Deneskerva the Great Sister is the demi-god daughter of the Red Goddess. Some say She was born when the island of Mernita rose during the Great Flood. Others say She was born when She emerged from the Cavern of Flowers in Darsen in the Zero Wane and was at the Goddess’ side during the battle of Castle of Blue. Great Sister was there when her twin Takenegi the Red Emperor was first revealed by the Goddess. Like Takenegi, she is thought to have worn several Masks, although she discards them less readily than her twin. The current Mask is thought to be 125 years old.
The Goddess empowered Deneskerva to teach everyone something of the truth of Nysalor. She founded the Sisterhood of New Consciousness, one of the most important Nysalor cults in the Empire and famed for their delicate, lattice-like temples.
By her very existence Deneskerva demonstrates Balance to the people of the Empire. Great Sister is the feminine (and Darsenite) counter-balance to the masculine (and Dara Happan) Red Emperor. Just as the Emperor manifests through himself the visible rule of the material world, so does his twin manifest through herself the invisible rule of the material world. Some Lunar philosophers say that as the Emperor is the animus of the Goddess, so is the Great Sister the anima of the Red Emperor.
All agree that the Great Sister mirrors her twin. He has armies, she does not (but see The Sister’s Army, below); but her magical power (invisible) is much, much greater than his, which is said to be “as limitless as the light of the moon.” He works politics (leaders), she works people; he works war, she peace; he open, overt displays of what he has; she, humble. He commands from the top, she is a humble participant in the Darsenite Council, rarely speaking and yet always supporting the consensus.
The Sister’s Army
The Great Sister commands a small mobile regiment called the Sister’s Army that is completely outside of the command of the Red Emperor and the Lunar Army. It consists of approximate 500 beautiful young men and women in fantastically glamorous uniforms. When viewed from afar, her “army” is often mistaken for flocks of gigantic birds or moving miniature forests. The Carmanian warlord Mazar mocked the Sister’s Army as “mere perfumed dancers” but it was the Sister’s Army that neutralized the Carmanian sorcerers at Castle Blue.
In truth, the Sister’s Army is a magical unit, not a military regiment. They do not fight on the battlefield in the mud and the blood, but perform elaborate and elegant ritual dances and choreography with great magical results. According to Feri of Joranit, the dancers are forbidden from spilling blood and their decorated weapons must never strike their foes. The truly wise tremble when the Great Sister’s “carnival dancers” appear in the theatre of war. However, they are subject only to her will. For example, the Sister’s Army did not appear in the wars of Dragon Pass until the Battle of Yoran.
Nonetheless, the Great Sister wields vast power, and many events which seem strange are thought to be her doing. She was, they say, the flower where the Emperor hid from Sheng Seleris. Also, some say it was she who struck down Emperor Vinyargatha, after he had won his battle, his magical challenge, and his personal duel. It seems certain that she was the “demon horse” that distracted the Carmanian general Mardan in his march, and allowed the lunar garrison to reinforce Doblian.
Although she has never done it, everyone knows that she wields enough invisible power to overtake and destroy the Emperor if necessary. They say that the emperor fears this, the same way that the Dara Happan lords fear the Ervuthan Rites. No one is certain how much personal desire she actually has in such matters, being so powerfully rooted into the soil of Darsenic tradition, and whose fruit and flower bear the 490 forms of the Red Goddess.
The Mirror of Beasts and Gods
Great Sister is called the Red Emperor’s Twin, even though both were born far apart in time and space; she is also called his sister, and sometimes his mirror. She is so often shown holding a round hand mirror, “my dear friend,” she calls it and often holds it to her breasts. This provokes her Dara Happan title, “Lady Vanity,” but that’s a misunderstanding, for she actually always holds the reflecting side outward, to whomever she is speaking to. In Darsen, it is called the Mirror of Beasts and Gods and is considered a sign of her ability to reveal wisdom. No one is sure what is on the backside, but since everyone who ever suggested or said it was a face has been found mysteriously tortured and dismembered (hence “vanitized”), that is thought to be true.
Great Sister and Merinita
Before, when she was called Verithurusa, Lesilla had founded the land of Mernita, and thousands of her descendants lived in it. Mother Lesilla sat overhead, worshipped by her descendants add simultaneously appearing among them as Queen Cerullia. When the Great Flood destroyed the world, Lesilla drew her land upward, higher than the rushing waters.
Deneskerva was a daughter of Lesilla, who was loved by Lesilla above all others. Lesilla showed Deneskerva the invisible light of Sedenya the Turner that permeates the material world. When Deneskerva’s own twin brother demanded that the people of Mernita reject Sedenya, Deneskerva was given her mother’s mirror and taken to the God Caves in the care of Natha. Because of this, Deneskerva did not die but remained hidden until Our Goddess revealed her again.
The Birth of Great Sister
The Carmanian Warlords sent their armies to harry the people of Teelo Imara and the Carmanian sorcerers sent their demons to defile the places of her previous incarnations. They destroyed the Shrine of the Three Painted Sticks, enslaved the Blossom Princess, and brought fear to those who might follow Teelo Imara.
Finally, the Carmanian demons and their army came to the Miringite Caves in Darsen, and began a great sorcery spell that would prevent Teelo Imara from calling upon her previous manifestations. Before their spell could be completed, a dove flew to the entrance of the cave and called out, “Awaken Beloved Daughter! Your mother has returned!”
Rays of invisible light emerged from the darkness of the cave. Deneskerva emerged from the cave and her invisible light illuminated soldier, sorcerer, and demon alike. They dropped their weapons and grimoires, and fell to their knees before the Great Sister, pledging their souls to her. She mercifully accepted their offer, bade them to abandon violence and showed them her mother’s Dance.
The Prophecy of the Twins
My prophecy will veil itself no more, like some new bride half-concealed from view. Let it now rise as clear as a fresh wind blowing toward the rising sun, a wave cresting through the dawn and bringing on a tide of woe far greater than my own. I’ll teach you no more in cryptic riddles, for She is Teacher. Up there on that roof there sits a chorus— it never leaves. They sing in harmony, but the song is harsh, predicting doom.
Look! Look over there! What’s that apparition? Is that death’s net? No, she’s the net, his beloved Twin, that woman, murder’s willing agent. Look over there! Look now! Keep the great heron from her mate. She’s caught him in her wings — now she devours him. A trap! He’s collapsing on the dancing ground! I’m telling you what’s going on— he’s being murdered in there, while dancing—a plot to kill him!
The Ervuthan Rites
The Imperial Government truly fears this Lodrili type of revolt, sometimes called the Ervuthan Rites, wherein the worshipers just slowly add their resentment to a large pot, boiling with herbs, liquids and some special stones. At the end, the contents are poured into a hole and covered over, avoided by everyone for ten years. The area abandoned varies, but includes some common and some princely lands. The Ervuthan Rites is performed as an atonement of troublesome peasantry to their overlords, and it truly does shift the energy, the passion and the blood-raising rage, into the pot and out of the peasants doing this. They give away their rebellion, and go back to a sort of level zero emotion (this “level zero” was the subject of much study by the lunars, who viewed it as “the blank human mean, like a baby at birth.”).
The Ervuthan Rites can be imposed on the peasants, or invoked by them. If the latter ritual is a success then the lord is drawn to the ceremony (sometimes against his desire, and sometimes even overcoming his own preparation to fight it off), and his own anger and other “charges” are drawn into the pot too. It works, the rebellion stops, everyone goes home happy.
There are some problems with it of course. First, it is only temporary. The Ervuthan Rites don’t do anything to slow down the reconstruction of the resentment and anger. At some point actual violence will erupt, and it is fired by the massive eruption of the rage, echoed in the repeated war cries of “We come with war,” “Lance the boil,” “We are Rage,” and “erupt on you.” (these are actually all snappy phrases in DH).
Second, it can be exploited by both commoners (they revolt, loot, then make the lord come and accept their apology) and princes (they regularly force commoners to come and apologize, or else get attacked to “release the steam,” another snappy phrase changed by cavalrymen as they ride down fleeing peasants).
Third, it is actually impossible to measure accurately. To quote a lunar study on it:
“The mechanics appear to be something like a series of water tubs connected by tunnel valves that pulse open and closed, sending its water, steam, or ice to another tub which might be hotter or colder–we have been unable to ascertain the cycle or pattern yet. The “dobbs and flannel” solution is worthless. Further complications are in the volume pumped, which cannot be registered accurately except by subtracting from where it came from. We’re able to monitor only one site at a time, and my decisions on where to point the visualator are the source of those comments you asked about. If my instructions are other than your previous orders please send it through the channels and I will implement it.”
The eruption of this power has a random element, and on two occasions a pacific people turned over-moon into bloodthirsty murderers whose crimes put them beyond the pale of the protection of the pot rite. A couple of times even widely spread, hugely populated revolts, got none of the eruption (notably the Jergensten reformation and Derluzaak revolt). Thus, this particular rite is feared by lords, who have the most to lose.
Darsen Techniques, Dream Beds
To most of us in the collectors’ world the Darsenite Technique is well known. The primitive scenes, made of dyed threads stuck to cheap boards, haunt many galleries. Their authentic hand-craftmanship makes them a rarity, and some are striking in the primitive simplicity. I have a set myself, you know, out in the servants’ outhouse, because they are all frauds.
The ancient method is to use different colored and sized seeds to illustrate mythological scenes. Beeswax is used to stick them to thick mats, and certain scenes are traditionally made at different times and then burned. Every kind of seed has some esoteric meaning, and only the initiated artists know what they all mean.
Only native plants are used for Darsenite use. This does include some “domestic” plants that grow in patches, wild, in Darsen. Towns nearby have oversight rights and privileges.
They make these imitations to export, usually using imported dyed wool for string or now, apparently, foreign seeds.
I have an exhibit of authentic Darsenite dream beds, open for viewing upon invitation only, for a very short time. You and one blood-vouched guest are invited on the waning days. Entry requires full disarmament. No initiated or child Darsenite could ever give away a dream bed, as they say. The rumors of the harpies that pursue thieves are true, as is the earthmouth. The rumor is absolutely that the Emperor’s Sister is disturbed–as usual, she doesn’t give a worshipful piece of fertilizer about trinkets.
We have chocolate, and perhaps the last genbenezeer that lived, in a fine sauce. We look forward to your presence!
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