Genesis Scrolls Round 1: {Fool's Errand}

Name/Pseudonym: {Quetzelcoatlia}
Contact Info: {https://twitter.com/quetzelcoatlia}
Ethereum Wallet Address: {0xcE64bA0c1A72Eb7734A03AE006Fb82f06DcFdddE}

{Fool’s Errand}

{The Eastern Island of the Order of Protection, in the Year of Our Lady Selnol the Ragged, day the fourth in the season of Icewhile. Dawn had not yet broken, but a pale light was rising to lap at the brink of morning, and the stars were fading one by one. A single magpie could be seen in the blanching sky. Against the grey half-light, the black and white feathers seem incongruously vibrant. The bird seemed to tear a path through the paper of the sky, leaving fleeting, wing-shaped impressions of something on the other side that was by turns pure black, pure white.

This island was ceaseless and horizonless; devoid of hills or mountains. One could travel across its entire breadth and length without walking up or down any sort of incline whatsoever, which was why travellers called it the flatlands, or by its ancient name, The Levelle. The oldest stories about The Levelle spoke of a great demon who rolled the land out flat with his rolling pin and baked bread upon it, the crumbs of which became the first stars. These sorts of antique stories were not well remembered any more by the peoples of this land, and many had been forgotten entirely, along with the ancient songs, although the demons and wildfolk still knew them by heart.

In these days, the rulers of the Order of Protection placed a great deal of emphasis on peace and stability, and therefore the people of the Order of Protection did too. They worshipped the God Mooth, the great orator, and considered themselves to be accordingly blessed in the gifts of speech and diplomacy. By the year of Our Lady Antzuma, the Levelle was a nation of stability, well esteemed for its skills in peacekeeping and reconciliation, with ambassadors and advisors well established in almost all corners of the world.

When the fourth day of winter finally broke, the morning light spilled out from its bowl in the sky and eventually touched a wild corner of the island, far from the royal castle, where the young crown prince Leif Berraneka was journeying. His hair, when the light touched it, was as pale as boneflower; his eyes reflected perfectly the grey weight of the dawn sky and seemed to hold no colour of their own at all. They were bright with that peculiar, luminous quality that is often seen in the eyes of sleepwalkers or people who are not quite well – pensive and dreaming by turns, gazing at nothing and everything. Now his face was quite calm and composed, although his eyes glimmered with the unsteady quality of starlight.

Although his complexion and bearing were princely in the highest degree, his dress was somewhat peculiar. He wore the garb of a hunter, though rather badly. His plain hide armour had an enchantment on it that had either been diluted to start with or had faded with age: it glowed queasily in the gloom with its own faint, greenish light. It seemed too large for his slim frame, and as he stood to stretch and gather up his bedroll it was evident that he was clumsy beneath the weight of the chainmail, and moved awkwardly with it. His boots and gloves were dogskin, and at his side hung an unadorned silver sword with the symbol of the Order of Protection at the pommel. Then, alongside these unremarkable – some might even say unprincely - articles of equipment, he wore an ostentatious filigree crown worked delicately out of real lumin, and dripping with diamonds. The prince’s initials, LB, had been picked out in opals at the front, so there could really be no question of his identity, even though a glance at his features was sufficient to mark him out as a son of Queen Berranek. This crown sat like a beacon on the young prince’s head, glittering his family connections out into the world for all to see. Inexplicably, it held no powers or enchantments whatsoever - neither could it be of any use as an actual helmet, being as delicate and light as a sugar decoration on a wedding cake.

This was certainly a strange state of affairs, given the dangers of the wild territory that the Prince found himself in, which was home to more demons than humans, and was far from the protection of the castle. It was difficult to fathom but Prince Leif himself appeared unperturbed, and stood gazing westwards with a mild, thoughtful expression towards Wuulwemul as the sun rose.

He was not far now from the Mirror Grotto - the lair of the demon Rojin and the great store of treasure that it hoarded there. Among the riches, fiercely guarded, were rumoured to be a number of Divine Relics – the name given in that land to items bestowed with rare and mysterious power. The Prince himself, it should be mentioned, was in possession of one such Divine Relic, which had been bequeathed to him by the Queen Antova on the day he came of age. It was an Amulet of Protection; a golden locket in the shape of two cupped hands hanging on a golden chain around Leif’s neck. This amulet, contrary to its name, did not afford the young Prince any form of protection at all, but was blessed with the curious trick of being able to magic into existence an endless supply of seeds of the royal tree of the Order of Protection. The existence of this Divine Relic and its possession by the royal family of the Order of Protection perhaps explained the family’s ancient pledge to shade the land and feed the people, which the holding of this relic neatly fulfilled. Prince Leif unclasped the locket now, and although the amulet would not have rattled had it been shaken, a small reddish brown nut now sat in the hollow of the golden hands. He lifted it to his lips, kissed it, and stooped to plant it in the soil at his feet.

Royal pledge fulfilled, the Prince straightened to gather his knapsack, and saw the magpie. It was perched on a low branch of a nearby lanya tree, and although it had been assiduously wiping its beak on a cluster of leaves before, it now stopped as if embarrassed, and, turning its head aside, looked narrowly at the Prince with one bright berry-black eye.

“Good morning, master magpie!” said Leif, mostly to himself. It was considered good luck on the island to greet a magpie when you saw one – this was an old folk tradition, the origins of which had been lost to time.

The magpie ignored him. It was looking at his crown now. It turned its head to the other side in order to assess the sparkling edifice more properly with its right eye, and then cocked its head again to inspect it with the left. It craned its neck to get a better view. It leaned forward on its branch and stared, its beak slightly open and its eyes bright with diamonds, until Leif broke out laughing.

This startled the bird briefly into flight – its wingbeat, stammering, tattooed the air between them with bands of black and white which resolved when the bird landed in the velvet shade of the lanya tree’s upper branches.

“Sorry,” Leif said, half laughing. “Aren’t you beautiful! What would you like?”

The magpie peered down at him.

“Would you like something to eat? Here, have this! And keep me from bad luck, won’t you?” Smiling, he took a second nut from the little golden amulet and tossed it to the ground beneath the tree.

The sun was high enough now to travel by; he would easily reach the Grotto by evening. There was treasure to be retrieved and a powerful guardian to be reckoned with - and if the demon Rojin was as fierce as the stories suggested then Leif would need all the good luck he could get. If the thought of this coming battle troubled him at all, it did not show. The young Crown Prince, as he wandered westwards, could be heard singing a hymn under his breath – his eyes were the colour of the wide sky, his expression mild and far-off, as if he were remembering a place from his childhood as he sang.

Veil thee with many veils,

It hideth not your fire

But rouseth thee to bright desire

To speak thy sacred tales.

A faint clapping of wings could be heard. Back at the lanya tree, the magpie flew to the ground in a zoetropic stutter of black and white, and somewhere between the sky and the earth it found a new shape and became something else. The pale sun continued to rise; the air was quite still and cold. In the deep shade at the foot of the tree stood now the demon Rojin, dressed in a cloak of black and white feathers. They stooped briefly, and when they rose they held between their thumb and forefinger a nut of the royal tree of the Order of Protection. They held it up to their black eyes and examined it closely. They looked at the retreating shape of the Prince in the distance, and smiled hungrily, showing all of their teeth.}

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