Sancta Agdistra

A tale from old Cyrod

Preface by Hadrian Olivius, Temple Zero scholar: Saint Agdistra, though a relatively minor saint buried in the annals of hundreds worshipped in Cyrodiil, nevertheless stands out as amongst the most unique. Though textual analysis suggests the story is contemporary with Alessia’s uprising, it is difficult to tell the veracity of the tale, even if only to say it was the exaggerated description of some minor rebellion headed by some sort of eunuch. Regardless of truth, it would have still been an inspirational story to the Nibenese of the eastern edge of the Ayleid empire, who, hearing of the slave queen’s triumphs in the far west, yearned for a hero or heroine closer to home. If the story of Agdistra was the shadow to Alessia’s sun, the better it was to convince others of her efficacy.

In some remote areas, she is still prayed to as a minor fertility deity or carer of children.

He came from the slave pens of Malad and, like many men under the dominion of the Ayleid sorcerer-kings, had no name. The so-called lord of that place was Oedarith, recorded here only for purposes of execration, better still now that speech is permitted outside of gesture, and men are no longer slaves to silence also. Known for cruelty even amongst that hateful race, and so sure of his dominion was this lord that no walls did make up the slave pens, and the slaves had but muddy ground to sleep on and an open sky to make them agitate for freedom.

Should they have tried to escape and leave that fenceless sty, at the farthest edge of Malad they would run into boundary stones riddled with compulsion points that the unwitting escapee would stare at in reiterations of (re)enthralment. Escapees would be later located by the Ayleids at leisure, by whipping another slave in a seemingly haphazard manner until he became a map of jungle paths drawn in bloody streaks, then divining the location by way of a thrown dart. When the victim had expended his usefulness, the strips of flesh already torn from his torso better allowed him to be opened up and exhibited for art-torture until he expired from the pain, or, depending on their whims, even later still, if they thought he would make an attractive corpse-statue or diorama. When the rot had set in ways that disgusted even them, his body would be ground to meal and placed in the slaves’ food troughs. As for the escapee, he would be skinned while still living and his hide made into nightmare blankets for the newborn babes of men.

Such crude methods held nothing to their more precise methods of torture, for Ayleid disdain for man-flesh used for anything other than torture did not extend to newly created apertures, the bleeding staunched by magic, but never the pain. Other times, a haruspex would be performed on the still-living victim, to predict frivolous topics not becoming of sacred parrot auguries, such as the morrow’s weather, or merely for the sake of games not unlike dice, where organs were compared to each other for contest of coin and magic beads.

It will not do to speak more on Ayleid perversity, or to say that all was hopeless. Word reached the slaves by way of missionaries from the west who, in the language of gestures, spoke of Al-Esh, a star arising from the earth to shine freedom from on high, a motion-symbol unknown to the slaves except by indirect gesticulations to describe something forbidden but desired. The closest, most direct articulation was the moan or groan, smothered when they found a secret moment with their women folk, or uttered when they were forced to replenish the slave stocks with hip-motions goaded by the whip, or at other times passing their lips as the precursor to more pain.

Sweet Al-Esh remained a distant but desired hope, venerated in silence-hymns that were all voiceless lip gesture supplications, moistened in tears and punctuated with brow crescendos, the practice of which eventually disappeared, but whose vestiges would serve good steed when negotiation facilitated by multi-layered smiles and amicable faces was required, which was when war had drowned itself in the blood it had drawn by its silver teeth, later melted and recast in forms pleasing Zenithar.

One day as they gathered in a silence-hymn, brows deeply furrowed in the intensity of worship, it is said they saw the image of Al-Esh unravelling into triple, and this is when he who before had no name, eyes aflame with the discovery of his true image, pulled up his loin cloth and tore off his male parts like an impediment in flesh, and, casting it aside, intoned in a voice like mellifluous music the words, "I am that!" And he became she, perfect in every way.

"Here is breath and love and beauty and thunder,” said an old man in the language of hand-symbols with fingers stuttering over the signs. “Here is woman ascendant, liberated through loss, which is the only path." And then his eyes rolled back into his head and he fell back dead, blood trickling from his nostrils.

Such is the unveiling of Agdistra, later Sancta Agdistra the Lifter, by which is meant the remover of obstacles and the uplifter of children where they are put down helpless and vulnerable. She is also Sancta Agdistra the Provider, in reference to being the Inspiration of Fruitfulness and because where the blood from her wound fell grew grapevines already laden with fruit.

Everyone who saw her were confounded by her beauty, none more so than the overlord Oedarith, for when he saw her, the bloodlust in his eyes was mitigated, and he took her immediately to his bedchamber where it is said they shared soft passions. Though he took her, he never truly possessed her, as after the culmination of the act, while still panting from the exertions of love, he cut out his own heart and placed it on a silver platter at her feet in tribute before expiring. When she ate thereof, the white stone of the Ayleid buildings swallowed their masters, consuming them utterly that their dominion might die for liberty to be triumphant, and these in turn were eaten by the jungle until but the entrances to their underground sepulchres remained, that their long dead might serve as mute witnesses just as men once did in life.