Legend of the Beggar’s Son

Here is a tale of ancient Giralliya for the loremaitresses and loremasters among us.

In the terrifying days of Gohgohl the Relentless, four brothers stood against the troll-mage, not with armies – although they had those – but in all the vulnerability of their royal persons. Each night the sky rippled with hungry curtains of red light, gnawing at the land and all who dwelt upon it. Then it was that the brothers stood guard, weapons raised to the roiling energies above, weaving a gossamer shield to hold descending death at bay.

The eldest was Phillox, King of Istria, and son of Claudeo and Juniya. He bore the mighty axe Vahtayvan, and his antiphonic voice was more powerful than his weapon. It was he, the Imprecator, whose shouts harmonized their defense, each of the four standing on the low ridges some distance from their beleaguered city.

The next younger, full brother to Phillox, was Theon, King of Eirdry. His antiphonic chant bore more subtlety than that of the others, and it was he who sensed the anomalies in the death overhead and moved to counter its sudden jabs downward with the musical enchantments of his chalemel, weapon and instrument both.

Horato, King of Ennecy, and son of Ondreyus and Juniya, was the most enduring of the brothers. On the longest night when ribbons of blue light sparked upward from the river to join the red draperies shifting in the sky, birthing violet waves of unspeakable weight, the brothers folded one by one. Only Horato remained upright, holding off the lethal tide alone. He lasted until dawn and the rising sun brought safety.

Amadeo, full brother to Horato, and merely Lord of Ebior until the day of his ascension, was the nimblest of the four – both in mind and in body – but his contribution seemed the lesser until the dusk when he brought a beggar’s son before Phillox.

“This is Luciyo, born of Cayo, and he is the least and most miserable in all our realm, but he is our salvation. Give him the mantle of Saint Sofiya and let him stand unshielded beneath Gohgohl’s curtain of death. Then shall victory be ours.”

Phillox was astonished. He looked directly at the beggar youth. “You will do this?”

Luciyo nodded.

Now the mantle of Saint Sofiya was sacred to the Istrians. They preserved it on the altar in the inner sanctum of their temple. Thrice yearly those in need made pilgrimage to Bazinthiad to touch the hem of the garment and be healed or inspired or forgiven. Such a treasure could not be lightly risked.

Yet such was the desperation felt by the kings and their subjects that all was done as Amadeo directed. The brothers took their stations as the sky darkened and then filled with perilous crimson light. And Luciyo, the beggar’s son, stood on the temple isle in the center of Lake Argiyad, wearing the ancient cloak of the saint.

Phillox bellowed his commands: Theon, Horato, and Amadeo raised their weapons in synchrony with his, and the transparent gauze of green and silver floated up from them, generating crashing flashes of black and gold where it withstood the crimson writhings.

Phillox shouted again. A gap pierced the enchanted protection and death drifted down, a slow rippling roil of blood and wine, to touch the cloaked man awaiting it. Luciyo lifted his arms palm up, and lifted his face too, as though to embrace what descended to him. The skin of his hands, of his brow, blazed suddenly blue-white. Would he burn, as had the other victims? The sparking fire on his visage and palms spread, enshrouding his entire figure. Then the mantle of Sofiya unfurled itself like a cavalier’s banner in the wind, and the fierce inferno of Luciyo gouted upward like lightning in reverse to stab the sky, bursting asunder the dread red draperies and shattering the glistening sky-ship that was the fortress where Gohgohl dwelt.

Fragments of crystal rained down along with the ash of charred ivory. A vast flock of doves flew out from Sofiya’s mantle, streaming across the sky and sweeping the air clean with their wings. The birds disappeared over the horizon. Then all was silent. The stars shone in the dark velvet of the upper reaches. Victory was theirs. The long defense was done.

Theon, Horato, and Amadeo begged Phillox to remain Imprecator over them all to the end of his days – and then to pass the office on to his first child – while they took up the kingships of Istria, Eirdry, and Ennecy. He agreed only on the condition that they establish the Chamber of Princes and Kings to advise him in his rule. That and one other thing: that Luciyo would become First in a Chamber of Paucitors and elect others to his side.

“For the bounty of the least and most miserable has won this day, and future Imprecators will not always be so lucky as to have a brother Amadeo, who will bring hidden poverty forward to the attention of the mighty!”

Thus were three of the great Giralliyan institutions – Emperador (Imprecator); Princes and Kings; and Paucitors – created. The tale of the fourth – the Exemplars of Orthodoxy – is a tale for another day.

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More stories of old Giralliya:
Ravessa’s Ride
The Thricely Odd Troll
The Old Armory: Blood Falchion