To sleep in Kallavesa
Drums beat. Once. Half-trunks with painted mammoth hide stretched across them. Old. Not as old as the lake and the marshes, but older than any living Winterfolk present.
Birds fly overhead, garrulous, swift, gone. The silence returns. The drums beat again. The water laps on the shore.
The storm crows lower the small bundles into the weirwood boat. It rests on a launching ramp. Boat, and ramp, and priests alike are marked with runes. Yoorn for ending; Gralm and Ull to mark the skein of a life; the unnamed rune between and around them. The prow of the boat is shaped for Tykonus, the banner of victory.
The bundles are small in the body of the boat.
The ceremony continues, an echo of another ceremony performed on another winter night three years ago when the last Empress was laid to rest in the lake beside her foremothers and forefathers.
Another drum beat. The torches flicker, their smoke fragrant with liao and the heady incense of the Kallavesi. The crowd watches. Thane and frayed, runesmith and mediator, united in silence and the heavy sadness of the marshes. Three people, one people, on the shores of the great lake.
The last of the light fades from the sky.
The blocks are pulled away, and the boat slides gently down the ramp. It enters the water with hardly a sound. It seems to glide through the evening mist, out into the lake. Almost immediately, it is sinking - the artfully places holes fill with cold clear water. Within minutes it is lost beneath the surface of the lake, the armour and the weapons and other accoutrements returned to their rightful place, returned to their mistress.
A sigh goes up from the crowd. One by one the torches are extinguished, dropped into the lake. One by one, the people turn and begin the journey north to Rundahl.Unobserved, on the edge of the lake, an old man in an antlered cowl cocks his head and listens to the silence. After a moment, his expression changes. He does not smile - even if his wizened skin allowed him such luxury it is not in his nature to smile - but there is a sense of ... satisfaction. He turns, leaning on his staff, and begins to limp back into the swamp, his long feathered cloak trailing in the mud as overhead the stars begin to come out.
During the Autumn Equinox 379YE a contingent of Highborn and Winterfolk traveled from Anvil to Necropolis via a conjunction of the Sentinel Gate. There, they visited the Shrine of Britta and removed the armour, weapons, and other accoutrements held therein.
The shrine was constructed, and the guardian appointed, following the successful recovery of Empress Britta's body during the Winter Solstice 376YE. The decision was made by the Imperial Senate at that time to inter the body of the dead Empress in the marshes of Kallavesa, according to Wintermark custom, but to build a shrine in her memory in Necropolis to house the relics of her reign according to long Imperial tradition.
With the removal of the relics, and their placement in the marshes, Empress Britta becomes one of only a handful of Imperial Thrones not interred in the Necropolis. She joins Emperor Barabbas (whose body was never recovered from the Bay of Catazar), Empress Giselle (interred in her family tomb in Caricomare), and her fellow Winterfolk Empress Mariika (who walked into Sydanjaa after she quit the Throne).
The removal of the relics from the shrine, and their interment in the marshes, has two significant effects.
The Guardian of Britta's Shrine in Necropolis
The shrine in Necropolis has lost much of its significance as a result of the decision to move the relics to Kallavesa. As a consequence, the number of pilgrims has dropped dramatically with those who wish to pay their respects to the young Empress choosing to travel to Wintermark instead. The eternal flame still burns outside the beautiful white granite shrine, but by the start of the new year (Spring 380YE) the imperial title of Guardian of Britta's Shrine will have become a purely ceremonial title.
Opportunities in Kallavesa : Shrine of the Young Empress
By contrast, an opportunity now exists for the folk of Wintermark to build a shrine of their own on the shores of the Sovevann. This would require a motion before the Imperial Senate, of course. The structure would require an investment of thrones and white granite. The shrine would need to be constructed in Kallavesa Marsh, and would create a congregational sinecure.
A modest shrine, appropriate for pilgrims to pay their respects, would require 10 wains of white granite and cost 20 crowns in labour. This would create an Imperial title who received 7 liao and 14 votes in the Imperial Synod.
A major shrine, suitable for a large numbers of pilgrims that would also provide places for them to stay and places for meditation, prayer, and religious ceremonies would require 18 wains of white granite and 36 crowns in labour. It would provide the Imperial title with 9 liao and 18 votes in the Imperial Synod, and would be a significant religious structure in Kallavesa.
In both cases, the well worn path for appointing the sinecure would be for the Wintermark national assembly to appoint a candidate (one of the Winterfolk), who would likely have lifetime tenure.
Opportunities in Kallavesa : Place of Pilgrimage
With renewed interest in the Imperial heroes that rest beneath the waters of Kallavesa, a program of public works could be enacted in Kallavesa to improve access for pilgrims from the across the Empire to visit both the resting place of Empress Britta, and the many memorials to other Wintermark heroes scattered across the marshes. Such a great work would require a motion before the Senate. It would require an outlay of 30 wains of white granite and 10 wains of weirwood, along with a basic cost of 10 thrones for labour. This would allow roads and bridges to be built to connect the major religious sites across Kallavesa to each other and to the rest of the Empire.
The result would be a great work that would certainly improve the influence of the stormcrows and other priests of the Wintermark marshes. The net result would be an additional 50 votes in the Imperial Synod and 25 liao divided among the congregations of Kallavesa.
The Silence of the Marshes
One final note; the dour curse that has been plaguing the marshes of Kallavesa for the last year has completely abated. Whatever was interfering with the flow of mana into the territory has completely dissipated. Mystics cautiously suggest that this is a result of returning the relics of Britta to her body, but they have little hard evidence to back up their claim.
Any character is free to roleplay that they attended the ceremony in the marshes, and any Wintermark priest can have participated in officiating the sending of the relics into the lake.
The Imperial Senate chose both to commission the pilgrim's trail and to undertake the construction of a major shrine dedicated to the memory of Empress Britta. Work has begun on the shrine, but at this time no progress has been made on the pilgrim's trail.