Names of the Mother Cyrod
During the several interregnums and religious conflicts of the First Empire, many valuable historical texts were lost, either burnt as heretical or simply forgotten in the more pressing issues of the day. One of the most tragic losses was the burning of the Canon Marukhat in 1E 1070, which is understood to have been the most complete compilation of texts describing the Alessian Rebellion. Though many valuable texts survive, such as the Song of Pelinal, the Adabal-a, and the Trials of Alessia, much has never been recovered.
In our examination of the scrolls found in the monastery at the ruins of Bed-Geron, we came upon what we believe to be a very valuable discovery. We have translated several complete fragments of what we believe to be the liturgical text Saint Orsede called Maunr ovn Ulmscyrod, or Names of the Mother Cyrod. It depicts the scenes in her life when Alessia the Paravant received each of her several names, and it should prove to be of immense and incalculable value to scholars of the Alessian Rebellion.
It is evident from the manuscript that this text has been edited significantly over the course of history. The account is contemporary with Alessia herself, yet the work does not appear to be entirely original. As with most texts of the era, it was written anonymously, and the only indication of any authorship comes from a signatory symbol denoting the identity of the artisan who created the illumination on the page. The glyph, a corruption of a sigil popular in the third century after the revolution, links the document to a spiritual fellowship of Colovian scribe monks who did biographical work known mostly for their tendencies toward Shezarrhic syncretism.
The Chim-el Adabal showed her the facets of things, and in its gem she grew calm. In those dying moments all things were made clear– her names and the deeds that birthed them stood on display, clad only in the clarity of grace. Her life was less and less her own with each passing moment, as the newborn of Cyrod stilled their wails to learn her many names. Her story followed the natural course of the Aurbis, splintering and sharing with all. It was a gift to the people of the Dragon that was regiven each time they made it their own and added a name to her moth-silk, each time a Nede turned praising eyes to Kyne's north and named himself a symbolic son of the Elder Wood. Gift-giving moments need no one to sing them, for they glow like stars in the constellation-scattered timeliness of man.
Sard lay thus: an incomplete quadrangle of snowy ramparts, half buried in the fertile riverside of the Niben. With its stone arms it cradled an inlet of clear water in a way that effeminate men would find romantic in better times, but in those days it was a place of bone-white horror. Sard was an enclosure, the greatest pen of southern Rumare. The Keptu, who were allowed to remain free because they ate the dead, called it Chattel-Maw, after the unwashed herds that stumbled wailing into its depths. There they were kept in a partitioned plane of stone that glowed in ways hostile to men, while the Ayleids walked on trapped gangways above, opening and closing the iron sluice gates between the huge cells until all the tribes were sorted. A masterful mind for puzzles was behind it all, as no normal mer could manipulate such a tide of humanity.
She was Perrif in this time, which meant 'girl' in the language of one tribe or another, and Girl was the only name she had in any language. In the pens, in underground thickets of feet ceaselessly scrambling and slipping on slick rock, there was no time and no self, only the snaps and screams that echoed from the halls around, or the arrows that hissed downward when the delirious drew too close to the stairs leading up to the guards who feared lunacy but never resistance. Even in the cells where three hundred souls were made suddenly to be quiet and quell their moaning as they were cauterized by the Welkynds one by one until all grew silent, even there, Perrif could not find her senses in the tumult.
Memory returned with Cyrod itself. She was alone, kneeling in the wetness of the jungle outside and waiting for work on the plantation to resume, when one day she found a grove like an island, surrounded by the fields but forest entirely. The others feared any place but the field and the pen, places they ruled completely while the guards walked above on platforms and walls. They feared the darkness of the canopy and trembled at the stories of the creatures that dwelt there. Perrif's sharp ears had pilfered the words of a prayer to Kynereth from the lips of a sentry, and for everything she knew of the goddess she knew the less of dread. She had a sanctuary now, where not even the virile young men followed her. It was not worth the risk to them, for she was not considered desirable. Although the Al-Esh is beautiful in all her names and tales, so many years of right-thinking had been imposed on the slaves that they recoiled from white skin and dark hair.
So she had her solitude, and balanced priestly on the yielding soil wet with droplets from the rain she loved for its mother, chanting prayers. Through many months she never found death at the hands of man or mer or pestilence, or from the chance swing of a scythe. She spoke to the goddess whose only form was in the misheard words of a single prayer and in the rain that tumbled ceaselessly from the sky. Puddles formed around her feet, so that she spoke now not to the heavens, but to the reflection beneath her. It became more difficult to return from the sanctuary with each passing day, even with obedience ingrained in her shallow mind with the finest etchings of cruelty. She began to speak with lips of inspiration, and on the day she named Shezzar, the spirit of his consort burned brightly in her breast and for the first time Perrif knew her own grace. A big-leafed fern to her right rustled suddenly and she turned her fair head. Something had fallen from the overcast sky, leaving a smear of red light in the rain as a comet-trail. The trembling of her fingers did nothing to slow their search. She reached into a shadowy lattice of mossy roots and moth grubs to pull forth a crimson light. It was a shape she had never seen before, faces and faces within those faces like the eyes of an insect that droned, bird-sized through the fields to torment the workers. Each one was reflecting and aflame. It disappeared into her smock, never to be seen again by any but the first victim of the rebellion, and thereafter the tales never could remember if it was the Chim-el Adabal or not.
Quiet, said the hoplite, or they'll hear you.
But there's no one there, said his companion, who was a hoplite too but not called such. He was a grain porter with a spear and a Keptu face, speaking only in that tongue but answered in the master-speech by his comrade, who knew both. No one there to hear. If it was a hunter from Sard they would have had us dead now, or flying back, tied on their hollow-poles for tiger bait.
They squatted in the swamp, surrounded by a bed of slippery sedge so thick that it looked to transfix them with a thousand green spears. The sky had not changed all season, staying as steely roiling vapors that adorned the tops of the jungle trees like an audience. The water, or rather the carpet of lily pads, had risen to choke the forest and eat at the marrow of the wood, laying bare the skeleton roots that were good to sleep in when they had formed hollows. So it was a big sky– the upper stories of green had fallen to the earth to form blockages where silt caught and formed new land in the swamp. The rebels' camp was made there, a place of concealment and smallness. Moth wings fluttered to stifle the sounds of preparations, and Kyne's sky hid their fires.
Maybe it's the other slaves, caught in the bog. We could use more women. As the rebels crouched, Nibenay's water stained their ankles green.
We could, though we have one already.
Is it true then, Nede? Is she the mother of this new nation? Mother Cyrod?
That's what she calls herself, though your Keptu tongue says it ill. I think she may claim these things without reproach. She has certainty because of the people she talks to.
Gods slap my brow, croaked the Keptu, looking through the vines. It's the Insurgent.
He comes. Mor will be close behind. Let us run.
They call him that now, did you know? The Insurgent.
And no wonder. The flies smell the blood. Never mind the tick! Hurry, the Mother waits.
So you do believe it. Dibe-Mara-Kin!
Clad in new clothes and expectant, Perrif smiled at the approach of Whitestrake, whose face was strong and fey like (she thought) an elder elf. There was none of the gem in him now, no signs that might unease the rebels, but that would change before he removed his gauntlet, or the fish-scale stars of his breast. Mor did come behind, with eyes that made Perrif less a mother than a maid. She shook it off and directed her gaze skyward, already seeing the smoke that would engulf Sard's hidden horizon by tomorrow.
Vahtache was incorruptible– even the slaves knew this. Its masters built to last, dismantling the city above and retreating to their fastness beneath the Niben, thinking to outlast the rebellion by fortitude and Welkynd light. Their answer to Shezarr's wildness was to stand firm as a turtle in its shell, answering freedom with constriction in an accordingly greater degree. The thralls of the below-ground places aided in this effort willingly, for after generations of tending the dark beneath and the lonely gardens above, they feared what came from without. When they called Vahtache incorruptible they named it with pride, as dogs and stallions compete with their fellows, full of loyalty to their masters.
But in those days the newborn man was potency won flesh, striving under Ald Cyrod's trees with energy that eclipsed that of their pale-haired cousins from the sea. With White-Gold, the seat of Power itself, soon to be overridden, nothing could be certain. Vahtache's future sank like a westering sun when men from outside gave it a new name, one better suited to the tongue-forms of all tribes. Known to the rebellion, the fastness was under siege. Vahtacen was the appellation of doom.
It is said soon after that fate chose to taunt White-Gold, its lofty victim, by making the heavenly wheel a mockery. The pogroms drew a ring of blood around the Rumare, mimicking and eclipsing the circuit of Ayleid stone at its heart. In earlier days, when the circle still steered a northerly course of violence and its completion was in question, Vahtache found Shezzar. Periff's outrunners (Kothri who walked the jungle like Y'ffre in a flooding stream and were the first heralds of rebellion) were still some leagues to the south. The host lagged farther still, entangled in a thicket, cowering beneath hide shields from cascades of spitting shafts while Pelinal's banner made a furious path through the understory to meet them. Despite the reverses, tidings were borne deep beneath the earth on the moth wings of hopeful whispers. It began in twelve rows of iron cages that swayed on their moorings in the shadowy roof. The unruly men dwelt there, slowly starving. In the turbulent times the jailers had neglected to divide the tribes, and three score raiders of 'Kreath swung together above the the stone flags. Of their number, three had lain dormant, clubbed to senselessness when they were taken, and those three now awoke. The snatchers had been a heedless band, all kin, who had taken to the trees like Wild Elves, abandoning Imperium Saliache ere it was lost and making strife into profit. They had collected the bounties in silence, not caring to explain that three had been subdued for a reason, not caring to explain that they had removed the gags after delivery, for the gags belonged to them. Now in the cages, voices of the north gave wings to the very stone, and Thu'um brought every cage of Vahtache crashing down.
When Perrif's banner men arrived the next day, the prisoners were amok in the bowels of the Niben bank. Ayleid resistance had rotted away to bloody ruin from within, and the men were stacking vast stones and untold rubble in heaps, building ramps to climb out of pit-cells and blocking portals. They were battering through miles of traps, burying their sinister workings with earth and desperation until the passages ran with more blood. At the gates they were finally spent, for the fastness was sealed with great bobbing capsule-towers of welkynd-magic that devoured secrets in their unlocking. Knowing this, Pelinal became a thing of light, all rays reflecting upon themselves, or maybe just his fist, and shattered eight of nine gates. Every breach was flashing a beacon seen from Snow-Throat, where Skyrim was marching.
Mother Cyrod, wheeling above on Morihaus' holy back, alighted as her newest sons emerged on the riverbank like floodwaters. They bore the mangled forms of the Tongues, with coffin-hands of loud praise, and the Breath-of-Kyne snorted, his hair standing as erect as the bristles of his feathers. The first to see her land from the treetops was delirious and uttered, Al-Esh! To wit: Highness from on high.
The earth crackled where the Whitestrake's spittle struck it. Nary three drops there were, but the Jeralls did not drink it willingly, for the stuff of the Shezarrine was noisome hate itself. The mountains drank the blood instead. There was a bay of it, like the Niben, a gaping hole in Cyrod's empire, draining it of the strength to do evil.
The feather-folk of the northern ranges had come from every fastness, hidden or open, to sword-strive on the cliff-banks of this furious stream in the mountains, and now the plumage of fourteen Ayleid tribes adorned the dead. Pelinal had held the crossing, standing athwart the torrent and killing in ways that no one cares to remember. Victory had been a matter of ceasing to flee, for the outsized band of Nedic foragers at his side had found the courage to take after their leader, and he was war incarnate. Al-Esh and the rebels arrived first, then Falkreath reached the crossing and both armies witnessed the spear-pinioned desolation of the pine barrens. The pogrom was complete, and Whitestrake stood upon the bridge.
It was not the Shezarrine that the Nords at Heldon Bridge named Pelinal, for that title came later, when other names seemed old and smacked of folklore. Instead the host of the North invoked deference to Shor, and rattled their spears up and down their teeth-marked shield edges, making the sound of marching feet. Despite the smoke and tumult, Al-Esh now saw the fate of Plotinu in the Insurgent's eyes and once more labored to save her rebellion, slipping and sliding down the blood-slick planks of the span to calm him. Seeing the two southerners thus paired, red white ruin and live brown beauty against a clear horizon, the Clever Man in the ranks probed the foreign tongue of Cyrod in his mind and emerged with an adoption that sounded out well in his Thu'um-deafened ears. Aless. Aless the Al-Esh, who would be known by the mixed-blood of human realms thereafter as Alessia– the Slave Queen.
They called her Paravant as she sat on a throne cinder-stripped of its varliance, chin held high to regard her conquest, a Tower of White-Gold. The air at the center of the earth was heavy with smoke to cleanse the blood, which ran upon the flagstones like purpling finality. The new tapestries and banners jostled skyward on the halyards of victorious men, and they danced with a chaos that ably complemented the debris of the sacked citadel. She was Paravant, First Killing-Questing-Healing and already the gods attended her in the alcoves of glittering Welkynd-dust that circled the dome above her head, Divines that were not Divines but rude elven spirits still. They observed the chamber mutely and without thought, for their heads were without culture. She had yet to birth them, yet they had brought the revolution.
The Council Skiffs, their purpose fulfilled, lay piled in a burning mountain on a lonely sandbar, while Morihaus stood lowing in the smoke. His lament shook even the tunnels of Lost Abegarlas, an ululation that passed through stone like light through water. The thought of the ada was an ocean dammed to a single flow, a eulogy to eight pieces of a star: a slain uncle. He was a deaf to his consort and the horn-spangled feet of his Taking. It would be long before he would return to the Tower and call her by the name he would give her: 'First,' Paravania.
She lay on her bed in the tower, seeking a protonym. It was a simple matter to use such a thing to banish the Aurorans back to their lands of violent light, but quite another to seek one's own true-name. She had lost it: an early fragment of herself now obscured by all the names that had followed. Age now clouded the new ones as well.
The Al-Esh, Paravant, her nurses could not decide which was more fitting now that their queen was so old. On her death bed they washed her feet and found it difficult to speak loud enough, addressing her in the manner of mundane northern royalty. But lest any should speak of a decline, she was still beautiful, and Morihaus was still there. She was young and beautiful at once in her staggering age, and the stories of her grace were still to be written. That very afternoon, a foresighted man would sit on the steps of a cistern in the capital and tell the world that he saw a future where Alessia would squat upon a platform as a statue of marble, giving birth to a green gem that was Ald Cyrod ut Tamriel.
There was a keening in her ears. The nurses departed, leaving only a moth sage seated at a desk opposite the bed. He was even older than his queen, taking up no space at all in the circular room. An Ancestor was singing in his ear, and he hummed along with it, keeping time with the pen in his hand. After a few minutes, he was no longer alone with his queen, and he stilled.
Alessia's eyelids parted as she woke. Somewhere music was playing strongly. She saw the foot of the bed and knew Shezarr. Pelin-El the Sane was naked, for his armor had dissolved into its own tapestry of stars and the light made up his flesh, with the Serpent-mad void in the center. They talked long, and though Alessia could not command her tongue to answer and the priest near the wall could not hear the words, his pen was busy (it all passed in the space of three eye blinks, though it filled many scrolls). Its ink covered the desk and ran down his legs, covered his forearm, defacing and overwriting the precious silk scrawl of his ancestors so that the scene was written into history then and there, and moths would know it evermore.
The queen watched as her champion reached with glowing fingers into his empty chest. The priest saw nothing of Pelinal but a red dragon crouching on his haunches in the stuffy chamber. The drake reached out towards the bed, a brilliant gem clutched in his claws.
The door to the chamber was closed. No one had ever entered. Alessia's chest rattled and the bed was empty of the queen, now only an altar for the Chim-el Adabal and the cooled flesh of its mortal pillow. The tower about them swelled and gasped, breathing in new air as the world was reordered. A draft had already blown a page of the priest's crawling from the desk to be lost in the hearth. Tomorrow the crowds would mourn, and more pens would dance, and no one had seen Pelinal at the bedside. History was fading, but the Tower stood for the first time since revolution, and its promise could not be concealed.