*The evening mist gathers over the lake, the cold lake, over Sovvengard. It twists and curls like a serpent, like paper burning, like the long hair of the drowned. The smoke from the torches twines with the mist, braiding, merging with the silence.
Drums beat. Once. Half-trunks with painted mammoth hide stretched across them. Old. Not as old as the lake and the marshes, but older than any living Winterfolk present.
Birds fly overhead, garrulous, swift, gone. The silence returns. The drums beat again. The water laps on the shore.
The storm crows lower the small bundles into the weirwood boat. It rests on a launching ramp. Boat, and ramp, and priests alike are marked with runes. Yoorn for ending; Gralm and Ull to mark the skein of a life; the unnamed rune between and around them. The prow of the boat is shaped for Tykonus, the banner of victory.
The bundles are small in the body of the boat.
The ceremony continues, an echo of another ceremony performed on another winter night three years ago when the last Empress was laid to rest in the lake beside her foremothers and forefathers.
Another drum beat. The torches flicker, their smoke fragrant with liao and the heady incense of the Kallavesi. The crowd watches. Thane and frayed, runesmith and mediator, united in silence and the heavy sadness of the marshes. Three people, one people, on the shores of the great lake.
The last of the light fades from the sky.
The blocks are pulled away, and the boat slides gently down the ramp. It enters the water with hardly a sound. It seems to glide through the evening mist, out into the lake. Almost immediately, it is sinking - the artfully places holes fill with cold clear water. Within minutes it is lost beneath the surface of the lake, the armour and the weapons and other accouterments returned to their rightful place, returned to their mistress.
A sigh goes up from the crowd. One by one the torches are extinguished, dropped into the lake. One by one, the people turn and begin the journey north to Rundahl.
Unobserved, on the edge of the lake, an old man in a cocks his head and listens to the silence. After a moment, his expression changes. He does not smile - even if his wizened skin allowed him such luxury it is not in his nature to smile - but there is a sense of … satisfaction. He turns, leaning on his staff, and begins to limp back into the swamp, his long feathered cloak trailing in the mud as overhead the stars begin to come out.
The regalia of Empress Britta has been sunk in the funeral lakes of Kallavesa. This has some implications for Highguard (particularly for the Guardian of Britta’s Tomb), and presents some opportunities to the folk of Wintermark. You can learn about these on the main wiki
On an unrelated note, the mana crystal degradation that was a/effecting Kallavesa has definitely ended. Huzzah!
The image is from wikicommons and apparently “By No machine-readable author provided. Tuohirulla assumed (based on copyright claims). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons”
#threeyearsinthemaking, #imstillnotsuretheyhaveherhead, #crapimnotsurewhichheadistherealone, #dontworryaboutthehornHengestitsprobablyalegacy