THE BRAIDS OF STRANGULATION AND THE DEAD ROADS
I meant to post this yesterday, for Highmoot, but I was out of the office.
Had an odd dream night before last about a set of murders that woke me up at about 4:00 this morning. In the dream there was a living, malevolent force which, and I kid you not, had twisted the hair of three girls into a weird, almost supernatural looking set of complex braids which I could tell from looking at had been “encoded” in some way. I only saw the partially disentangled braids after the murders had occurred at the various scenes though, so they were altered from their initial appearance. Apparently all three had visited the same salon where the braids had been twisted. Somehow, as the girls slept (all young, in their mid-twenties, and all lookers with no apparent other connections between them) their “braids” had become animated and strangled them in their sleep. All of them however had apparently awakened during the strangulation process. Except for one girl, the braids had slithered down her throat and slowly suffocated her.
Well, upon waking and thinking on it awhile (it was a very weird case and left me with an uncanny and disturbing feeling – you know, like when you’ve witnessed some evil at work and it takes awhile to dissipate) I realized I could use the same idea in one of my Other World novels. So I sketched out the possible scene and here is what I got:
The Samarl of Samarkand (who we would call Prester John) invites emissaries from all of the surrounding people and races to try and get them to ally together (for the first time in thousands of years) against a common enemy and threat he has foreseen. He even openly invites human representatives from the Byzantine empire who have accidentally ended up in his world.
While staying in the capital city and in the palace of the Samarl the ladies of the dignitaries are “attended to” out of courtesy – entertained, feted, etc. including being provided with free clothing for the upcoming counsel (which they are also invited to attend) and having their hair decorated and perfumed. Seven women are invited to be so attended, but one demurs, just out of a sort of uneasy instinct and because her people do not want to be beholding to, and are suspicious of, the Sidh, the Samarl’s folk. On the third night after their arrival all six women are murdered and dead, five by strangulation and the sixth by having been suffocated, all by their own magically woven braids (called Balial – which before this time are considered highly decorative, enchanting, and a sign of great prosperity and Good Fortune). I’ll save the how for both a political and Ilturgical (sorcerous) mystery later in the book.
The woman who refused to be attended survives, of course, but one of the women, the one who had been suffocated by swallowing her own braids, her husband was first killed by his wife’s braid. The murder incident causes a huge uproar in the capital, and a near Civil War breaks out, with some of the represented peoples either fleeing the city out of fear or outright and immediately refusing alliance, suspecting the Samarl or his supporters. A riot breaks out in part of the capital that takes another three days to put down.
This of course has almost exactly the effect that the conspirators behind the episode had envisioned.
But it gets worse. As those ambassadors who have either fled the city or decided against alliance return home they are misled by still more sorcery (Ilturgy) to take “Dead Roads or Dead Ways” (called Iaklits) as their pathways. The Iaklits are actually old and ancient roadways, long abandoned which no one but criminals now use, and even then rarely (because they are considered both useless and haunted), but to the emissaries they seem to be the normal and proper roadways, because of the sorcery and illusions lain upon them.
Upon coming to the still elaborately decorated but partially ruined Chavoeth (a series of ancient bridges that had once crossed mighty rivers) the parties momentarily hesitate and there is a debate. Confused because they don’t recognize the old bridges, but misled by the enchantments and not wanting to turn back they decide to cross. But as they reach the centers of the bridges the illusions fade and the bridges collapse killing many under the rubble but also drowning quite a few in the stinking morasses and fens and pits which the Chavoeth now span. A few survive from each party to tell the tale of both the strangulation murders at Samarkand and of the Iaklits and the traps at the bridges.
None of which has a happy effect upon the efforts of the Samarl (Prester John) to form a Grand Alliance against the approaching enemy.
But all of this happens due to the naiveté of the Samarl and the Sidh, and the other Eldevens (the related Peoples), to understand both what they truly face (they have bred war out of themselves through a long period of unchallenged peace and have become incredibly soft and unsuspecting) and the conspiracy within their own midst. Then rather than recognizing these potential dangers they begin fall to Civil War among themselves completely ignoring the real enemy, both the external one, and the one worming it’s infectious way through their own culture and government.
The Strangulation Braids and the collapsing Bridges and the “Dead Roads” therefore are not just events, they are also underlying metaphors for these facts and weaknesses.
I’m gonna write up a couple of drafts and samples containing basic work-outs of these scenes, maybe starting tonight, but for now I have a nest of wasps to kill and then I’m spending the day with the family.
Have a great day folks.