Parvati, the eldest daughter of Emperor Adam, the result of the union between him and his wife, Maeve the light bringer, was heralded all over the nascent Regiis Empire as the epitome of beauty. Her celestial visage combined with her virtuous disposition had sealed her image in the hearts of the people and they would not tolerate anyone but the foremost young man in the Empire as her suitor.
Thus, began the tradition known as the Swayamvar.
– Marriage in all its Forms, Margaret M. Mead
It was nearly noon, almost two hours past the time the Legate had declared for us to assemble at the city square. The harsh summer sun beat down upon the sea of people that had jam-packed the streets of the capital. Despite the low drone of the grumblings of the populace, very few made to leave. After all, it wasn’t every day that one got to hear an Imperial Decree.
For the umpteenth time this morning, I wiped my sweat with my soggy handkerchief. Unlike the masses who had the option of taking shelter beneath the shade of the impromptu shamianas, we, the top twenty ranked participants of the Tournament had to stand beneath the sweltering sun.
Looking around, I found one or two of my fellow sufferers who had been swollen with pride but a few minutes ago, basking under the public gaze, now slouching, irritation clear on their faces.
To distract myself from the heat, I lost myself in the memories of last night. After I had bonded with Ceres, the Duchess had treated me to the promised meal and I had taken my leave, leaving Ceres behind to spend one last night with her parents.
Returning to our apartment, after I had informed my girls of my decision and the accompanying circumstances, I had thrown myself into the perusal of Mother’s research journal.
The path of a Mage was a perpetual attempt to better synchronize with their own element. Every successful mage was at least partially a researcher at heart. Exploring heretofore untried pathways of mana utilization was what allowed the mage to improve their affinity most effectively at the higher Tiers.
When I had returned to my room after seeing off Father and Mother, I had found two leather bound tomes lying upon my bed. They were the crystallization of my parent’s understanding of their elemental gifts.
The journals of one Tier 5 and one Tier 4 peak mage were things that money couldn’t buy. Father and Mother had left them to me in the hope of assisting me and my wives.
An intense sense of missing suddenly flooded me. I wondered what they were doing now.
Deimos and I had already read Father’s journal from cover to cover, several times. His musings on the mental state known as the Void, his experiences in reaching it and his speculative instructions on how it might be attained by any wind mage had been extremely helpful for the both of us.
As for Mother’s journal… any healer would give an arm and a leg to obtain it. It wasn’t like they couldn’t grow it back anyway.
It detailed her understanding of the Tier 2 light magic known as Heal and its limitations and its intricacies. Though, the material sounded basic, it was a masterwork of a treatise on the fundamentals.
According to it, every part of our body was made up of tiny non-sentient creatures known as cells. These creatures were of as many different types as there were bodily constituents. Alone, these creatures could not survive, but, together they formed us.
Wounds of the flesh were basically caused due to a number of cells being gouged out of our bodies. Thus, the basis of healing was to replenish the lost cells.
Different cells could divide themselves into two with varying frequencies leading to some wounds being harder to heal naturally than others. But, there was a special type of cell deep within the marrows of our bones that could divide quite frequently and subsequently morph into any kind of cell.
Mother named them ‘stem’ cells, since all kinds of cells stemmed from them.
The Tier 2 light magic: Heal, basically caused these stem cells to multiply at an accelerated rate and fill the fleshly wounds.
Yet, there was a limitation. The magic was closely tied to the patient’s subliminal perception of his or her body. For example, if a patient was born with a deformed hand that ended at a stump at his wrist, even if one were to lop off his hand at the elbow and regrow it with magic, the new hand would still end at his wrist.
This was why it was advised to visit a healer as soon as possible after an injury. It was to reduce the chance of the body recognizing the injured state as the new normal.
All documented attempts to cause the body to regenerate in a manner different from the patient’s perception of normal had ended in an uncontrolled multiplication of cells resulting in one of the seven incurable diseases in the world of Ea: cancer.
This was why Ceres, despite having access to the best healers the province could offer hadn’t had her myopia magically corrected.
For now, the only remedy she could turn to was her glasses.
Ceres would join our family this evening and I wanted to treat her the best I could. Her isolated childhood resonated with my experience of growing up immersed in my training with very little time for human interaction beyond my immediate family. Restoring full functionality to her eyes was one of the things I had thought up since my meeting with her yesterday.
Despite the discouraging contents of Mother’s journal, I was heartened by a word she had scrawled into the margin of the last page: ‘Egypt’.
The Egyptian Empire was actually the oldest Empire, formed even before Emperor Adam came to power. Ptolemy was the founder of the old Egyptian regime. Instead of the intermingling of species advocated by the Regiis Empire, the old Egyptian Empire propagated the concept of racial superiority with the ruling class being exclusively composed of feline bloodlines.
Everyone else within their Empire was a slave. Their famous pyramids that stand erect to this day, were built upon the blood and bone of thousands of hapless souls. They are silent testimony of the grandeur of the old Egyptian regime.
Yet, their practice of slavery earned the ire of all non-feline clans in their vicinity and they were encumbered with war on multiple fronts, severely weakening them.
Julius A. Caesar, one of the twelve Apostles of Emperor Adam, made use of this opportunity to attack and occupy Egypt, deposing Queen Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemaic Queens of Egypt. With Egypt as his base, he went on expeditions in all directions, expanding his domain. Thus, the Roman Empire was formed.
The Egyptian Royal family escaped with their lives and after years of biding their time and building their strength, they successfully rebelled and threw off the shackles of Roman rule during the turmoil of succession after Caesar’s death.
The leader of the rebellion, Cleopatra’s only son; Caesarion, named after the man his mother claimed was his father, ascended the throne as the first Pharaoh of new Egypt.
Citing his dubious heritage, he laid claim to the Roman Empire. Thus, began the cold war that has continued to this day between Rome and Egypt.
The socio-economic embargo between the two nations meant that the Egyptians had their trade route to the North suffocated while the same applied for the Romans with respect to their trade routes to the South.
An extremely favourable situation for Regiis, since both countries were our western neighbours, making us their only outlet for trade along their eastern borders.
As such, Regiis and specially my clan, the Felidae had a great relationship with the Egyptians due to our bloodline. In fact, mother could trace her ancestry to the sacred Cult of Bubastis in Egypt.
It was a Cult dedicated to the Goddess of Healing, Isis, after whose Roman aspect, Epione, she was named. They had a bombastic manifesto that claimed that there was no disease they could not heal. A claim substantiated by their contribution to the eradication of small pox from the face of the Continent.
They might just have a cure for Ceres’ vision. Maybe, after I was done with handling matters within the clan, a trip to Egypt was in order.
The sound of fanfare and beating drums jerked me out of my reverie as the Imperial Legate marched onto the central podium of the city square, announced by his personal criers.
Everyone present took a knee if they were commoners or bowed at different angles if they were nobility. For, to set eyes upon the Legate was to set eyes upon the Emperor himself.
“Rise!” The magnetic sound of his voice resounded from every shadow, reaching every ear of every man present.
I straightened up and looked at him. Clad in jet-black military attire decorated with golden embroidery and dazzling epaulettes, he cut a striking figure under the noon sunlight as the rays seemed to shy away from him, clothing him in a dark corona.
“This Legate presents the Imperial Decree!”
I stood to attention, concentrating on his forthcoming words, for they were the missive of the Emperor himself.
Little did I know that the Decree was one that would cause the loom that wove the thread of my fate to turn, embroiling me in events that consigned my name to Legend, and when Legend faded, Myth.