Tuesday, 20 March 2018

the Calendar of Zalamon

I've been doing a better job of keeping track of the days and weeks in my campaign. It's had an effect, for example in my Curse of Strahd game it put on a lot of pressure because the player's wanted to get some answers and explore before winter hit, so they ended up sort of overtextending themselves more than they otherwise would've. But I've found it a lot easier to conceptualize if I have some evocative and gameable ideas about what the seasons actually mean, so I've been working up a description for each month.

The ten months are each 33 days, and the festivals (Ulfire, Gild, Lupin, and Tithe) are separate from the month, and are three days each. So 330+12=342 days in a year.

The year is ended and begun with the feast-day of Ulfire, when the sun disappears for the length of three nights, and the stars burn an eldritch, painful, urgent colour across the horizon. Mortals congregate in their homes, the sacrifices are all finished, nothing to do now but wait to see if the petitions took and the world will be born again, or die a stillbirth. The four moons hang over the land, watching like attentive midwives. It is a time of storytelling and drinking, a wake for the world that might have been. On the morning of Typhon, the world is reborn, bleak and grey and most often stormy, and the moons resume their natural course.

The year starts with violence. Rains come in and tear to ribbons at the snow, and farmers trudge cautiously into their fields to lay the first preperations for spring with their freezing hands. The ice turns to sucking mud. It is a month of mudslides, shifting, bleeding, the first births of the hardiest and most well-sheltered animals. Near the end of the month, once the first yellow rays have visited the land, the day-poppies spring up, a red profusion, like blood springing from the open wound of the bare ditches. Even plants such as these are soon beaten down by the inevitable hail of the proceeding Tain, but the red petals make a fine mulch for the garlic, and crofters turn it into a soporific kind of wine.

The first month a person could travel, although the roads are still perilous and the passes hardly cleared. The birds start to return en masse. Avalanches and floods occur without warning, but most of the icy rivers are becoming fordable. Going is slow. The ambitious merchants load up their wagons to creaking with their goods, and set out to resupply customer's winter stores. The brass trumpets ring out, and the brash flags unfurl, as the first armies set off to march, countering eager neighbours or the dawnlit raids of the Westerlings and the bandits of the border marches. The frozen victims of winter thaw and are pulled or else walk from the rivers and forests to be given a proper burial in the nameless graveyards.

The green stretches and grows, the flowers are in bloom on every tree and in every meadow, the forest is filled with birdsong and the beat of the woodcutter's axe. Serpents slither from their winter holes. People awake with strange half-memories of dreams, and the king's soothsayers may question those who dream of a giant moon-grey boar. In the evening and the early morning, the horns ring out across the hills as the royal hunt begins.

Midway through the month sits the festival of Gild, the pauper's day and the day of kings, where rich men wear masks to hide their shame, and dancers wrap the town in ribbons. On this day cats are sacred, and may even speak if they deign to stoop to it, perhaps to give advice on the year to come. The lords of the town step aside, and the people elect a fool to be their king, carried through town on a golden palanquin.

The first heady draught of the season envelopes the wold. The sun shines bright from skies of polished blue or burnished haze, but the sea is wine-dark. Big-bellied clouds carry the rain willfully to and fro across the hills and meadows. The trees grow heavy with fruit, the fields are lush, watered with blood and summer rains. Farmers and soldiers alike are caked with salt from their toils.

Heat waves, punctuated by violent thunder and sudden hailstorms. Fat raindrops drill into the dust of the roads and fields, watering fields of crop and thistle alike. Whorls of utter cold, descending in columns from the northern sky like giant's finger, flash-freeze stands of corn and unlucky cattle. Within hours, the blazing sun banishes the ice- some mornings, lingering clouds of fog lay in the hollows of the hills, or crawl in the morning through the villages.

The white moon pauses in the sky for the three days of this festival, mirrored in the still waters of the lakes, and the paper lanterns strung between the trees. Great bundles of blue and purple and pink plumes of lupin flowers brought in for the harvest. Wolves howl in the shrouded hills at dusk.

Dust rises behind the chariots. The sun beats down as it slides slothfully across the great blue dome of heaven. The shade shrinks to a limpid pool beneath the shriveled tree. Horses die. Dogs go mad. The short remnant of the night falls heavy as lead upon the horizon. The dull sky passes the hours bereft of all but the most valiant stars. The evening star and the morning star stand sentinel above the distant hills, waiting vigilantly for the sudden break of day, and the roaring raw throat of the sun.

Everything remaining from the harvest is picked over and brought in. The warehouses are full to bursting, as are the purses of the rat-catchers and cat-keepers. Crows descend onto the wasted cornfields and strut amongst the rot-hollowed gourds. Rain turns the deserted fields into expanses of mud, and mushrooms sprout in secret dells. Some mornings herald unexpected fog, thick and clammy, which muffles the clanging of the church bells calling petitioners to their instruction. Other dawns come warm and sticky. The smell of overripe fruit lingers in the air, and the stains from wine-making linger on the people's hands and feet.

The air is cooler now, the farmers intent on planting garlic and bringing their animals in from summer pasture. The haylofts and granaries have taken in all the stores they can: bursting golden in generous years, sparse with worry in lean ones. Ravens plan their councils, and bears return to their redoubts.

In the middle of this month sits Tithe, the festival where offerings must be made to the ancestors and the gods. The fae courts must pay their tithe to hell, and the Wild Hunt rides out to capture mortals to send in the elves place. The night before Tithe is called Goblinwatch, and is a time of celebrating before death truly comes to the land- the white touch of winter is at hand, and the people must prepare, for loss will not spare anyone.

The hard dagger of the frost plunges again and again into the earth's threadbare brow. Fire crackles and pops in the hearth, and timbers creak and moan on the heights. This is the favourite time of dragons to strike, when the storehouses are still full, but the armies are to afraid of winter to march. The whistling winds over the withering earth do much to hide the beat of heavy wings. Dire wolves, shaggy and bold now, venture forth from the safety of the hills to fatten themselves one last time before the ice's coup d'grace: if you are lucky it will just be on deer and sheep.

The world slumbers under a thick silver blanket. Nothing can move far, not even sound: conversations held out of doors are liable to freeze, and the words will not be heard until spring. Each day it gets darker and darker, until the sun is but a pale shadow that winks above the trees for a few meagre hours. The white moon and the land beneath are one and the same now, and the red moon stains the snow red as blood when it passes overhead on it's erratic path. Each night there are more stars, glimmering coldly down at the dying world. Ice storms coat everything in glistening crystal, so cold that some trees explode into splinters. The people who must go out move around on skies or skates. Blizzards strike without warning, so farmers string a rope between their house and their barn, so they don't get lost and freeze a few dozen feet from their own homes.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I love it. Tbh, I think you should make it into a picture book.


Faerie and the Long Earth

There are nigh-infinite iterations of the world, spread out across the multiverse like pearls sewn into lace. Not all of them are real , tho...