. Ra-ain was embarrassed to say what she did, but Leepa would be the only one allowed to reply to her. “I have never met or seen a human...” She dropped her arms to her side, flicking her fingers all around. Leepa stood form the foot of her lady’s bed and approached her.
“You follow your training.” Leepa took her mistress’ hand. “That is what you do. I believe you should now speak only in human tongue. It will be better for your practice. Learn the nuances of what they say. Most of what they speak contains double meaning. Keep to your metier, remember who you are.” She took her lady’s face into her hands and smiled. “I look on you and I believe you are to achieve the enlightenment others before you did not.” Leepa sat beside Ra-ain at her plain vanity dotted more with potions for spells than trinkets for womanly beauty. Ra-ain glanced to her dresser, and a wood box, carved with spirals and blossoms that contained her stationary and quill. Inside the locked box, beneath a false bottom were letters. Correspondence no other at the castle had witnessed. She felt isolated keeping this information even from the Elders. Yet it was the private letters from the King that spoke of the true reason the Efayah was being summoned into service. Leepa began toying with Ra-ain’s hair, cut in the traditional style of Keepers of Magic.
“There are other ways in our beliefs to achieve such goals, Leepa.” She took a few long locks from the top of Ra-ain’s head and pulled them between her fingers.
“Our people need you to do this. That human King has been most persistent.” Ra-ain broke from her friend and stepped over to the window.
“Why have the Elders agreed to this now? I- I do not feel ready!”
“Seak in the human language.” Ra-ain scowled at her. “You write it better than you speak it.”
“I do not feel ready,” she replied in a slower tone. “There is so much practice I need continue. How will I aide the King in my now state?”
“The things you need to improve are minimal; human interaction, some of their customs, niceties. Trivial things.” How well Leepa knew her, she thought. Ra-ain turned and looked out the window, to the green valleys and blue forests below. How many human townships were nestled between here and the ocean in the clear distance? How many people in each one?
“I do not know their ways, not as well as I would like,” she sighed to Leepa in human tongue.
“They are different, that is true, Ra-ain. I have seen many and I have met some. They have eyes on the top of their heads!” Leepa mockingly replied. It put a smile on her mistress’ face. “You have seen paintings of the human King; they are much like us in appearance, yet they vary so much in color. I have seen them as pale as snow, and as brown as newly turned earth. The women wear their hair long, down their backs, and the men have hair all over their faces. They call it a beard.” Ra-ain turned to Leepa’s words.
“Really?” She felt foolish for being so naive.
“Humans are fascinating, still I would never marry one!” Leepa laughed. “The escorts that will greet you tomorrow, they will be guards of the King, surely they will be men. Study them, those who serve the King will give you better insight.” Ra-ain nodded. Good advice.
The land was calm and quiet from her bedroom window. The air was blue and the green was thriving. Ra-ain leaned on the black railing of her window and smelled the cool breeze. The new blossoms that were ripening in the valley below were having their sweet pollen caught on the breeze. The smells danced in and out of her breath, causing a calm and intimate moment for the Sorceress. Leepa continued to chatter as she often did. No wonder discipline never took hold of her, Ra-ain pondered, her self control was so lacking. Ra-ain turned to her friend.
“Stay with me until I fall asleep, Leppa.” The day was very early, but Ra-ain liked to nap when she felt nervous. The handmaid quieted her sentence and nodded. They climbed into bed as toddler sisters would and fell asleep in each other’s embrace.