THE ENLIGHTENED SCRIPTURES OF ASCENDANT TIDES AND CURRENTS OF CHANGE
With a humble recognition of the terrible responsibility I have undertaken, I commit myself to the faithful fulfillment of my mission. I myself am a follower of she who insists on being called Weeping Triumph. For this reason I, Seaside Scribe, commit these words to permanence in the hopes that my honored masterâ€™s name and deeds will be remembered through the Third Age and beyond. My tools are threefold: pen, ink, and paper, in the manner I was taught to employ many years ago in the Grand Library. My sources are also threefold: my own experiences during my discipleship with Weeping Triumph, the countless crystal memories that she dutifully recorded during her many adventures, as well as a number of independent, corroborating sources.
Weeping Triumph herself, in her holy wisdom, consented to my assembling a chronological story of her life such that it could instruct, guide, and inspire all who might read it. She laid for me these rules that will guide these Scriptures:
1. No falsehood shall be recorded.
2. No lie of omission shall be committed.
3. Her failures shall receive equal treatment with her successes.
4. While I am allowed to embellish with rumor and hearsay (and my own creativity), and while I may exclude details that are irrelevant or tedious, the fundamental message must remain both clear and accurate.
5. I am never to publish these Scriptures, nor allow them to be read by any other until after the death of Weeping Triumph (may that not be for another five Ages).
With these guidelines, I am prepared to begin my holy pilgrimage across time and distance to events that will doubtless seem far removed and incomprehensible to modern readers, whenever it is that readers shall receive these Enlightened Scriptures. Nonetheless, these words must be written before the tides of history erase the footprints left by her Reverence, the Reborn Immaculate Dragon, she who insists that she be addressed by, and forever known as, â€œWeeping Triumph.â€
In hindsight, it was most auspicious that Weeping Triumph was born in the month of Ascending Water, by the calendar of that era. According to records, that winter was one of the harshest in memory. Travel was so hazardous that even the great Imperial City was shut down, at the time Weeping Triumph was born. At her birth, Weeping Triumph was not, of course, known by that title. She would not earn it until several decades later.
Weeping Triumph was born Sesus Alon Sekli, fifth child of the woman Sesus Alon. Sekliâ€™s motherâ€™s political aspirations had yet to blossom at that time, in Realm Year 705. Alon was reported to have described Sekli as â€˜unremarkableâ€™ according to Sekliâ€™s wet nurse, who took the infant under her care shortly after the delivery. This was significant because Alonâ€™s previous four children grew to adulthood without drawing the Second Breath. Children who remained mortal were not much valued according to the custom of that day. Without much promise for Exaltation, Sekli would have little contact with her mother during her childhood. Nonetheless, Alonâ€™s influence would yet remain a powerful force over Sekli in those early years.
At that time, Sekli had no father. Alon had recently divorced due to the poor breeding of her mortal husband. His name has been lost to time but it matters little because, although it was assumed at the time that he was the father, Sekliâ€™s true inheritance was later discovered to be of much greater significance. Fortunately, the rearing customs of the Dynasts of that era would not cause Sekli to suffer without parenting, and indeed the two parents that most Dynasts had were only trivially involved in their childrenâ€™s day-to-day experiences.
The Sesus household in which Sekli was raised placed Alon at its head, in the matrilineal tradition that persists to this day. She had recently been granted the distinction of forming her own significant household within the Great House of Sesus owing to Alonâ€™s distinguished military campaigns. To fulfill her great desire for political power, the woman set about shaping her domestic life properly. Getting remarried was an important aspect of this, resulting in a string of suitors who were introduced at frequent family dinners. This went on for years even after Sekli had left for schooling.
During those first ten years, Sekli was the littlest child with four elder brothers and sisters. Because these siblings were mortal, they would never grant Alonâ€™s household much distinction or power. Indeed, with the relatively short lifespan of mortals, Sekli would grow up the youngest child, but would always be considered the eldest child in later centuries. A smattering of cousins recently graduated from secondary school stayed in the house during Sekliâ€™s early days. Dozens of staff, including Alonâ€™s mortal siblings and cousins, rounded out the population of Alonâ€™s house. Sekliâ€™s mother disproved of slavery, so she obtained a First Age automaton whose domestic abilities and tireless efforts eliminated the daily drudgery of feeding, cleaning, and managing a household of dozens of wealthy, demanding Dynasts.
A few glimpses into Sekliâ€™s first years were provided by the mediocre journaling of Sekliâ€™s wet nurse, a woman of House Sesus called Reyene. Reyene was a mortal cousin of Alon noted for her exuberance, fertility, and passionate loyalty for her house, according to House Sesus records. She was a young woman with her own infant when she nursed Sekli. She delighted in the rearing of Sekli, as this was the first important task given to her by her family.
Reyene often remarked in her journals about Sekliâ€™s propensity for games and other exciting activities. However, whenever the fun escalated to its heights, Sekli would inevitably cry until soothed and laid down for a nap. Reyene found it easy to please the infant, but difficult to manage her mercurial moods. Sekli often played with Reyeneâ€™s own child, whose name is lost to history.
Reyene affectionately described Sekliâ€™s string of â€˜firstsâ€™: first steps, first solid foods, and so on. It is clear that Sekli was shown warmth and attention from these gushing accounts.
Sekliâ€™s earliest memories were of feeling great fear. At night, when she was trying to go to sleep, she imagined monsters were watching her and waiting for her to close her eyes so they could get her. For a long time, she tried to sleep with her eyes open, but all that resulted was that she missed many nights of sleep. Eventually, when Sekliâ€™s tiredness became embarrassing at family meals, her aunt interfered. The authoritative woman sat Sekli down and had a talk with the young Dynast.
â€œAlright, why can you not sleep?â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry, Aunt. I donâ€™t want to cause trouble.â€
â€œBut you have, child. Tonight when your head bowed, your hair fell into your soup. Cynis Tytok noticed. You have greatly shamed your House. You must never draw attention to yourself, child. Your place is to be silent until addressed, and only then may you speak, using the fewest words necessary.â€
â€œI know, I know!â€ sighed Sekli
â€œAnd never talk back to your elders. Respond respectfully!â€
â€œYes, Aunt. Thank you for your guidance,â€ said Sekli, bowing.
â€œVery good. Now, why can you not sleep?â€
Sekli muttered something.
â€œSpeak up, child, or people will think badly of House Sesus for not teaching its children proper elocution!â€
â€œItâ€™s the monsters, Aunt. Iâ€™m scared of them.â€
In other times and places, adults reassure children and tell them there is nothing to fear. In the Realm of that era, things were different.
â€œAh yes, the monsters,â€ mused Sekliâ€™s aunt. She rose stiffly and paced around the room while she spoke. With delight and severity, she said, â€œYou should be scared of the monsters, Sekli.
â€œThe Realm is besieged by the monsters of the world. They are all trying to tear down what the Empress and the Dragon-Blooded have built. They will stop at nothing to destroy us, even eating up small little girls like you.â€
Sekli gasped and paled. Her aunt frowned with disapproval at the interruption, but continued, â€œJust as scared as you should be of the monsters, you should feel grateful for, and awed by the Dragon-Blooded. Only their holy power keeps us safe. By their enlightened and just rule, the Realm is upheld and little girls like you can survive long enough to grow up. As long as you are respectful and pray to the Immaculate Dragons, they will keep you safe.â€
â€œBut what about the monsters, Aunt? Can the Dragon-Blooded make them go away?â€
â€œThere are always monsters, Sekli. There always will be. All around us. Be virtuous, do what your mother commands, respect the Dragons, and the Dragon-Blooded will protect you.â€
This did little to ameliorate Sekliâ€™s fears, but it did instill in her a fervent desire to do all that was asked of her. She ate all her vegetables, played the games she was told to play, practiced her social wiles on her cousins, spoke to adults only when addressed, and even went to bed on time (even if she could not always sleep). Whenever she imagined that the monsters were lurking nearby, she shut her eyes tightly and prayed to the Immaculate Dragons to keep her safe and to gobble up all the monsters.
In time, these fears might have receded, except for an occurrence just a year later. Such incidents, like many historical events, are so engrossing that they draw everyoneâ€™s attention at the time, but are rarely mentioned in records alongside the larger movements of history. It was called the Night of Vanished Screams, when a number of summoned demons were all loosed upon the Imperial Palace. It was a rare event in which a particular breed of First Circle Demon could not be controlled due to some occult celestial conjunction, the pollen of a particular blossoming flower intermingled with a common incense, or some other unknown excuse. The sorcerers never explained it, nor did they particularly apologize. Regardless of the reason, on this night, the demons of that breed rioted across the city. They killed anyone and everyone who seemed unimportant enough so as not to be destroyed in vengeance after their rampage.
Sekli was returning to her motherâ€™s household in the Imperial Palace with a mortal cousin when one of these demons attacked them. These hideous creatures appear as vicious rat-like monstrosities as large as hunting cats, but with two tentacle proboscises that it uses to suck the bones out of its victims before swallowing them whole. This is exactly what Sekli saw happen to her cousin, Sesus Gevla. The demon fell upon them immediately after materializing. Sekli tried to run, but her old fear of the monsters froze her in place.
â€œI appreciate your patience, little one. Iâ€™ll be with you shortly,â€ the rat-face spoke in heavily accented High Realm. Its mouth was still free to speak even though its tentacles throbbed and pulsed with the marrow sucked from Gevlaâ€™s ribcage.
â€œNo! Stay away,â€ trembled Sekli. She began whispering all the prayers to the Immaculate Dragons that she could remember. She prayed for Gevla, who twitched and weakly struggled under the monsterâ€™s immense weight.
â€œI wish I could leave you alive, Begotten of the Dragons, but because of your slowness to flee, I have already smelled your insides and have found them so much to my liking that I cannot refuse to taste of them. My deepest apologies, little one,â€ grumbled the demon as it laughed in a gravely voice.
â€œMay the five, who are of one, defend my soul!â€ she whimpered.
â€œYour false gods cannot save you, little one,â€ chuckled the gichjazya demon. Gevlaâ€™s arms were no longer completely solid as the bones had liquefied, causing her limbs to flop uselessly against the ground.
â€œNo!â€ screamed the four year-old Sekli as she scrambled away. Even though she was trying to escape, having her back to the monster only magnified her terror. All she could force from her limbs was a shaky crawl on her hands and knees. She sobbed and choked at each gruesome noise she heard behind her.
Every moment, she expected to feel the creatureâ€™s disgusting tendrils on her. She flinched every time her clothing shifted on her back.
Then, suddenly, she felt a slimy sensation crawling down her spine. Before she could shriek, her face was pushed into the stone of the pathway. She then found herself lifted up by the tentacle, and turned in the air to face the creatureâ€™s glowing crimson eyes. It grinned at her. She found she could no longer even breathe.
In a blink, the tentacle was severed and so was the demonâ€™s head. She fell to the ground, still unable to breathe. The monsterâ€™s lumbering body laid down and its arms folded as though it would rest, but the shining blue-jade chakram embedded into the courtyard was evidence that the demon was truly dead. A flicker out of the corner of her eye caused Sekli to shift her gaze to a rooftop. There, a glowing blue monk smiled.
â€œItâ€™s alright now, little one. Stay with your friend and Iâ€™ll return as soon as I can.â€ Then she was gone, vanished.
Sekli promptly blacked out, either from fright or lack of air.
When she came to, she was still lying on the street next to the beheaded demon. She was already crying when she went over to her cousin Gevla. Everything below the womanâ€™s waist was gone. Everything above was lumpy flesh, barely recognizable as human, looking poorly formed, like a deflated balloon-person. Sekli clutched at Gevlaâ€™s hand, but the skin was too rubbery and cold.
So, Sekli sat by the corpse until dawn came and she was found by patrolling guards.
When Sekli was brought home, she was feverish. Reyene extracted the portion of the demonâ€™s tentacle that had remained in the girlâ€™s back after it had been severed. The young Dynast was put to bed and told to rest quietly.
But Sekli was not able to rest quietly. When she wasnâ€™t moaning in pain, she was waking up screaming from the terrible dreams. It woke the entire house several times every night. When someone came by to talk to her or comfort her, she ended up sobbing loudly, and pleading to see her mother.
As ill as she was, and as young as she was, she might have been accommodated in another place, or in another family. But Alon was displeased by her daughterâ€™s disrespect and lack of courage. She would not come. Alon was so outraged by Sekliâ€™s behavior that she insisted that no one send for a healer unless Sekli composed herself for one whole day.
Sekli only cried harder when she heard her motherâ€™s ultimatum. At first the young girl tried to enlist her siblings and cousins to talk to Alon, but they were unable to change the matronâ€™s mind. Next, Sekli tried to convince the servants to fetch the healer, but they would not risk the wrath of her Fire-Aspected mother. She even begged for them to bring her some simple remedies, but they had no money to purchase such things without Alonâ€™s approval.
After several days, Sekli gave up trying to play the manipulative games that she had observed in her young family members. She realized that her politically-minded mother would never be fooled by her youthful wiles. Sekli relented, and tried her best to keep as still and quiet as possible, despite the discomfort she felt.
She truly tried her best, as best as a four year-old could manage. But every night, when she dreamt of the demonâ€™s attack, she could not help waking up crying. Once, she tried to plug her mouth with a soft cloth, but she just dreamed that the tentacle was going down inside of her, and again her sputtering yelps awoke the house. Two weeks later, the healer had still not been summoned. By then Sekli was burning up with the Malfeanâ€™s poisons.
Eventually, Reyene could no longer tolerate her beloved nieceâ€™s misery and sent for the healer without Alonâ€™s approval. When the Wood-Aspect arrived, his Charm relieved Sekliâ€™s fever after just a few minutes. Soothed, she fell into a deep sleep for days.
When Sekli awoke, she discovered that Alon had sent Reyene away, and that Sekli would never again see the woman who had been like a mother to her. All because Sekli had been punished for something that had not even been her fault.
This was the first great lesson that Sekli learned: that even the mighty Dragon-Blooded could not always save little girls like her from the monsters. And they would choose whom they would save, and when. And furthermore, being a good little girl, praying to the Dragons, and doing the very best that she could were simply not enough to survive. To survive, she would have to be able to depend upon herself, especially when others did not have her best interests at heart.
Petulant and disturbed, Sekli vowed never to cry again. Ever. If tears were not capable of warming her fiery motherâ€™s cold heart, then Sekli would never have them. The only people who were moved by tears were weak, and pity just got one into trouble. Sekliâ€™s promise to herself was one that she kept for a long, long time.
There was an enduring consequence to Sekliâ€™s prolonged fever. Her health had been adversely affected, and she became weak and sickly compared to her peers. Whenever exercising, she was always the first to lose her breath, and the first to tire. Furthermore, the heat of the illness had burned her insides, rendering her infertile. This was a great disappointment to Alon because it rendered Sekli unmarriageable. Sekliâ€™s mother impressed upon her the importance of keeping this fact secret. Afraid of her mother, whose wrath had been demonstrated, Sekli was determined to obey her mother and House Sesus as much as she could, while all the time remembering that she could never trust them completely. She could only depend on herself.
Unbeknownst to Sekli, her mother knew her mind and was pleased. Should Sekli ever Exalt, this was an important lesson for a Dragon-Blooded should learn.
â€œPower is the ultimate authority, and violence is the ultimate means to take and keep that authority.â€
--The Autumn Ruin, explaining her (perhaps narrow) personal philosophy
"Demons eat little girls-- even when they are hiding from the monsters. So, you might as well look them in the eye, because at least that way you can save your soul."
--Sesus Alon Sekli, aka Weeping Triumph