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[I] Eighteenth year of the reign of Talenés IV, the twelfth passage of Celem in the month of the Hrônd

To his Majesty’s chief scribe, Andariac for the ear of his Lordship, by the hand of Saltés, the Governor of Valemteim. 

Greetings and blessings. 

I attach below an account of the expenditures incurred by the Governor’s house on behalf of the Royal treasury. There should be little to surprise your Lordship therein, barring the extraordinary sum requested by the House of Drapeter for the maintenance of the coastal watch tower and garrison under his management. 

Drapeter’s scribe claims the extra costs were the result of unforeseeable flooding that has been occurring up and down the entire coast these lasts months. Although I do not usually entertain such requests, I decided to make an exception, due to the elevated importance of the garrison and watch tower. It is well known that Tamvaasa raiding parties have been sailing in these waters, having snatched several Imperial watercraft in the recent unrest and even laying waste to the small island population living off the peninsula. 

This year’s Dulôm festival was more muted than in times past. Raice supplies ran out early and the customary parade finished after half the usual length. I believe that is due to a weak harvest (also a consequence of the flooding) and the widespread fear of what is occurring in the heavens. Some of the wealthier landowners have come together to offer a special devotional sacrifice to Lôm, whose abnormal path across the heavens seems to be the cause of all this recent turmoil. 

I know your Lordship is as skeptical as myself concerning the value of the Old Devotions. But given the severity of the situation combined with the general anxiety, I deemed it worthy of the time and treasure to make a personal, though quasi-official, contribution to their efforts. Anything that comforts the ignorant and the fearful must be worth it. 

I was wondering if your Lordship’s council had something I could share regarding this recent phenomenon. Privately, I am of course curious too. Are there any records of this happening in the past? What do the Shinse Matriarch’s emissaries say about this? 

My scouts say that little has changed in the far Northern forests. The landbound Tamvaasa, at least, seem to be quiet as ever. One of them says the period of Celem’s absence had a more drastic impact this year compared to years gone by.

Here completes my report. 

I remain obediently yours, 

Saltés Borian, Governor of Valemteim, of the House of the Hylot.

[II] Eighteenth year of the reign of Talenés IV, the twenty seventh passage of Celem in the month of the Hrônd.

To his Majesty’s chief scribe, Andariac for the ear of his Lordship, by the hand of Saltés, Governor of Valemteim.

Greetings and blessings. 

First let me record my personal thankfulness to your Lordship for sending the young scribe, Hertión. His opinions and obvious learning were impressive in a face so fresh. He mentioned some of his views concerning the wandering of Lôm received strong condemnation by others in Court and on the councils and that you have remained completely impartial.

It does seem more than credible to directly associate Lôm’s displacement with the flooding, though whether the movement will be able to do much worse remains the important question.

Clearly the situation is worse for the parts of the Realm close to the sea. That said, the flooding does directly impact the mountain regions who are so heavily reliant on the transportation of grains. In that sense your Lordship is very wise to think of this situation as being important for the entire Realm, Jotheim included.

If young Hertión is correct, and what he says he learned from his discussions with the members of the Shinse delegation currently residing in your Court are also correct, then it does seem to be the wise course of action to prepare for the situation to worsen rather than improve. 

Your Lordship will be happy to note that the inhabitants of Valemteim and the province are already doing their best to lay up stores for this eventuality. The Royal store houses are not as full as they have been in seasons past as a result, which will necessarily reduce the impact we can have on any public response to continued hardship. 

To my mind this raises two alternatives. Either we initiate a collection throughout the province to ensure that the public response is robust, or we leave the situation as it is, and encourage citizens to share with one another as they see fit. 

Following the former course is likely to start widespread panic and a spike in the price of all commodities—and they are already greatly swelled. Once this panic has run its course, however, the governorship will be in a good position to direct resources as we see fit and thereby maintain a control over the province. We can also ensure a regulated supply of grains to Jotheim. 

The latter course will preserve things as they are for longer, perhaps long enough to endure the current conditions, but a coming calamity would be much worse in terms of the chaos it could unleash. The citizens of Valemteim are a strong and independent people and would not hesitate to shed blood were it necessary. 

No doubt Your Lordship’s council has already been over the options. In my assessment it is a question of probabilities. If we feel certain the calamity will continue to strike, and strike hard, then we must prepare—no matter the chaos and violence we have to endure to achieve it. If we are less certain of this, then we can maintain the normal state of affairs. 

For our part, the citizens of Valemteim would be compliant—to a degree. But the provinces will be a next to impossible task and their will be a lot of distrust that our actions are being undertaken to directly benefit the citizens of Jotheim. 

I am of course prepared to follow your explicit commands to the letter the moment I have received them.

Those who are following and reviving the Old Devotions are growing quickly in number and fervor. They now hold nightly sessions imploring Lôm to return to her normal path through the heavens. Hertión says it is much the same in the capital and even the Court. He added that one group seemed prepared to send out emissaries to all the others, imploring them to organize. An informant of mine in Valemteim confirms these rumors. 

An organized group of devotees to the Old Devotions will present their own unique challenges, which again I scarcely need detail. I am wondering what Your Lordship has in mind to meet them. 

The sea-going raiders have not been seen these last few octaves. Nothing has been seen or heard coming from the forests. 

Here completes my report. 

I remain obediently yours, 

Saltés Borian, Governor of Valemteim, of the House of the Hylot.

[III] Eighteenth year of the reign of King Talenés IV, the third passage of Celem in the month of the Siloath.

To his Majesty’s chief scribe, Andariac for the ear of his Lordship, by the hand of Saltés, Governor of Valemteim.

Greetings and blessings. 

In the wake of recent events, about which I shall relate in detail below, your Lordship’s injunctions have proven remarkably prescient. There is no doubt our actions will have saved many lives in the Realm, and all will be prepared to give you thanks and hail you a King worthy of your parentage! 

Only a few passages of Celem after I received your letter bearing the sealed commands to collect grains into the Royal stores and had been undertaking the task of collecting them, the city experienced a fierce wind, whipping off the sea. It was the kind of gale that would thrash a watercraft to bits or even chisel a mountain, if you will forgive the metaphor. Many of the poorly built structures in and around Valemteim failed to stand up to these gales, and I’m afraid to say many have lost their lives. 

Accompanying these gales were furious waters, frothing and tossed by such large waves, some claimed to see the tops of them from many lengths inland. I had a scout climb the tallest tower in town to confirm this.

What the wind failed to destroy, the waters succeeding in finishing off, at least for the areas along the coast. I regret to confirm that the coastal watch tower, along with most of the garrison, were among those laid waste. 

I would this point be where my story ends, but unfortunately there is more. Following the horrifying winds and the rough seas came a third disaster. Great chunks of frozen water, shaped like citadels, some as big as mountains, began floating into view of the coast. Some of these, smaller ones, were carried inland by the waves, adding to the destruction. Survivors tell me that one such frozen fortress succeeded in flattening half of Grinaldheim on the mouth of the Val. As bad as that is—the true danger these frozen fortresses pose is when they disappear.

What I mean to say more plainly, Your Lordship: these frozen mountains are melting—causing the waters to rise dramatically. I have little doubt that this flooding will be worse than the one that came before. The river Val is already beginning to flow backwards. If it continues, we may well be washed completely under. 

Suffice it to say that the situation is certainly already a crisis. Many are turning to myself and the government generally for leadership. Thankfully we have already been seen to be doing something. I could not say how many thousand measures of grains we have in the Royal stores, but it is certainly enough to get the population through several months on reduced rations. That is assuming Your Lordship has no need of any. 

As the entire world seems to be undergoing dramatic changes, my concerns have been chiefly taken up with the local situation. But my mind roves, wondering how these Great Changes may be impacting the rest of our Empire and Skara as a whole. I crave to know what has befallen the Shinse, in particular. Their lands are so flat and close to the sea… but I suppose they are prepared for most eventualities? 

We have had few visitors to Valemteim, and almost none from as far away as the Capital. Many are making their way to Jotheim, to stay with relations and friends. I have attempted to organize these migrations as much as possible so as to keep it under control. It has taken all my persuasive ability to keep the majority remaining. That and the promise of free government sponsored rations… I am sending a small detachment of Retainers with the first wave—and Hertión with this note, though it saddens me greatly to see him go. 

Here completes my report. 

I remain obediently yours, 

Saltés Borian, Governor of Valemteim, of the House of the Hylot.

[IV] Eighteenth year of the reign of King Talenés IV, the seventh passage of Celem in the month of the Siloath.

To his Majesty’s chief scribe, Andariac for the ear of his Lordship, by the hand of Saltés, Governor of Valemteim.

Greetings and blessings.

Although it is normally my habit to send reports only after first receiving instruction from Your Lordship’s Court, I have found developments in the province necessitate another drafting. 

The flooding I had warned about in my earlier report has already occurred, though (Celem willing) it is already at its worst. The Val’s flow coming in the opposite direction from the open sea these last four passages has caused it to overwhelm its banks—filling the valleys, including the towns and villages like a great new bay. Valemteim, being somewhat inland and in higher ground, escaped the worst of this—but still some quarters of the city are only navigable by watercraft. 

Much of the population managed to escape the worst of the flooding by climbing up into the hills. Some had the foresight to place goods and animals in these places at an early date. I am afraid to say that the Retainers in these areas did not succeed in rescuing the Royal stores, so that our stores in Valemteim are now needed to feed almost the entire province. This will likely halve the length of time we can support ourselves without aide. 

The rising water seems to have subsided, though it shows no signs of reducing to its former levels any time soon. 

We are doing what we can to maintain peace and order, welcoming as many of the dislocated population within the city. I have personally overseen the construction of a military camp in the hills north of the city to provide housing. It is already filled to overflowing.

The flooding has had a curious impact on the Old Devotionist faction in the city. I do not use that term lightly, for they are now proving to be an organized group bent on their own aims. 

The main aim, it seems, is to abandon the city and construct their own camp. They do not bother to hide their allegiances. All wear a yellow cloth around their heads and arms. They have sent emissaries to the refugees in the hills and a great number of them are heading a full passage of Celem inland. Some retainers number among those disappeared. 

So far, nobody has been hurt by the Old Devotionists, who seem content to remain peaceful. But I have heard word that they believe the actions of the government and its citizenry are to blame for our misfortunes—claiming that Lôm’s continued march to a new position in the heavens constitutes a petition to Celem against the evil and arrogance of our Empire. This story certainly fits many of the texts of the Ancients regarding the Authorities and further it coincides with some of the things your protégé Hertión shared concerning what the Shinse delegations had to say about their own traditions. It makes me wonder whether they will eventually be committed to a type of purge.

I cannot tell whether the group is connected to others and whether their actions are concerted across regions. My informants have disappeared with the group and have yet to make contact. My instincts tell me they should not be trusted or underestimated, so I have doubled the guards on the Royal stores. I await Your Lordship’s direction.

Here completes my report. 

I remain obediently yours, 

Saltés Borian, Governor of Valemteim, of the House of the Hylot.

[V] Eighteenth year of the reign of King Talenés IV, the twelfth passage of Celem in the month of the Siloath.

To his Majesty’s chief scribe, Andariac for the ear of his Lordship, by the hand of Saltés, Governor of Valemteim.

Greetings and blessings. 

My apologies in advance to Your Lordship for this stream of reports. I can only imagine the burdens placed upon Your shoulders and the entire Court as the crises deepen. 

I am also cognizant of the possibility that various of your messages and directions may have missed their target. Only a very few have managed to accomplish any travel and my news is solely a result of the arrival of an arms merchant (Decimon, of the House of Rascáli) who arrived at the end of Celem’s last passage. 

Decimon told me of the chaos in the capital, the frequent tremors of the ground, of the sandstorms in the south, of the violence which has risen from food shortages, that gangs hoarding private stores are at the point of fighting in the streets and that Your Lordship has been trying very hard to manage the situation by instituting the rations system you instructed me to organize in this province. 

He also confirmed my suspicions about the Old Devotionists—that they are active throughout the Empire and forming some kind of organization. He did not know if they are leaving Jotheim like they are here (It is of course much harder to know such things in the Capital) but he was shocked by their influence here. 

Decimon is an opinionated ass intent on his achieving his own wellbeing and advantage, so I have had trouble discerning much more than this. He was keen to discuss the actions of the Great Houses in these troubled times and mentioned that they may be behind some of the gang activity. Though I am a member of the House of Hylot, I wish Your Lordship to know my allegiance is true and above any other considerations. I do not believe that this is a time for anything but perfect loyalty and I wish Your Lordship to know it. 

I have insisted upon the same behavior in Valemteim. The remaining populace is quite prepared to work together—except for those disappearing. I have yet to hear from my agents among the Old Devotionists, and I am even beginning to worry that they are lost. 

Stretched as we are, I have not been able to send any retainers to monitor the Northern forests. That said, I have instructed rewards to be given to regular citizens that go scouting. One or two of these report that all is quiet. Almost too quiet, given the circumstances. 

Here completes my report. I will send another when I know more, and I eagerly await further instructions. 

I remain obediently yours, 

Saltés Borian, Governor of Valemteim, of the House of the Hylot.

[VI] Eighteenth year of the reign of King Talenés IV, the final passage of Celem in the month of the Siloath.

For the ear of his Lordship, by the hand of Saltés, Governor of Valemteim.

Greetings and blessings.

I continue my pattern of reports, no longer expectant of receiving a reply, timely or otherwise. 

I have trouble finding scouts to take these notes to the capital. I fear several may not have arrived, so I will frequently repeat details that might grow tedious in the case Your Lordship is indeed receiving all these notes. I request Your Lordship’s patience in that case. 

As I have said before, Decimon, the Rascáli arms trader, is proving himself every day a more worthy asset in the province. He has taken upon himself much of the organizing and equipping of the militia. I believe his warmaking record is fairly unremarkable. That is unfortunate, for he would have made a formidable general. 

The Old Devotionists continue their nightly raiding attempts in the hills surrounding Valemteim. They have carried off an entire Royal store of grains, even though it was under guard. 

It seems the militia have a tough time being willing to put the sword to the Devotionists, who frequently are former neighbors and sometimes family relations.

Decimon’s tactics in this situation are nothing short of brilliant. He has instructed the loosing of fiery arrows while the Devotionists are still too distant to recognize. If the mobs get too close, instead of killing them outright, Decimon has organized pits and other enclosures to have the attackers forced into. We now have a veritable crowd of them under supervision now. These require feeding and caring for and we have had to boost the number of guards, but I am confident this is the best strategy available to us. 

Observations of the Devotionists in our hands have revealed no disorders of a mental or physical nature, barring those caused by hunger and general want. They are generally loathe to elaborate on the reasons for their rebellion, repeating a memorized mantra to any questioning. It seems to be a type of preparation and I can only guess this is also occurring in other parts of the Empire. I hope the other provinces can learn from Decimon’s methods and further offer us instructions or advice. 

We have continued to watch Lôm move across the heavens. The fact that we can see Her for longer and longer periods during Celem’s path is unsettling to even the stoutest heart, including, I confess, my own. The Devotionists spend their time staring at Her, only allowing themselves to sleep when Her visage is hidden from view. 

We still have no reports of any Tamvaasa in the province. I can only surmise they are currently surmounting similar difficulties. 

I eagerly await further instructions. 

I remain obediently yours, 

Saltés Borian, Governor of Valemteim, of the House of the Hylot.

[VII] Eighteenth year of the reign of King Talenés IV, the sixth passage of Celem in the month of the Eagle.

For the ear of his Lordship, by the hand of Saltés, Governor of Valemteim.

Greetings and blessings.

I cannot adequately express the joy I felt at receiving word from you by way of the detachment of Retainers. In these troubling times we have had to live in a much reduced world—effectively seeing only what lies within the confining horizon. As the situation has grown worse every passage of Celem, it is a relief to know that Your Lordship is taking matters in hand, including arrangements for the worst. 

Your instructions to deal mercilessly with the Devotionists will be carried out in every detail. It of course saddens me to have to resort to this kind of force, but Your Lordship’s wisdom cannot be controverted: Something must be done to enable the loyal to survive and our rations, which are certainly limited, are also constantly under attack.

I will do what I can to ensure the compliance of the Retainers and volunteer militia at my disposal, though their autonomy has never been larger in estimation. 

I must also confess that Decimon’s influence with them might be said to eclipse my own. I know not for certain whether he can be counted upon, though I have worked hard to cultivate a certain friendship with him. The endless flow from his tongue is reduced the more assured of his position he becomes, so I have some difficulty assessing him. That said, I have little doubt he still puts his faith in Your Lordship’s government and will continue to prove compliant. 

I had no idea about the gravity of the general situation you lay before me. The worst seems to have passed here on the coast with a raised water level. We have seen but only small evidence of the shifting ground and smoky darkness you mention. 

But everyone can clearly see the form of Lôm as She chases Celem across the sky. Never has its like been seen or experienced, as far as I know. It seems the height of folly to ignore the correlation of the events here and in the heavens. My main contention is that nothing can be done in response, that being the Old Devotionists principle error, whether they are correct in their interpretations of the Ancients or not. This perspective perhaps softens my judgment of them, which is why I am taking extra efforts to prove myself loyal, suspecting even myself of that disease of the mind known as empathy. 

I prattle on like an old scribe. I apologize to Your Lordship, there is much more to report. 

Some movements on the border have been detected. Tamvaasa rovers, those known to circulate the wooded and the high places of the North have come into the province to see if there are easy pickings. They only exist in exceedingly small, familial groups and have yet to initiate a single attack that I am aware of. 

The remaining populace have condensed into larger groups, and they jealously guard all their possessions. I have little doubt they can handle these threats. I remain eager for more information and will forward you anything I learn, as soon as I learn it. 

Your Lordship did not mention anything about the Shinse lands. Are they intact? What of Your Lordship’s son? Was he not living amongst them until recently, studying in the famous Schools? 

I remain obediently yours, 

Saltés Borian, Governor of Valemteim, of the House of the Hylot.

[VIII] Eighteenth year of the reign of King Talenés IV, the twentieth passage of Celem in the month of the Eagle.

For the ear of his Lordship, by the hand of Saltés, Governor of Valemteim.

Greetings and blessings.

Rumors fly around, carried seemingly by the wind, for so few travel these days, that the entire city of Vima has been swallowed up by Skara’s shaking. The tremors have been felt even here, causing some of the buildings that remained standing to fall. I can only imagine the suffering taking place in the Capital and elsewhere. I therefore pledge to Your Lordship any and all assistance we might be at liberty to provide, though it may increase our own suffering.

Here in Valemteim, the citizenry have proven themselves many times over to be the bravest and best soldiers that I have ever seen. Male and female, young and old have stood up against the continuing onslaughts from the Northern brutes. We have lost no battle outright, for the brutes look skinnier and weaker every time they rush down upon us. I must, however, admit to Your Lordship that a stealthy group of Devotionists did make off with the majority of a Royal storage in the midst of one battle, not two passages of Celem ago. 

We have successfully dispatched our prisoners. It was a barbaric event, and included such a stoicism on the part of those dying that I cannot hide the admiration with which I hold their memories. I recognize that it was a necessary deed, only because they stubbornly would not stand with Your Lordship in the face of the threats that still may very well succeed in burning all of us into ashes and forgotten memories. Their intent to destroy us by thievery only serves to further my resolve and the resolve of the people. They were buried in already forgotten tombs of mud.

My concerns are many, but perhaps chief among them is how our will is draining away. There is no more joy to be discerned from our days, as if drawing inner breath is a burden increasingly to be given up. The endless covering of the heavens does not help, accompanied as it is by the cold mist that floats in the air, dampens our clothes and causes our bones and even our teeth to ache. It is increasingly difficult to kindle fires and cook. We make do with cold food, wrapped up tightly in blankets like the elders to try and preserve a little warmth. More than anything else, we yearn to see the light of Celem and the progress of Lôm, but it is as if they have forgotten us. I speak figuratively of course—though who could blame me for adopting superstitious views! 

I apologize for these extended ramblings, and the weakness of heart I betray to Your Lordship. Rest assured that the people do not see or hear these thoughts in the commons. I think it is important for Your Lordship to know how desperate we have grown, including Your Lordship’s humble servant. We are counting on the Court of Eagles, which has never failed us since even the Founding to be able to hold our Empire together.

I remain obediently yours, 

Saltés Borian, Governor of Valemteim, of the House of the Hylot.

 [IX] Eighteenth year of the reign of Talenés IV, the twenty seventh passage of Celem in the month of the Eagle

To his Majesty’s chief scribe, Andariac for the ear of his Lordship, by the hand of Saltés, the Governor of Valemteim. 

Greetings and blessings. 

It has been remiss of me to neglect mentioning anything about the conditions of our Jorian population. I know that their status is of some private concern to Your Lordship and that you do not like them to suffer unnecessarily. It therefore gives me pleasure to say that a majority of them are alive and in good health—even active in helping contain the swelling number of our enemies. 

They are accustomed to meagre rations and remain the most cheerful despite the persistent fog and mist. I have no doubt that their kind will remain long in Skara no matter what happens. 

I am at a loss as to how I should make sense of what I hear. Stories tend to grow into legends as soon as they fly from the truth that gives them birth. Those remaining are generally loathe to trust strangers now that we have had a few cases of secret Devotionists passing off as travelers. But it is a phenomenon to be remarked upon, the travelers, usually from the Great Families or at least personages of some stature who, having experienced what they believe to be the worst in natural disaster, uproot themselves to journey to a safer land—only to find that conditions in the new place are just as bad, if not worse. 

I do not know who began saying that Valemteim was unscathed. Nothing could be further from the truth. But that is the quality of spirit that makes our Empire great, and I believe it must be valued. On the whole, the people have behaved well, welcoming the visitors and sharing what they have. Though as I have already mentioned, the welcome is drawing thin. 

At any rate, these now regular influxes of visitors bring with them news, and the further accounts that sound more like legends than any kind of reality. 

Everyone who comes says that it is true about Vilma being swallowed up in a sudden and terrible shaking. One haggard Retainer who has offered his services (and I hope is not a deserter from Your Lordship’s service elsewhere) claims to have met the only survivor of the town, who in turn says that the great gashes in the rock showed clear down to the burning heart of the land. 

There are also stories—whispered mostly—of bands of terrible creatures seen near Vilma after the event. I know not how to describe them, though I believe such things were once seen in the far north during the last war with the Tamvaasa.  They are said to bear themselves like a man, though they shun most covering and use rudimentary weapons. A burly woman who came here with the Retainer speaks of them laying waste to entire villages, sparing no one. 

The things I hear about these awful beasts are too terrible to repeat. I am certain Your Lordship knows more than do I. Such things are the obsessions of scribes and governors locked indoors. 

I am perhaps making it too apparent how much I personally crave proper information from a proper source. It is one of the worst parts of this new era—the isolation. I could be cursed for wishing back the days when I could barely sleep for all the reports I was required to read and write. But such is the way of things—the Qit always stinks less on the other side. 

At least I have ample supply of parchment and ink with which to fill my own scribblings, and half of a bottle of fortified Raice to keep out this horrific dankness. 

I remain obediently yours, 

Saltés Borian, Governor of Valemteim, of the House of the Hylot.

Continue reading the An account of the Great Cataclysm - Part 2