Hearth-fires and Thresholds (for [personal profile] smartass_captain)

Jul. 6th, 2017 05:51 pm
conjuredskies: (Sidelong)
[personal profile] conjuredskies
These are the first hours of Morning Star, and the year is turning. The thief departs; the ritual begins. Shed the old: embrace the new.

For things important enough to carry forward, there are traditions.

Sometime during the festivities Ushug and Marcella slip away, each with a bottle in hand, talking little. Among reveling bands and dancers and apprentice mages matching party tricks they follow the main streets from district to district. When they reach one of the city gates they exchange a nod and part ways.

Marcella follows the inside wall until the street is dark and quiet, and finds a spot to uncork the bottle she’s cradled all this way. She lifts it in salute, then pours out the wine against the base of the wall. A libation for the honored dead, flowing dark over the white stone. They are not forgotten.

Ushug steps off the road outside and follows her own path along the outside wall. When she picks a spot it’s to toss her bottle aside and squat down in the grass for a piss. She made a promise, and there are more Thalmor beneath this soil than prancing around the streets. They haven’t been forgotten, either.

Terentius does three things. He looks in at the Temple of the One, and bows to the impossible stone dragon who stands frozen at the heart of the temple’s dancing fires and vaulted stone, priests knelt in prayer around it. Then he goes back out and finds a woman as willing to dance with him as he is willing to try. (An artist from Sentinel this year, a Redguard with a charming smile and gracious way about her.) And after that, he limps back to check on the boys. Two of them. He misses Stratos, but Jim doesn’t feel like an addition they’re going to regret. He watches the pair of them dance and laugh and trip up trying to mimic some of the livelier Khajiit dancers, and quietly honors every second.

Felix dances with Jim, and teaches him how to greet Bosmer in their own language, and finds a bard who can tell the story about the mage, the melon and the duplication spell. He shares a toast with a red-faced man whose eyes glint yellow in the firelight when he winks at Felix. Wraps an arm around Jim to ward off presumptuous hands and looks up at the White-Gold Tower high above them. Wonders, for perhaps the first time, what he has to do to keep this. It’s a passing thought. The night rolls on.

The family regroups as the celebrations begin to quiet – not end, not for days yet, but most people do stop for sleep. Marcella has produced one of the silk and brass lanterns from her pockets; now it’s unfolded and glowing softly, the flame inside illuminating the red and gold symbols. It’s lit from the great fire outside the temple, a detail only mentioned if asked. Ushug is continuing her own celebrations, so good-nights are said and the others make the trek back out of the city.

The night’s work is not done, however. When they get back to the house, Marcella takes her lantern inside and uses it to kindle the waiting hearth-fire. Then she heads around the house with anyone awake enough to follow, lighting each the lanterns outside one by one, a few words of prayer for each. One hearth, seven lamps. And last, the little dragon lamp is relit. There are no words for this one. She places it silently on a ledge tucked above the front doorway, the last spot in the circle. A tiny glow in the shadows. Easily missed. Only then does she let out a long exhale and relax.

She rolls her eyes when she turns around to see Felix with his arms already around Jim again, but she gives them a tired smile, too. She’s only teasing a little when she tells them, “Sleep well, you two.”

“You too, cousin,” Felix murmurs, lifting his head from Jim’s shoulder for a moment.

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Felix Caelus

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