The Grand Flock [lore]

Duke Usifan Banner

The Order of The Grand Flock of the Sons of Usifan

Al-Khezam Banner

Part 1

The flock of children crowded around the blind storyteller, peppering him with one question after another. Their parents stood behind them, indulgent smiles on their faces as they watched their sons and daughters’ faces light up with joy and wonder as old Sam’uel regaled them with tales of the high and mighty, the low and infamous, and the wicked yet alluring. They had listened to the same tales as youngsters at the feet of Sam’uel, when his hair was as black as coal and he still had most of his teeth.

His mane was now more salt than pepper and he had but five of his teeth left, yet he could still spin a tale that would entrance the hearts of young and old. No one could sit in his presence and not be beguiled by the words that fell from his lips in a soft, deep timbre. That he had returned to the village after six years was a cause for celebration. The villagers had not had many visitors since the war began, being too close to the border, and they had feared that Sam’uel had died. But now that he was here, the headman had called for a celebration and the entire village had set out a feast, with their finest casks of ale cracked open and relished by all.

After the eating, drinking and merry-making, the time had come for a story or two. Sam’uel sat on a log covered in bearskin to make him just a little more comfortable, the fire crackled nearby, casting half his face in shadow, the other in an orange glow. He puffed on his pipe for a few minutes, gathering his thoughts and blessing the village wise woman, who had immediately seen to his aching piles and had provided him with a sweet herb to add to his usual fare. The smoke went in, giving him a most peaceful moment, and then was released into the world, floating up and away.

Sam’uel grunted, cleared his throat, swept out one hand, silencing the little ones and then began:

“Long ago, before the mighty Duke Usifan won the regard of a king and the love of a nation, he was Grand Marshal, serving under his father, the Good Duke. For many years he toiled and sweated under the finest minds in the land, proving himself worthy of being his father’s heir. From an early age, he had studied law, philosophy, art, the sciences and the martial arts that were to give him his acclaim when he ascended to the throne in Dilmunia.

His life, though enchanted, was not without stress or cares, as the kingdom was eternally beset by the priests of the fallen Daemon, who sought to revive their master by means both fair and foul.”

“Who is Daemon?” a breathless voice said in a lisp. A child, not more than three. Its mother let out a gasp and clasped her hands to her mouth, momentarily shocked by her child’s boldness.

Sam’uel laughed and said, “Why, he’s only the Qin of Fire, the first of his kind to die. When he did succumb in the first Godswar, why, the crazed Qin let loose his element over all of Elyria, sending forth his mighty flames, hoping to cover all the land and destroy all life.”

The blind storyteller heard the little gasps and shudders and smiled to himself. No matter how many times he told this story, those listening would always have the same reaction. He took another puff of his pipe and continued.

“Now, the other Qin couldn’t just stand by and watch their beloved Elyria disappear into smoke and ash—could they? Think of poor Terra, watching the soil, trees, mountains and rocks melting. Oceanus would have been enraged, watching the waters boil and the fish, the whales and the octopus cook. So, they did what they had to do.”

“What?” another voice cried.

Sam’uel leaned forward, so his face was wreathed in shadow and let out a mighty breath of smoke, his craggy face giving him the appearance of a dragon. He had the satisfaction of hearing little screams and many gasps as he whispered in a crackly voice, “They tore the land into three parts, seeking to stop the flames. Yes, Elyria was once much, much larger than it is now. Why, it was three times as large as the land we know.”

“What happened to the rest of it?”

“Well, the part that Daemon’s flames had scorched was pulled away from the rest, becoming what we know as Karcion.”

“I don’t want to go there,” a little boy shouted out.

Laughs tinged with relief greeted his fervent pronouncement.

“And so you shan’t, little one. Unless you are very, very wicked and don’t eat your vegetables.”

A snort sounded in the back of the crowd—the little one’s father perhaps. “Alum, is that you?” Sam’uel asked.

“It is,” a gruff voice replied.

“And is this your son?” the storyteller asked, pointing in the direction of the childish voice.

“He is.”

“Ah, I believe I might have said something similar to you thirty years ago?”

“You said the exact same thing,” Alum guffawed.

Sam’uel waited for the laughter to die down before spreading his hands in an expression of helplessness, “Like father, like son, eh?”

“Ay, that’s my boy,” Alum said proudly.

Sam’uel could have sworn he heard the little one say in a half-whisper, “But dada doesn’t eat his vegetables.” Covering his laugh with another inhalation of his pipe, he leaned back and continued.

“Now, the other two parts are the Elyria that we know today and Haven, the old capital of Elyria. It is said that that mighty city is still has magic, though of course we will never know,” Sam’uel said with a sigh. The wise woman heard it and her heart ached for the old storyteller. A realm with magic would have given the man his sight back, which had been taken so cruelly away when he was just a child. She, more than anyone present, knew what the loss of his sight had meant to Sam’uel, what it had cost him. For it was to her that he had revealed his last memory of sight. She appeared to listen as Sam’uel finished the story of the Burning and went on into his favourite story, that of Usifan and the Grand Flock.

Turning her head, she stared into the fire, her thoughts embarking on a much darker path. She saw, in the sticks of wood that fed the fire, a fuel of a very different sort. One that the priests of Daemon preferred to use……..

It had happened sixty-four years ago.

The screams had long since died, leaving only the roaring flames to reach into the sky, seeking, ever seeking, their master. A throng of individuals, cloaked in red robes, their faces covered in masks of beaten gold, stood around the stake, their hands clasped as they chanted in unison:

Said the high priest of the falled Daemon:

Drain the soul and feed the flame

Repeated after him his believers:

Nar- Nuri .. Nar- Nirath

Raise the flame Raise the flame

Nar- Nuri .. Nar- Nirath

There was the sound of a sudden rush, as the priests found themselves encircled by mounted knights, their weapons drawn, the horses stamping their feet in impatience. The high priest spat in fury as he saw it was the Seneschal of the Grand Flock himself, leading his men. With no time to wonder how the priests of Daemon had been compromised, the high priest shrieked to his followers to fight the blasted heathen. “Feed the flames, my brethren,” he cried as he launched himself at the nearest knight, skewering his shoulder in the process.

It took the mounted men at arms less than three minutes to subdue the priests and lash them together, tossing them in their bound state into oxen carts, where they would be brought back to Dilmunia to face judgment for their evil deeds. Yet even those three minutes were not enough. They had, once again, arrived too late to save the victims, this time a farmer’s family, though they had finally captured the high priest and his men in the murderous act.

The young Duke in training, Mahmold the first, came to the Seneschal’s side, both men looking at the stake with expressions of disgust and hatred on their faces.

“The smell---I can never get accustomed to it. It permeates everything. I very much doubt any crops grown here would be palatable for the next fifty years. The animals themselves look to be in terror—do you hear them? I swear, I almost believe it were the souls of those enwreathed in flames who have infested the livestock.”

The Seneschal turned to the young royal, a look of wonderment on his face. “It is not like you to be so fanciful. What is the cause of this?”

“I don’t know—only that it feels as though there is a message here.”

“But there is, though it is not meant for us, but for Daemon. The priests believe that a part of his soul survived here, on Elyria. And if they could feed the flames with enough blood that the soul will regenerate and they would have their Qin returned to them.”

“Yes Seneschal, I am aware of their devilish beliefs. No, the message I refer to comes not from them. How many were in this family?”

The Seneschal looked back at the stake which had been doused in water and at the burnt corpses. There were two, adult in size. One was obviously female, as the shape of her abdomen showed. She would have been heavily pregnant, soon to deliver. The warrior shuddered afresh as the sound of his men retching reached him.

“Could that have been the first child?” he asked, as Mahmold began to shout orders to the men to search the shack and barns.

The men tore into the structures, desperation on their faces. One saw something that made his blood run cold and he ordered the others to be silent. A trail of blood led from the front of the door to a mat on the floor, where it disappeared. Lifting the mat revealed the truth, it led to an underground hole. Most farmers had one in their humble abodes, fleeing to it when there were raiders. This family had not reached it in time, or had been discovered.

A little boy lay at the bottom of the pit, his arms covering his head. He was weeping softly, his body shaking in terror. The warrior called to him and the child shrieked. “Hush now,” the man said softly. “You are safe.”

The child sat up and dropped his arms. The gathered men groaned in horror: his eyes had been torn out. Blood flowed from the pits as the boy turned his head from side to side.

“Who are you?” he asked with a quiver in his voice.

“We are the Order of the Grand Flock and we have come to save you.”

“My mama and dada?” he asked, as a pair of strong arms picked him up and carried him outside to a waiting horse and rider. The smell of burnt barbecue was stronger here than inside.

“I’m sorry my son. We were too late,” the man said with a break in his voice. “But you are with us now and we will take care of you.”

Another voice, this one older and gruffer said, “Who did this to you, young man?”

“Those scary men in the red robes. They tied mama and dada to the pole and then put my eyes out, saying I wouldn’t be able to identify them later.”

“Why didn’t they tie him to the stake as well?” the boy heard one whisper to another.

“They said that the power would be stronger the longer the screams lasted. That the flames shortened the screams. So they left me alive.” The young boy began to shake in terror once more and was violently ill. The rider behind him held him firmly until he had finished and then a cup was passed to him. “Drink,” a soft voice said. He did so, noting the sweetness of the liquid. He began to feel very sleepy and was no longer frightened, even when a cloth was wrapped around his head where his eyes had once been.

“What is your name?” A voice asked just before he reached the dreamworld.

“Sam’uel,” he whispered.

End of part 1...

Duke Usifan Banner

8/5/2016 7:57:43 PM #1

6 years later…..

“So who is Usifan if you don’t mean the present heir to the duchy?” Asked the orphan quizzically, his voice crackling in a sign he had eventually embarked on the path to manhood. His lips were lined with soft fuzz, though of course he couldn’t see it. The teacher answered patiently: “Tales say the original Usifan was one of the sons of the banished Qin “Mann”.”

“Who is Mann?” Asked the orphan “Mann is a Qin, son of Luna, Qin of Darkness, and Ao, Qin of life. According to the Qindred, he was banished from Haven. All who inhabit Elyria are said to be his descendants but the sons of the original Usifan are his direct descendants.”

“Why was he banished?” Asked the orphan The teacher sighed softly and said, “We don’t know why he was banished. But after being banished from Haven, he was no longer immortal and eventually perished like all the living in Elyria. Hence we “descendants of Mann” all carry a part of his soul in us and, as such, our souls are valuable.”

“Why do we never talk about the Qin Daemon?” Asked the orphan, his voice quivering in sorrow. The teacher placed a hand on the orphan, pity in his eyes. He said in a voice not much louder than a whisper, “The priests of the Qin Daemon believed that feeding the descendants of the Qin Mann—us—to the fires would somehow summon Daemon and engender his return. It took many years and many a warrior’s life, before we were able to uproot the hidden priesthood, executing many and banishing the practices from the land.”

The boy opened his mouth to ask another question, but the teacher said firmly, “Now stop asking me all these questions and go have lunch before class starts again.”

The boy stood up, his walking stick by his side. The empty pits where eyes should have been stared down at the teacher.

“Master please… one last question….Can I join the Order of the Grand Flock?” Asked the blind orphan, determination etched on his pale features.

The teacher bent forward in sorrow, as he loved the young boy very much and knew that a fine mind lay in that skull. But the child could neither fight nor read, and so had no role within the Order. “No son!” he at last said, “You have to be a chosen one and the Flock will seek you once you have proven your worth to the brave defenders of Usifan. Now, if you could master the art of the sword, perhaps. But I feel there is another path for you and your destiny lies elsewhere.”

The wise woman was shaken out of her reverie as she heard Sam’uel reach the end of the tale, once again inspiring the faith and love of the people in Usifan and his father Mahmold. For it was the old duke who had saved him and paid for his care and education and the old storyteller had never forgotten the man.

Part 2

Alum tenderly gathered up his sleepy son, along with the others, preparing to tuck the child in for the night. He smiled at the old storyteller and compiled the report he would send to the Grand Flock in his head. Sam’uel had been gone so long, even Usifan himself had become worried about what had happened to the old man.

He tucked his young son into bed, kissed his wife goodnight and then went deep into the forest, where he entered a cave hidden from all. It was where he trained with the sword, spear, scythe and javelin, keeping his skills sharp. For all of the Grand Flock knew that they may be called at any moment to defend their village and people from raiders and the mad priests of Daemon, who had begun to make their presence felt. Alum would lead the defense of the village while a message would be sent to the member of the Grand Flock in the next village and another sent to the temple itself. In this way, it was hoped that the people would be better protected than the last time the priests had travelled through the land, wreaking carnage on the populace.

He entered his cave, letting his mind quieten as he searched for any signs it had had visitors. Finding nothing, he relaxed, lighting a candle. He went to the back of the cave and dislodged a stone from the natural wall, reaching inside with one hand to pull out a scroll tied with a red ribbon. A smile lit his face as he recalled the day he received it. He knew the contents by heart, but still, he opened it to read the familiar words once more:

“Descendant of Mann… you’ve been marked as a feather and you’ll complete the flock. Together we’ll seek our cause, repudiate all our fears and keep the peace in these lands.

Like we have united the nomads before, we will keep the unity of our blessed people. Traditions of the heart lights our path, though liberal we remain, for that is how we united these divided lands. When you swear allegiance to the Tulip, we’ll have you with open arms. You will be a protector and be protected. Meet your masters at the Temple to start your training.

Where we can, where we should be, and where there is need for presence, we have been, we are now, and will always be foremost for Al Qaum.

King Usifan.”

Alum placed the scroll back in its hidden place and began to train.

The beginning...

Duke Usifan Banner

8/9/2016 11:21:06 AM #2

Beautiful and well-written! Really like your work.

Astrid van Mauve

8/10/2016 10:27:29 PM #3

Thank you for your encouragement Astrid, I'm glad you enjoyed it.😊

Duke Usifan Banner

4/2/2017 9:09:45 AM #4

happy to share the order banner ^^

Duke Usifan Banner

4/26/2017 11:40:50 PM #5

I want to read this entire thing later tongiht. From what I can see, you've done a lot of work!

6/21/2017 12:07:12 AM #6

Posted By Whayel at 02:40 AM - Thu Apr 27 2017

I want to read this entire thing later tongiht. From what I can see, you've done a lot of work!

Let me know what you think. I would love to read your feedback. ^^

Duke Usifan Banner

8/13/2019 4:34:04 PM #7

It's a beattifull lore, really, So interesting. :D

Supreme Judge of the Iber County Chamber.