The Bjoulsae River

The Bjoulsae, known among the Breton tribes as the Tear, while their dark-skinned neighbors on the other side prefer to speak of it as the Blue Serpent, the great river that brought civilization and with it life, though more often death, to the isolated regions between the Wrothgarians and the Dragontail, can only be discussed in terms of its interminable flow: the upper course, the middle course and the lower course or the Mouth, where the Tear becomes salty.

The Fork (of the Serpent’s Tongue)

The upper course is called also the Fork and to present day remains in the clutches of crazed water spirits lurking in the streams that drip down from the rocky mountain knees. When the conquistadors of the First Empire witnessed the treacherous beauty of the landscapes painted in sky-reflected silver and living green, they forced the subjugated witchkings from the lands to the west to appease the spirits and make the region hospitable. The witchkings could divine but one way to make the spirits docile: to fashion for them imaginary brides who would keep them well fed, satisfied and thus too lazy to chase after mortals; to this end, the witchkings sacrificed their bodily lives and kept a semblance of existence only as dreams and illusions themselves. In the decades and centuries that followed, the dream-folk mixed with the spirit-folk and it is their ghostly offspring that inhabit the lands inside the Fork today. Nobody knows what happened to the Imperials when they returned to claim the Promised Land, except that they were never seen again.

Villohain, the land of the Nunistari

The middle course is called Villohain, and the lands on the west coast belong to a secluded sect, the Nunistari, who have, in a somewhat strange twist to the ever present sun worship, built the whole of their customs and society around the elusive phenomenon of the eclipse which makes the stars visible at noon. Their settlements cover the whole mid-course of the Bjoulsae and can be regarded either as a single porous township or as a loose cluster of hamlets and households interconnected by a network of curling paths that only reveal their true nature and purpose when looked at from the tops of surrounding hills: for the roads serve also as a calendar of the Nunistari, one based on the twin Moon cycle.

It is a hopelessly intricate system that this simple observer of dress, speech and custom cannot hope to grasp, let alone explain to others; each turn, each standing stone mark an event past or future, the distinction seemingly being of little import. Every circle is being traversed by a Walker, regardless of the season or the time of day; the path of Nirn is walked by an untouched girl, and the paths of the Moons by young men who must either be twin brothers or exceedingly close friends, while the paths of the minor planets may be taken by children of both sexes. Among the Nunistari, there’s no station higher than being a Walker, and their remarkable devotion and endurance can only be understood as a product of extreme fanatism. They must walk at a strictly predetermined pace, which is usually much slower than the normal walking gait, and they may only leave the path for two reasons: imminent death, or an encounter with another Walker.

Encounters that involve the minor Walkers are celebrated by feasting on wine and flesh of sacrificed animals; but when one of the Moon Walkers meets the Nirn Walker, bringing about the eclipse, the festivities assume an orgiastic character, to be taken to extremes in the rare cases when all three Principal Walkers find themselves aligned in the shadow of a double eclipse. Pladonicus tried to explain these customs as a curious inversion of some Colovian rituals uniting two females with a young man in celebration of the life of Reman, an interpretation based on the observation that the two twin Walkers of the Nunistari are also called Cyene and Shote. However, the local historians claim that the entire Nunistari religion was a construct invented by the sages of one Duke Grom Villohain, who ruled the west coast of Bjoulsae from the Wrothgrians to Daggerfall in the Second Era and was witness to the rise of the Warrior Wave as it swept the lands across the river giving a red hue to her dark waters. When word came from Empire Actual that peace is to be made with the newcomers in the best tradition of the Allesians by proclaiming a new faith among the local populace, one to unite the church of Magnus with the strange heresies of the dark-skinned barbarians, the Duke took the instructions literally, and the resulting system of mongrel customs came about as a direct mixture of the poorly understood concept of the Walkabout and the indigenous worship of Magnus, with an added measure of devotion to Time.

Which theory is more correct, this correspondent cannot judge. So far all attempts to make the Nunistari accept the Imperial Solar calendar (which prevails in most other Breton lands for obvious reasons of both religious and practical nature) have failed.

The Mouth

It is in the lower course that the Serpent has the most to carry on its shiny backs. Between the ports of Daggerfall and Wyerest, there hardly passes a day without a hundred ships sailing upstream and downstream, navigating the unpredictable twin tides which at times make the river flow upstream, and yet at others, make her waters still like the gaze of Stendarr. But as one sails north and away from the usual patrol routes of the Imperial Navy, the more likely one is to get caught in the webs of the infamous water tribes.

The water people of Bjoulsae follow their own laws and the great hand of Imperial power has never reached quite deep enough to deal with their incessant mischief, for their settlements hide under the surface, and their tongue practically impossible to master. In the words of Mistress Ienewan: “Like words from an unknown tongue, slender shapes just under the surface hint at strange structures, cities of silver and green hidden in liquid shadows. I walk pass their toll, stretched across the waist of the Serpent like a belt made of spider webs: little boats and great ships alike caught and held in place by slippery threads until some agreement with the river people can be found. They ask for strange things, shiny trinkets and worthless household implements, broken glass, and other objects that do not float. As I walk close by the water, I hear their unintelligible speech and look in their bright yellow eyes; they yell at me but do not seem angry nor attempt to emerge from the river and I am not afraid.”

According to popular belief, the water people are feral descendants of Maormer who supposedly dwelled in the lower course in times older than the chanted memory of the rural witchkings. The only support this correspondent could find for such traditions is in yet other unproven rumors blaming the water people for all kinds of inexplicable accidents related to snakes.


Notes

Submitted to Temple Zero.

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