The Calm Before The Storm
When Abraham spread word that he would shortly be announcing the names of the Sacrifice; there was much talk, fear, and excitement among the people of Cyprus.
Abraham, the Steward of Cyprus, was quite rich and very peculiar, and had been the wonder of Cyprus for the past 35 years, ever since his remarkable disappearance and unexpected return. The knowledge he had brought back from his travels had now become a local legend, and it was popularly believed, whatever the old folk might say, that the lonesome hill of Cyprus was full of his secrets. And if that were not enough for fame, there was also his prolonged vigour to marvel at.
Time wore on but it seemed to have little effect on his leadership. At 40, he was much the same as 20. At 50, his leadership was called well-preserved, but unchanged would have been nearer the mark. There were some that shook their heads at his old ways and thought that Cyprus' peace was too much of a good thing; it seemed unfair that anyone should possess (apparently) such firm grasp on his people.
'It will have to be paid for', they said, 'It isn't natural, and trouble will come of it!'
But so far, trouble had not come; and as Abraham was generous with his money, most people were willing to forgive his oddities and good fortune. He remained on visiting terms with his relatives and he had many devoted admirers among the people of poor and unimportant families. But he had no close friends, nor allies he wished to place his trust in.
Abraham ruled with harshness and faith. He kept to the old ways when the rest of the Reach began changing. The people still dress in plainer clothes and there was no machinery or fancy items. Cyprus was simple; but that you'd expect, being so far from Eden.
Eden, not only being the capital of the Reach, but the name and home for the dynasty that leads it; rules with an iron fist.
No one knows who leads Eden, but his right-hand man and captain is Kaiser Cain.
With the reign of Eden comes complete and utter surrender to any other way. Eden leads. Eden guides. Eden keeps. Eden commands.
Generally, the further from Eden your hold is, the more barbaric, underprivileged, depleted, ill-fated and worthless you are.
Holds closest to Eden are fortunate in their wealth and comfort. These holds are luxurious, for lack of a better word.
Cyprus is quite far indeed from Eden. Not as far as some holds, but only two other holds were more distant; Eden being far to the east, and Cyprus being far to the west. It is barely even a hold, being so small.
Its main export, is fruit. As you can imagine, fruit is not in high demand in the richer districts; mostly eating artificial foods.
Oranges, grow in abundance, and its scenery is versatile and rich in colour. This makes it a desirable location, though the community is very small. Most families of Cyprus have been there for generations, and outsiders receive suspicious looks and words of warning.
Each year, each hold would choose a sacrifice to appease the gods. This concept was introduced by Eden.
The sun flickered through the trees as she silently moved through the woods. It peeked up over the horizon a little way to the east. It cast a dim shadow behind every tree, but illuminated her path.
The town behind her was restless, where, early as it was, farmers, shepherds and harvesters could be seen through the gloom.
It had been at least 30 years since the now 50-year-old Abraham had risen to the leadership of Cyprus, bringing with him at least a sense of order and calm to the hold. Although Cyprus was quite unique in its ways, Abraham was under Eden's command. Despite this, the hold never ceased to simmer and occasionally boil over with resistance, as some rebellious people expressed their opinions on Eden. This of course, led to immediate punishment.
Even on a jasmine-sweet evening in spring, when the bluebonnets were in full bloom and the dewbirds were nestling in the hazel-thicken, the woods were dangerous.
The suns light fell upon a green meadow, covered in golden poppy. It also found a figure, clad in black, sitting on a moss covered log.
A young man, only 17 years old,just as she was, but tall and proud.
She soundlessly moved towards him, her arrow sheath swinging against her back as she stepped. Her familiar, a wild cat, moved in sync beside her. Pulling out her dagger, she got closer and closer until she was only half a step behind where he was sitting.
She put the dagger to his throat, and the startled boy stayed perfectly still.
"What's this?", she says tauntingly, a cocky assuredness in her tone, "A ranger taken by surprise?"
The boy grins and she sheaths the blade, laughing a little. He was of course not a ranger, but he chopped wood in the forest, and knew his way around nonetheless. He gestures for her to sit beside him and she obliges.
"Nervous?", she asked. She unintentionally used her teasing tone, though the question was sincere.
"Aren't you?", Isaac retaliated.
"Not for me. For Lilin".
"Yes. Me as well. But it must me done".
This took her aback. She had always thought Isaac had the same opinions of Eden as her, because he had listened so intently to her rebellious rants. It must be done?
"It must be done?", she echoed her thoughts, "Sacrificing innocent children isn't inevitable Isaac. It isn't something that just is."
"That's not what I meant", he said.
"I think, the God's , in all their holy glory, wouldn't want this. This is one big scam with Eden's seal bleeding all over it. To subjugate us. To subdue our spirit and conquer our resistance. To make us into puppets, nothing but lifeless corpses carrying out Eden's every will".
He stared at her for a moment. A long moment; but not in annoyance, but instead with awe or quiet admiration.
"Those are mighty big words for such a small girl", he said giving her a small nudge in her side.
She smiled a little, but kept her gaze forward.
Her familiar, Gafton, restlessly lay by her feet, while Isaac's familiar, Isa, a hawk, perched upon his shoulder.
She and Isaac had grown up together. They hunted small game together in the woods, sat together at their daily lessons, and would talk for hours. This was their sanctuary, here in the meadow.
"Do you think that ghastly Darmin man will attempt to make a speech this year?", Gafton asked.
"Lets hope not", Isaac replied, and Isa cooed in agreement.
She and Isaac had met their familiars at the age of 5, just like all the other children, from generation after generation before them. It was more than a custom. This occurred everywhere in the Reach. Everyone has a familiar, no exceptions. It is a way of life.
Everyone receives their familiar at 5, presented to them by their holds leader. Animals common to each hold makes up the majority of its holds familiars. For instance, in Rhine, the closest hold to Eden; the majority of familiars are small domestic dogs and cats and colourful birds. This is partially because they are apparently common animals in Rhine, but also because it has become fashionable over the last few decades, and Rhine is very into fashion. In Galilee, where people live in small huts and cottages, rodents are the most common familiars. In Otto, which is a hold made up entirely of water, where people live on boats and chew tobacco; familars are usually ducks and reptiles. In Northhelm, the land of the gypsy folk; their familiars are commonly hares and other small animals which in the wild, might be considered pests.
Cyprus, has quite a variety of familiars, though most are animals you would easily find in the wild almost anywhere.
Her sister Lilin has Domin, an ermine, which is quite a common animal. Her mother, Anise, had a white rabbit named Lychra.
However, her father Abraham, being the steward; has a more impressive familiar. Sachaia is a lynx. But her older brother, Demetrius, has the most impressive familiar in all of Cyprus. A snow leopard.
Her father, knowing Demetrius, being his eldest son, to be the heir; took some men high atop the mountains close to Cyprus that signify the edge of the world. They were looking for an impressive animal, and found a snow leopard to their liking. They killed the mother and brought the baby Esbeth home. Now Demetrius is the most envied man in Cyprus.
Males of course, have better familiars than females; which explains why Isaac now sits with a hawk on his shoulder, and she has a wildcat.
She wouldn't change it though. Not for the world. No one would ever change their familiar. They are brothers and sisters. They never leave eachothers side.
On her 5th birthday, when she received Gafton as her familiar; she was disappointed. She resented him at first, because he was so small and weak looking. But after a few weeks they were as thick as thieves and she found him to be a born hunter.
"We should go", Gafton says, "No doubt Lilin and Domin are a mess".
He's right of course.
"Very well", she says, rising, "Good luck Isaac".
"The same to you".