The Port of Corflu
In the rosy dawn light of the Day of the Minnow, Kannan Kannanson, proud warrior of Storm Bull surveyed the marshy delta of the River of Cradles. A single skiff was making its way downriver toward Corflu’s rocky outcrop. On board were two river folk and two strangers. One of these was a dark skinned fellow dressed in bedraggled feathers; the other hunched at the stern, draped in a tattered black robe. Kannan shrugged to himself, and returned to his post, guarding the Corflu Trade Alliance.
On board the skiff, Sarky pointed out the stockaded town of Corflu, ringed with imported timbers, while Dagis set a course to the north of the town, toward a collection of ramshackle huts. “We’ll take you to our houses; you’ll be safe there,” he said. Yucta Axotylata and Davros Thanatos were unconvinced, but they allowed themselves to be unloaded from the skiff and escorted by the river men to Sarky’s house, where they were greeted by Sarky’s wife and several children.
Dagis and Sarky suggested the pair remain indoors while they fetched the Reverend Sa’ar. Having not much better to do, the two complied. Davros requested some wine from his hosts.
As the sun climbed towards the zenith, Kannan Kannanson spotted a river man with a flagon of wine. He beckoned the man, who came reluctantly. Seeing the wine, Kannan felt like a drink, and he got what he demanded. He offered the man some wine too. Soon the wine flagon was empty, to the chagrin of the riverman, but Kannan gave him some coins to buy more. The riverman was not a habitual drinker. His tongue loosened and he told Kannan about the strangers with the mysterious stigmata. Slapping his new drinking buddy on the back, Kannan suggested they pay the newcomers a visit.
Dagis returned to the hut with the Reverend Sa’ar, a polite newtling. He had heard of the stigmata and, after comiserating with Yucta and Davros about their plight, examined their hands. What he saw made him sink to his haunches in a kind of reverie. "The reverend is thinking, " said Dagis. Presently, the reverend blinked and stood up. At that moment there was the sound of drunken singing, and Kannan Kannanson burst into the hut with one hand on a bottle and the other arm around Sarky’s shoulders.
Unfazed by this commotion, the Reverend Sa’ar spoke of a dream he had had, in which strangers appeared with marks such as those on Axotylata and Thanatos’ hands. He revealed that the marks were sometimes seen amongst the followers of the cult of the Cleansed One of the river god Zola Fel. They were the runes of Water, Movement and Harmony and they were magical (Davros’ witch sight confirmed this). Sa’ar did not know what the marks of the god were doing on the palms of these strangers. He urged Davros and Yucta, and even the somewhat stupefied Kannan to attend his evening ceremony at the Zola Fel temple in the reeds to the north of the town, and to seek more information from the Pool of Kinope in the New Bog in Sun County. With that he slipped away into the river waters.
The riverfolk were very excited by this news. They crowded around Yucta and Davros, wanting to touch the marks, now that the strangers were now River Voices and celebrities.The afternoon passed. Yucta analysed the local herbs and plants, brought to him in great piles by giggling children. Davros practised his riverfolk disguise with the help of Sarky’s family. When Kannan spotted Davros’ livid features he felt sympathetic for his past suffering. Thanatos however wanted no friendship or sympathy, only wine.
When evening came, Kannan, Davros and Yucta followed Sarky and Dagis to the Zola Fel temple, an open space in the reeds where a spring ran from a stone altar into the inlet. There were questioning looks toward the strangers until the Reverend Sa’ar appeared and gave his sermon.
The Cleansed One Hears the Voice of the River
“His eyes opened through the arts of the Three Bean Circus, the Cleansed One perceived the tragic perversion of his condition, and he despaired and would have destroyed himself. He wandered disconsolate and unknowing, and coming upon the river Zola Fel, he threw himself in the swift, deep waters that he might drown. He sank to the bottom, and tumbled along the river bottom, buffeted by the current. But miraculously, surrounded by darkness and despair, at the brink of death, he discovered within himself a mysterious hope and desire for life. His spirit cried out, and was answered by Zola Fel, for suddenly the Cleansed One could see through the dark river depths and could breathe the pure river waters.
“And he felt a hand grasp his right hand. The Cleansed One quailed, for he knew his nature was unclean, and he sensed the hand on his was pure, and he would withdraw in shame and fear, but the hand held him tight and drew him to the banks of the river. And then it seemed to him that on the river bank he slept the refreshing sleep of the pure and innocent, yet all that time his spirit was awake and speaking with a Voice. This Voice spoke to him of mysteries and quests, of tasks and trials, of duty and service, of paths that might be traveled to the Heart of the Sea and the secrets of purification that might be found in the Deep Waters.
“And when the Cleansed One awoke, he found he had new faith and purpose. And when he looked upon the palm of his right hand he saw the mark of the river god’s Runes, and knew whose hand had taken his in the darkness, and knew what Voice had spoken to him in sleep. And with the river god’s marks he also saw the Rune of Harmony, and knew that this mark was his own, the gift of the insights gathered from the Three Bean Circus. And by those marks on his hand he swore forever to be a friend to the river, and to serve it in gratitude for its gift of life and purpose.
“So you see how the Cleansed One swore to be a Voice of the River, to praise its gifts of life and purpose, and preach to all of their duty to serve the river and keep it pure, to respect its gifts that they might not be lost to waste and corruption, and to admonish those who through weakness of wit or poverty of spirit were blind to the great debt owed to Zola Fel by those who shared its bounty.”
As the Reverend Sa’ar spoke, he raised his palms. All of the worshippers did likewise, as did Yucta and Davros. The stigmata in their palms flashed with a radiant glow, causing quite a stir. While this was going on, Davros Thanatos felt a strange sense of familiarity. He became convinced that the story of the Cleansed One had urgent relevance to him. In a daze he allowed the worshippers to touch and kiss his hands. Yucta Axotylata allowed no such familiarity. In the lands of Klesh, priests were to be feared but not trusted.
After the service, Davros Thanatos eagerly pressed the Reverend Sa’ar for details about becoming an initiate of Zola Fel. Here was purpose! Back at Sarky’s house, Sa’ar told the adventurers that he had organised a boat for them north to the city of Pavis. He also asked a favour: to help hunt some mudsharks which had been terrorising his newtling followers in the swamp. The three agreed to help out.