Uraeus, the God of Knowledge

The Serpent Watches. It Listens. It Waits.

Uraeus is an ancient being, one of the more primal of the Iyasteran deities. While many of the other gods have a multitude of names across the kingdoms, Uraeus is known most simply as the Cosmic Serpent, guardian of knowledge and secrets. They are a true neutral being, whose role in the balance of the universe is to simply observe and preserve the passing of the ages, neither good nor evil and never taking a side. Their followers believe that knowledge and secrets of the past hold the power to shape the future, and are therefore charged to protect it until the time is right.

Before The Severing, the Order of the Serpent had temples and archives dotted throughout Iyastera, having no allegiance to any kingdom or faction. Their numbers included members of all races and disciplines, united under the belief in the neutrality and everlasting nature of knowledge. There are two primary pathways to serving Uraeus: the path of the Witness and the path of the Scribe.

The Witness ventures out into the world, and is trained in detecting shifts in emotion, tension, and the nuances of non-verbal communication. They seek out stirrings of revolution, of moments in time that will cause ripples throughout the annals of history and give shape to events for years to come. They are masters of recognizing patterns and predicting which environments are breeding grounds for change.

The Witness observes events as they come to pass, and deliver that information back to the Temples, into the providence of the Scribes.

The Scribe is an archivist of events that are to become consecrated as history, the collective memories of the universe. They, like all in the Order, have memories sharpened by their connection to the Serpent and enter a trance-like state when recording the accounts of the Witnesses. Master linguists and cryptologists, they can unravel the mysteries of any tome, carving, and scroll brought back to the temple.

The tomes in which they record their stories are preserved through enchantments that prevent the deterioration brought on by the passage of time, effectively immortalizing the knowledge within.

As the bubblings of discord began to boil across the kingdoms, and war began to dawn, there were those who wished to forge alliances with the Order, with the intent of manipulating and weaponizing the information guarded within. When the Order refused, the methodical destruction of the temples began. The archives were looted and destroyed. Those who were not killed or captured fled into hiding. Temples who did not fall right away began their communion with Uraeus, to transmit what information they could to the god’s consciousness before facing whichever fate awaited them.

Today, only remnants of the Order remain. the treasures the temples once contained are gone, the kaleidoscopic murals adorning the inner sanctums shattered.

…but all is not lost. The Scribes and Witnesses that went into hiding still dwell in the shadows. Still listening, watching, and waiting…

Child of the Serpent (Pt III)

To read the story up to this point, check out parts I and II!

Gran was waiting outside, cloak drawn tight against the wind, with their two horses saddled and looking quite glum and wet.  Deryn peered towards the sky…the rain had slowed somewhat, but the clouds were still dark and low in the sky.  She put the food in the saddlebag of her stallion, Breck, who snorted his opinion of the venture. “I couldn’t agree more” she mumbled, patting his soft, if damp, nose before mounting up.  Her grandmother was ready and waiting with her own steed, Millie.  The mare was strangely calm and turned to face the path that led into town. “Let’s be off then.” Gran announced, guiding Millie down the path.

They lived a little farther from the center of Capall, a fairly large town, nestled within rolling green hills, known for its fine wool, vast farms, and horse ranches. The boundaries of the town are marked by low, stone walls and trees that dissect the land into different farming and residential areas, and of course the famed horse ranches.  Capall’s steeds are renowned throughout the kingdom of Moineir for their fine breeding, strength, and vitality—sought out by soldiers, wealthy merchants, and sportsmen alike. 

Once a year, visitors and horsemen flocked to the town for their famous Three Moons Race, a horserace through the Verdillan Hills to the west that spanned across three days.  It was a physically trying race, for both the horse and the rider, and not without its dangers.  The hills are lush and beautiful but riddled with caves and deceptively rocky slopes that felled more than one rider on their moonlit ride.  Deryn and her grandmother raised sheep, but she hoped to compete in the race herself one day and worked often with one of the neighboring rancher families in exchange for training lessons.  She remembers the first time they went to the race—the brave riders coming from all over Moineir, their horses tall, strong, and lively as they pawed the ground in anticipation. The excitement as they all set off. She and Gran would go to the inn each night, waiting for news of the riders. Some would come back early, unable to meet the challenge, or injured from a fall. Mugs of ale and hot stew would be waiting for them, for even attempting the race was something to be admired.  Then, on the third day, the whole town would gather anxiously at the foothills, waiting for the victors to gallop back to a hero’s welcome.  The townsfolk would have food prepared from the year’s harvest and presented in decorated stalls, the centre of Capall would be filled with coloured banners and music—a true festival.  It was the most exciting time of the year, an event that captivated Kyra’s imagination since she was young. She was almost ready, she thought, and had been preparing for the upcoming race after the first harvests, much to her grandmother’s distress. “Watching the race is one thing” she would complain, “but seeing my own granddaughter compete…are you trying to send me to an early grave, my girl?” But Breck was strong, fast, and surefooted. Loyal, too; Kyra had raised the spotted horse since he was a foal and he won’t let anyone else ride him but her.  Even now, he was pulling against the bit, wanting to run. 

“Gran?” Deryn said questioningly, as Millie began to stray from the path that led into the familiar clusters of wood and stone buildings in the centre of town, and instead towards the hills. Renata turned in the saddle and slowed until Deryn was riding beside her. “We’re not going into town, my dear.” she said, leaning towards her. “We’re going somewhere else, into the hills. Don’t worry”, she added quickly, noting her granddaughter’s concern, “I know the way.  We’re going to visit a friend.  You’ve never met him, but he’s done much for our family.  Just follow close behind, and don’t let Breck stray.”  Before Deryn could fumble through the questions growing in her mind, her grandmother faced forward once more and urged Millie into a trot. 

Child of the Serpent (Pt II)

Go here to read the first part of the story!

“Deryn! Are you awake?”

Her grandmother’s voice came floating from downstairs.  Now that Lissa was gone, Gran was her only living family.  Her mother died when she was young, and her father left before Deryn’s birth, not the type to stick around. The only lasting sign of his parentage was the fact that Deryn and Lissa were both a bit taller than other girls her age, and had thick, dark hair that stood out among the slightly fairer hair of their neighbours. Pressing her fingers to her closed eyes, she collected herself and descended the staircase, sniffing appreciatively at the smell of eggs and fresh bread that now wafted up to greet her. 

A cookfire was crackling merrily on their stone hearth, casting a warm light through the room. Her grandmother had just set dishes of food on their small, wooden table. “You slept late…I’m surprised the storm didn’t wake you sooner!” The old woman said with a warm smile. Gran was a short, spry woman with silky white hair that she wore tied back with a woven scarf.  Bright, lively green eyes were set in a kind, but weather-worn face.  The smile soon faded, however, when she saw her granddaughter’s face, and lines of worry added to the existing wrinkles (or “experiences”, as Gran liked to call them). “Deryn, what’s wrong?” Deryn shook her head self-consciously. “I just didn’t sleep well.” A pause, then “I’ve been having the dreams again.” A mug of tea seemed to materialize out of nowhere to be placed on the table in front of her.  Gran firmly  her into the chair before taking her seat across from her.  “Tell me. What did you see this time?”.

Gran was of an age that seems to naturally grant a wealth of wisdom and insight typically inaccessible by those without grey in their hair, but, in Deryn’s opinion, she still managed to avoid the frailty that took the other elders of the town.  She was the matronly herbalist and midwife of Capall and had a plethora of superstitions that led her to grow certain plants in the garden that weren’t for cooking, brew tea at odd hours, and believe that dreams were messages to be deciphered.  Not every dream, Gran would often caution, but the ones that went through the trouble of visiting more than once, like an acquaintance with too much time on their hands and who always seems to be out of milk. When Deryn was younger, she would sometimes have dreams about a neighbour, or events in other villages.  These would often result in little more than a raised eyebrow from Gran.  But every now and then, they led to hushed conversations in the kitchen when a young Deryn was assumed to be asleep, or a surprise gift of fresh cakes on their doorstep.  This, however, was different.  It felt different…the way the laughter still rang in her ears when she awoke, the way she could almost feel the intense heat of the dragon fire.  She took a breath, a scalding sip of tea, and began to recount the dream.

“There was…an old castle, all in ruins…and this laughter. Horrible  laughter. The laughter of someone who has done something awful, and is happy about it.” Gran’s face was still, unmoving. “Go on.” She urged. Deryn took another sip of tea, her breakfast remaining untouched. “Then, a dragon flew out of the ruins, towards where I was standing. There were soldiers marching against it, and they started attacking each other. I don’t really remember anything else, but through the whole thing, this laughter just kept getting louder and louder…” She trailed off and watched Gran’s face warily.  She had hoped that her grandmother would dismiss it as a fantasy, assure her that armies and dragons were of an age long past.  Instead, the old woman’s eyes grew distant, and slowly drifted towards the window and the still-thundering storm outside.  Eventually, she spoke, still gazing into the distance: “Did you see which colours the soldiers wore?” Deryn blinked, confused. “I—which colours they wore?”  Gran turned to her now, her voice quickening, urgent. “Colours. Or perhaps a banner? A pennant of some sort?  Any emblems on their shields?”  Deryn was silent, a little stunned.  “Gran, there was a dragon in the sky and you want to know what the soldiers were wearing?”

“It is important, child. Perhaps the sight wasn’t clear enough.”  Gran stood and retrieved a few oilcloths from the cupboard. “Here, wrap up your breakfast, and pack some extra bread and cheese.  And get your cloak.  We’re taking a short trip.”  Deryn’s mouth dropped. “A trip? Now?” she gestured outside with incredulity. “Yes. Now.” Her grandmother said firmly, wrapping her own cloak around her and walking out the side door towards their stable. Once the old woman was safely out of earshot, Deryn muttered a curse and did as she was bidden.  Within minutes, the food was wrapped, and Deryn was tying her hair back in front of a small mirror in her room.  Her green eyes stared back at her, filled with uncertainty, framed by a pale face dotted with freckles.  I’ve passed my nineteenth harvest and I’m still having these blasted dreams, she thought bitterly, finishing the braid of dark hair and tucking it within her cloak.

She cast one last, rueful glance towards her bed, as if it was all its fault, and went back downstairs to meet her grandmother.

Child of the Serpent

This is the first in my Fantasy Fridays series…in which I share ongoing snippets of stories I’ve written. Child of the Serpent began years ago, when I was but a young Scribbler, and has been given new life within realm of Iyastera. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Deryn was running, her dark hair streaming behind her, green eyes wide with fear.  She was running towards the ruins of a castle, scarred and crumbling, but no less forbidding as it loomed overhead, it’s central tower shrouded in smoke.  A sudden roar sent tremors through the air around her as a huge shape took flight, bursting from the center of the ruins and into the darkening sky.  A battalion of soldiers marched past, grim eyes locked on the aerial figure. She tried to call out, to tell them to turn back, but the sound died before it could escape her lips. She reached toward an armored shoulder, but her hand passed through, ephemeral and useless. She had the sense that the beast wasn’t the true threat.  The dragon gazing balefully from above was merely a distraction…the real danger still waited within those ruins.  Suddenly, the creature fell into a dive, fire issuing from its throat, its eyes shining as bright as the flames it spat at the soldiers.  Arrows struck the dragon’s wings, but it did not yield, arcing back upwards to roar malice once more at the force below it.  She kept running. Cold, pitying laughter filled the air, blocking every other sound until it reached a fever pitch, assaulting her mind. Clapping her hands over her ears did nothing to lessen the horrible sound. Darkness began to close in around her. She fell to her knees, still clutching the sides of her head, and screamed soundlessly.  Before losing her vision, she saw the blurred image of the dragon, now crashing towards the unforgiving earth.

Jolting awake, she shot upright with a choking cry, beads of sweat rolling down her face.  Her blankets lay piled in a heap on the floor, thrown off during the night.  This was the second time now, that she has awoken like this, sweating and shaking.  The second time she snaps back to reality with those castle ruins still lingering in her vision.  She looked around her small, cluttered room, trying to clear her mind of the laughter that still seemed to echo in the recesses of her memory. Everything seemed to be as it was when she went to bed…her chair tucked under her writing desk, with a half-melted candle and a few books strewn across the worn surface, the one small window just above it.  On the floor at the foot of the bed was her clothes chest.  Her room used to be an attic, dusty from lack of use until she and her grandmother cleared it out.  She stiffly stood up from the bed, and moved towards the window, leaning her hands on the desk as she peered outside.  The light of the morning sun was obscured by dark storm clouds, rumbling with thunder vaguely evocative of a dragon’s roar. The window shook violently against the wind and rain that assailed it, threatening to shatter.

Rubbing the few beads of sweat from her brow that had yet to dry, she turned away and began to untangle the long chain of a silver locket that hung around her neck.  The circular locket, simply made with delicate swirls of inlaid gold, was a gift from her sister, from one of her travels to the capital.  Lissa was an aspiring metalsmith and traveled to Cashell often, to learn from the mentors at the Craftsmen’s Guild, in hopes that she could become a member herself one day. The locket was one of Lissa’s early creations.  Their town had a smithy of their own, of course, but lacked the tools necessary for working with silver and gold. Within the locket was a small note from Lissa, which read, To hold your dreams It was always their dream to earn enough money to travel and see the world, but that future was lost in the river that stole Lissa from her ten seasons ago.