(514-05-30) If I Had a Voice...
Summary: Arian performs a ritual to welcome Raiding Season.
Date: May 30, 514
Related: None

30th of May, 514 — Faewood of Laverstock

The faewood of the Laverstock lands is quite an exaggeration. To have a wood, one expects a large swathe of trees that grow deep and ominous at the center. Really, the faewood is nothing more than a large copse that disguise the three small standing stones that have stood on the Laverstock lands before there was a Laverstock to speak of. Its size, however, does not take away from the eerie presence it holds on this dark, Crone-night where the moon is absent and the stars shine bright against the blackened canvas of the sky.

Summer is here, the wind seems to sigh, bringing with it the warm smell of wildflowers. With summer comes what all knights wait through the cold winters and spring plantings for: raiding season. And with raiding season, comes Arian's yearly offering before the feet of the three stones.

She has come to this place dressed in leathers and old wool. She approaches the stones with blackened palms and soles and darkened her eyes — all done with coal and soot from a fire that had burned with ash wood. Her hair has been braided and twisted with raven feathers so that it is more of a holy disarray than its normal tidy plaits and ribbons. She looks quite wild and warrior-like, particularly with the shield at her back and sword on her hip. She carries a small bird cage which houses a large-bodied raven. The bird is silent and alert, tilting its head this way and that as it looks about the clearing.

Candles have been lit about the stones, providing a guttering glow to the woods, drawing shadows long and bringing out the entish faces in the trees. A shallow bronze basin sits before the tallest of the stones — a rare artifact of the Laverstocks, and something that is only used in sacrament instead of dishware.

Arian rolls to her knees before the basin, resting her hands on her thighs. Her bare, blackened feet curl in the soft, cool grass and she shifts on her shins a couple times until she finds comfort in her kneeling pose.

From her belt, she removes the heavy burlap sack. She begins to unpack its contents: a small knife and three painted stones. She tosses the stones into the basin, hearing the musical clatter of the stones against the polished bronze. It silences the copse, and sends a stillness around her. From her hair, she pulls loose a feather and along with it several strands of her short, dark hair. It is also added to the bowl.

"Hear me," she murmurs as she taps the edge of the knife against the bowl with a soft tink. "Hear me…"

The raven releases a low noise — a choked caw.

"Bless me, sisters three," Arian continues, tapping the blade once more. "Bless my sword, bless my shield." Tink. Tink. "Bless my bones, bless my blood." Tink. Tink. "Bless my mind, bless my heart." Tink. Tink. "And if you should take me this season, bless my death so that it reaps honor to my house." Tink.

Again, the raven caws — a bit louder, but still soft in the silent stillness of the copse.

The Knight turns her shadowed gaze to the bird, and reaches to touch the cage. "Be the messenger of my prayers, send these words to the Morrigan." And then, Arian reaches into the cage to capture the bird around its breast. It does not struggle, but instead ruffles up its feathers and releases another soft caw.

Blood sacrifices imbue a prayer with power, but blood should always be spilled with care and purpose. So, when Arian pierces the raven's heart with her blade and begins to drain its red blood into the basin, she does so respectfully and devoutly. She makes this sacrifice once a year, which only further empowers her offering. Offer blood too often and the Gods do not value the prayer, but offer blood only when it is needed and the Gods heed the need.

The raven's blood coats the basin's bottom, covering the stones. When the flow slows, Arian sets the body carefully before the feet of the largest standing stone. She collects the first blood-soaked stone, and runs the red stripe up the back of her left arm. She takes the second, and runs another stripe up her right. Finally, the third leaves a stripe of red from under her chin to between her breasts. Each stone is returned to the basin.

Arian will stay in the copse all night, almost in a vigil to the Morrigan. When the sun rises, she will rise from her kneel. The basin will be poured out over the feet of the standing stones, and the raven body left to be looked after by nature's whim. She will return to her manor home in her leathers and old wool to wash away the ash and blood. Then she will return to her work around the manor, seeing to her squire and knightly duties.

The Morrigan will listen, but only summer will tell if they heed her prayer.

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