Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Celebration of the Long Night

The celebration of the Long Night is the oldest of Elefdar sacred days. It takes place on the winter solstice every year, and symbolizes the end of the old year, and the start of the new year. According to Elefdar history, or perhaps myth, the first Long Night was the birth of their race - specifically, they were born at twilight, just after sunset. This is also the origin of the term “twilight race”, which is occasionally used to refer to the Elefdar. Later corruption in the Mannish common tongue has led to both Elefdar and Dwerden races being referred to as the twilight races.

(Philosophers and sages disagree on how and why this corruption came about, though the most popular idea currently seems to be that from the perspective of Men, the ancient glory of both Elefdar and Dwerden are fading into sunset and the coming of night (thus “twilight”), while the Human race is only beginning to come into its glory, and is considered a “rising sun”. This may just be poetic thinking on the part of a few currently-popular philosophers, rather than having any historical basis.)

Whatever the case, the Elefdar believe that the progenitor of their race, Lofdar, was born just after sunset, in the first twilight of Aerde. He was drawn from the heart of a seedling of Yggdrasil the life-ash, by Illë himself. Lofdar’s wife, Eltahar, was born in the same way some years later, when he desired a companion in his work, and Illë saw fit to grant his wish.

And when Eltahar had born sons and daughters to Lofdar, they taught to their children the story of Lofdar’s birth, and set aside that day, the eve of the last night of the year, as sacred, as well as the next day, the beginning of the year. As the Elefdar spread out from their home island into the rest of Aerde, they took this sacred day with them, and passed its tradition on to later generations. In time, they also passed it to the races of Men and Dwerden, who adopted the holiday as one of their own.

The Elefdar celebrate these two days with much singing and merriment, the telling of tales old and new, and both fasting and feasting. Those having lordship are expected to provide much of the food and entertainment for their people, as part of their lordly duty. The lower classes are only expected to work, in service to their lord and their people, during the holiday. But they take shifts, so that everyone may partake of the festivities at least part of the time. The only time that no work is done, is the Long Night itself, from sunset of the last day of the year, through to sunrise of the next day. Food and drink are set out for anyone to enjoy, but it is only snack food, things that are served cold, and can be eaten with the fingers. Thus, everyone can feed themselves as they desire, and no one is required to serve or even clear dishes. The work begins again after sunrise, and certainly there is plenty of cleanup required, but until then, everyone is encouraged to celebrate the Long Night.

In smaller settlements of Elefdar, the Long Night is a simple celebration with the people themselves performing as singers and players, who enact the great stories out of history and legend. As settlements grow larger and local lords gain more wealth, they will tend to hire professional performers, and put on great pageants in order to display their wealth and generosity. Such is the case in Illithëon, where lord Felaranthir hosts the greatest Long Night celebration pageant of any of the major Elefdar colonies. There is a certain friendly competition between him and the lords of Illumïel and Ildallïe, but in the end, it is commonly recognized that his is still the greatest. Elefdar from other colonies will often make at least one pilgrimage to Illithëon, simply to experience the Long Night celebration.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Too Late for Merry Christmas, Too Early for Happy New Year

Well, merry Christmas (and happy holidays) anyway, and happy New Year too!

Today also happens to be the twenty-first anniversary of my marriage to the Geekwif. We'll be celebrating by spending the day together, and enjoying a lovely dinner out this evening.

Keep your eyes open for a new story-related post this weekend. Since I have a few days off, I intend to do some writing. Yay!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chapter Five, Scene Ten - philosophical diversions

I had always planned for a scene showing that Balfrith's training among the Elefdar would include instruction in the wisdom of the Elefdar. This might include proverbs, or a philosophical discussion, or something similar. I had not actually decided exactly what to do, but simply left a scene placeholder in the draft of the story.

As of this evening, I have started writing that scene. It is not complete yet, but I wanted to go ahead and share it anyway, just to give you a taste of what it might look like. Of course, this being a rough draft, it could end up being completely different. But of course that's part of the fun of writing - the adventure of composing a new story, followed by the satisfaction of polishing it until it shines, even if that means grinding away the rough edges, in order to end up with a real gem.

Well, that's enough of that extended metaphor. On to the sample...

Incidentally, I'm not happy with the character names in this scene. But they will do as placeholders until I come up with something better.

* * *

Balfrith returned to his lessons a week later, after the new year. He sat now, in a circle with a dozen other Elefdar students, as he had done on so many occasions in the past. This class was somewhat different though, as it dealt with the wisdom of the Elefdar as consolidated over thousands of years. It wasn’t exactly history, nor was it any sort of science, art or lore as he understood the words. The Elefdar simply called it "wisdom", which meant little to him. For Balfrith, wisdom was what you learned as you got older. He supposed, since the Elefdar lived so much longer than Men, they must have collected quite a bit of it over the years.

Of course, he had no idea what that meant for him, personally. From what he’d seen of his father and other older Men, wisdom only brought sadness and regret, something which he thought he’d already had enough experience with, and certainly had no desire to get more of. But it was required of him to learn, and so here he was.

Their ceinad was named Theramil, and he had graying hair like an aged Man, though he was definitely an Elefdar. This was Balfrith’s first surprise, and it caught his attention immediately. How old is he, to have gray hair? he thought.

Theramil introduced himself to the class, and then began with a question: "What is good?"

There was silence among the students, but Balfrith caught a few of them looking askance at one another, as if to see who would dare to respond first. Ceinad Theramil looked around the circle of silent students, then asked again, "What is good?"

One of the young men spoke quietly, as if to himself, "Good is that which is not evil."

Theramil turned at once toward the one who had replied, and grinning, exclaimed, "Ahhh, a dichotomist! Little did I expect to meet one among this class, one so young. Tell me therefore, my youthful student, if you can: what is evil?"

The one who had replied, who Balfrith remembered was called Sulimon, remained silent. His face flushed with embarrassment, and Balfrith felt sorry for him, but not sorry enough to speak out himself. It appeared the other students felt the same way, as they watched first Sulimon, then their ceinad, but remained silent.

Finally Sulimon sat up stiffly, hardened his expression like stone, and spoke aloud. "Evil is to deliberately cause unjustified harm to another. All else is good."

Once again there was silence, but Balfrith noticed Theramil shaking with laughter. After a moment he replied, "Truly, all that is not evil, is therefore good?" Sulimon nodded, but said nothing else. "I suppose, then, that if I approached someone on the side of the road who had been deliberately, unjustly, harmed by another, they would therefore be the victim of evil?"

The student nodded again.

"And if this harm had left the person injured, though not in a life-threatening manner, what then?"

Sulimon shook his head. "What then, what?"

"What should I do?"

Sulimon shrugged. "Do as you will. But cause him no further harm, unless you be evil yourself."

"And what if I do nothing?" Sulimon shrugged again. "Is that good - for me to do nothing? For I have done no wrong, caused no deliberate, unjust harm. Is that good?"

Sulimon replied, "If it is what you will to do, and it causes no unjust harm, then it is good."

"And yet I have left the injured man on the side of the road, with no aid, no encouragement from me."

Sulimon said only, "You have not done evil."

Balfrith now got the courage to speak up, and said, "But have you truly done good? To do nothing, is to do good - is that your belief? At least as long as it is not evil? Is there no middle ground?"

Theramil turned quickly at the sound of Balfrith’s voice. "Ahh, the young Man among us speaks! And he brings the wisdom of Men to our small discussion."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Hard to Believe It's Been Three Weeks Already

I did not intend to delay my posting so long - sorry about that.

What I do intend, is to do some writing this weekend, and put up another post with a story sample - probably a short one, but it will be something. After that... well, I think I'll just take things one day at a time.

Oh yeah, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!