Hear! Upon the Great Mountain,
The beloved of the Sun sing to Her,
A song of Love and Devotion,
Of Battle and Glory.
The golden Sun, Her Light ever shining,
Bathes our faces in warmth
And scorches our enemies,
Burning them to holy ash.
Yet even the radiant Sun must rest.
And so we are left without Her,
Cold and naked and alone,
At the mercy of those who stalk in the Dark.
We mourn for Her as She slumbers,
Knowing She never wishes to part from us,
The last wink of twilight,
Her fading farewell kiss.
Yet the night we would miss Her most dearly,
The Darkness long and bitter,
We persuade Her to stay longer
And dance with us to Her own music.
Twilight’s kiss extended,
A roaring flame that thaws through winter’s grasp,
The Sun stays awake all through the night,
Whispering Her sweet secrets until the dawn.
We battle the lull of Darkness for Her,
For the love She bears us,
And we gaze upon Her glory
As we show Her our own.
Hymn of the DawnTablet Sixteen, Lines 33–60
40 toward the Nadir
To all those faithful youth who reside within the Temple of Auroral Triumph,
The journey of the Sun takes Her farther away from us each day as winter descends upon the mountain once again. Yet as the days grow ever shorter, we do not respond in fear—instead, we prepare for the Festival of the Nightless Eve, now a mere forty rises hence.
Acolytes may notice that, this Festival, the temple shall be using a different holy lanternglass to light the first Sunspark Torch than we have in ages past. We offer our gratitude to Sunforger Iasur for creating a sacred object that will outshine its predecessor. However, we condemn the actions of the evencursed who broke the temple’s lanternglass last solstice, and encourage any with knowledge of this deed to come forth.
Those of you who are of age to receive your first shield are required to attend the Nightless Eve and show the Sun your worthiness through dance and song. You may attend in a dyad should you wish to witness the glory of the Sunrise with another acolyte.Only through our devotion may the Darkness be kept at bay.
38 toward the Nadir
Your instructor Sunsworn Priestess Nemyah has brought troubling information to my attention, in the hopes that I might exert influence on your future actions.
It would seem as though you are beginning to voice doubt in our teachings. It is good to sharpen your understanding by asking questions, but it is unacceptable to suggest that your instructors are not well versed in the sacred texts. You must show deference to those who have studied longer and harder, who are trying to impart their wisdom and faith unto you... even if you disagree with their conclusions.
I know you understand that your instructors are but mortal, as you are, as I am, and that none of us can fully understand Her glory. But this is not something you should ever express to others at the temple, not unless or until you have made your initiate vows. The Priestesses of Nemyah’s rank will be unwilling to discuss this nuance with acolytes only fourteen years of age, and instead will be inclined to issue punishment. For now, I urge caution and silent contemplation. Do not engage further if you do not believe that you can do so respectfully.
Perhaps this is contributing to the lack of warmth you feel for the other acolytes, and that they feel for you. It is difficult to burden oneself with friendship of another who has earned the wrath of her instructors. I saw this even when you were under my tutelage last year, after your quarrel with Initiate Priestess Nycinde. Here, I urge you to let your inner light shine through as brilliantly as I have seen in our private discussions. The other acolytes will come around.
I will converse with Sunsworn Priestess Nemyah about reinstating your speaking privileges during Oratory class, if you swear to me that you will follow my advice. Otherwise, I will not speak for you.
In the Light,Initiate Priestess Elcinae
But it’s not dark at night. Not completely. There is a gentler light, not hot and burning but cool like a stream in summertime, that shines alongside the stars and illuminates my path when I walk the grounds.
Why, then, do we only speak of the Sun? What is this other ethereal being? Why is the Sun’s Light the only one we are supposed to see?
I would never bring that up in Oratory, though. Not when Nemyah has proclaimed that I am to “hold my tongue for the remainder of my time in her charge” for “being disruptive” and “disrespectful” and... Whatever. Fine. Let the other acolytes spout pretty poems when they try to make a convincing argument, and repeat the same verses over and over and over until I throw up my hands in defeat and beg the instructor to let me tear them and their flimsy conclusions apart.
Today, we were supposed to discuss the upcoming Festival. So Sebina gave a little speech about how excited she is to celebrate her first Nightless Eve with the other shield-aged. That was it. That was the whole argument. The entire point of view was, won’t this be fun? Ugh. This is what Nemyah has to work with, and she chooses to punish me instead.
volunteered to get up and argue against it, but how can you argue against “I feel an emotion”? She could only combat it with having a different emotion, one of exhaustion or trepidation about serving the Sun the right way or something. It wasn’t what I’d call captivating oration, but at least she tried. And she mentioned something about the Darkness being somber—not evil, but somber, which is not actually the same thing at all—and that caught my attention.
So I tried to speak after Leona, and started by asking my question about the Darkness. It was meant to be rhetorical—I didn’t even have the chance to talk about how the Festival’s just a way to reinforce how people already feel about celebrating the Sun, how it is a ritual designed to subjugate us to orthodoxy instead of pursuing our own relationship with Her... but apparently even that is too much for Nemyah. Just because She has blessed us with Light and sight, doesn’t mean the Priesthood wants us to see things for what they really are.
I can’t be the first person to ever ask these questions, can I?
More tomorrow. The stars have come out again, lit by that silvery glow.-D
My Dayblessed parents,
I pray that my letter finds you both well, and that young Aidonel and Kespina are healthy and happy. I respect your desire for more correspondence, and so I write to you today with nothing much to say, certainly nothing of great import.
The instructors have begun their lessons on the Nightless Eve. I look forward to the shift in our waking hours as I and the other shield-aged prepare to face the Darkness together. To Mother’s question, I do not yet know whether I will attend in the company of another acolyte, nor whether I wish to do so. I understand that you doubt my honesty in these matters, Mother, but truly none have yet caught my eye. I assure you that you needn’t ask further, and that I will tell you plainly should that answer change.
Oh! I performed admirably upon the Wargames field this past week. Our trainer, Initiate Priestess Nycinde, praised me highly and asked the others to observe my footwork and swordsmanship. She has said that my shield suits me, though I must learn to use it in support of my allies on the field, not simply as a means to protect myself. I take her tutelage seriously and have asked Hyterope and Sebina to continue to train with me after our schooling has finished for the day. I expect to continue to improve.
My academic pursuits are going well, though I feel I am lacking in my oration skills. I have spoken with Sunsworn Priestess Nemyah, and she says that I am well on my way, yet on this I do not agree with her. I do not mean to say that I am disrespecting my instructors! More that I wish to better my skills, and it does not appear that Sunsworn Priestess Nemyah will offer any additional support.
There is ain my Oratory class whose arguments are concise and well-constructed, but her views and lines of thought do not always connect to what the instructors have taught. Yet she is always prepared, and other acolytes find their arguments fall to pieces under her scrutiny. Perhaps she is someone I could approach for assistance in this matter. I know you believe me capable of becoming a leader, and I will not fail you in this.
In the Love of Her Light,Leona
Are you often busy after our Middle Rakkoric instruction? I sense that I am not doing as well in Oratory as I could be, and humbly ask that you help me grow my skills in constructing and delivering convincing arguments.
In the Light, Leona
The content of your arguments notwithstanding, you are more skilled at constructing the logic behind them than anyone else in our year, and likely in our temple. You have heard some of the end-of-year debates and presentations that the older acolytes have made in years past, have you not? I believe you are better suited to train me in this than any of them.
I know your time is limited, so I would not ask that you spend much of it on me. But I would greatly appreciate it if you could look over my notes before our next rhetorical exercise, and help me grasp what it is I am not yet understanding.
And please know that I do not ask this lightly. If there is anything you are struggling with, anything that I can do to assist you where you need it, I pledge myself to it in return.
In the Light,Leona
Obviously we won’t be meeting in person. I don’t want any of the instructors to look down on Leona for asking the resident heretical loner for help, nor any of our fellow acolytes. I doubt that they would turn on her, not when she is the golden child of our Wargames cohort, but they still might mock her, laugh at her. And I don’t want that to happen to her, not when she was... brave enough, I suppose? Humble enough? To approach me. It is refreshing to have someone admit when they are not the best at everything, and I confess that it is a surprise coming from her. Maybe I’ve just never seen Leona fail at something before.
And I like the idea of having someone to talk to, sometimes. Even if it’s someone who believes with the fullness of her heart in everything we are taught here. If associating with me were to lose her the respect she has earned from so many, then what reason would she have to keep talking with me?-D
21 toward the Nadir
Most Dayblessed Melia and Iasur,
Thank you again for your generous gift to the temple. Your work, Iasur, as always, is sublime. The Candescent Priestess asked that I extend you both an invitation to join us for our Nightless Eve celebration, twenty-one rises hence, to see your lanternglass at work. I do understand that caring for two young children makes that difficult, but perhaps you could bring them just to see the lighting of the Sunspark Torches.
I have spoken with all of Leona’s instructors this year and I am pleased to report that your daughter has risen to the top of all of her educational pursuits. She has taken to tutoring some of the other acolytes in my Middle Rakkoric class with their vocabulary and verb tenses. Her dedication to the Sun is visible in everything she does, and her commitment to excellence is commendable. I observed her performance in the last Wargames skirmish, and she has quickly become a leader on the battlefield, even among the older acolytes. I know you would be proud.
However, there is something to be said about taking the time to appreciate the life the Sun has blessed us with. After the skirmish, one of Leona’s teammates asked if she had interest in attending the Festival of the Nightless Eve together. Leona denied any such interest in the other girl, and went off to her evening studies. I worry that Leona may be overly focused on achievement, and will miss opportunities to delight in the Sun’s gifts, and truly enjoy the closeness to Her Light that her time at the temple should bring to her. It is my hope that you will speak with her on this matter.
In the Light,Sunsworn Priest Polymnius
How I could ask someone to attend the Festival with me
—A note? Is that too childish? Not straightforward enough? Lots of notes as it is... but I love getting notes from her. She always makes time to answer, always very thoughtful and smart
—Ask her to take a walk with me? When? I have skirmishes every night this week
—Flowers? Don’t know if she likes flowers, or which flowers she likes
—A meal? Never shared a meal together, might be too public. What if the meal is gross? Bad omen?
—Offer to train her with her shield? She doesn’t use her shield much, that could work! Or maybe she doesn’t like using her shield? She doesn’t seem to like skirmishes
—Debate some scripture? Good chance to talk in person, get to see her at her best, be brilliant... try to impress her? Maybe tell her you need help with a big project for Oratory? No, she’s in the same class as you, this is stupid
—Pray together? Good excuse for privacy, but she would never say yes to that
—Ask her if she already has plans? Be casual, doesn’t have to be as more than friends, she probably doesn’t want to go alone. What if she’s already going with someone? Who would she go with
—Tell her I don’t have a companion? This is not a terrible option
—Don’t ask, just see her there and ask her to dance with you? Also not a terrible optionWhy is this so hard
Some thoughts on your last argument:
Your thesis was concise and easy to understand, and even Sebina seemed to follow your logic. And I really liked how you threaded in some star-Sun hypotheses, that connected surprisingly well to your argument a few weeks ago on the Sun’s gifts in the sky. I could tell Nemyah was impressed. Well done!
You compared the Sun’s Light and life to the cold Darkness, but you weren’t able to say exactly what about the Darkness is bad. Is it the absence of warmth? If so, is winter bad? Is cold water bad? Is it the absence of life? Mount Targon itself is not alive—is it bad? You need better examples or to change your metaphors.
You spoke of heretics as those who don’t believe in the Sun. What does that even mean? It’s there, in the sky—are you arguing that some people don’t believe it is there at all? I know what you meant, I think, but you should clarify that believing in the Sun and believing in our scripture are not exactly the same. Or you should speak of worshipping the Sun rather than “believing in it.”
Moreover, how do you know enough to assume what the restricted tablets say about our people’s history? The instructors have only offered summaries and hearsay as to what they mean, but unless you have quotations, you’re only working off of theories, not truths. I would hold off on arguing anything about the restricted tablets until you’ve seen them after the initiation rites.
Your point about the Everlasting Day was good, as was your argument in favor of the Shadow Theory, but you didn’t follow them through to a strong conclusion. Celebrating both the Everlasting Day and the Nightless Eve as triumphs of the Sun means what about the creation of shadows? Are they mortal creations, or that of the Sun?
But, yes, you’re definitely improving. Can you feel it when you’re up there on the dais?Diana
Yes!! I can definitely feel it. It is as though the Sun’s righteousness flows through me. I can feel Her warmth grow in my cheeks the longer I speak. I wish our classes were held outdoors, even in the winter chill, so She could hear me.
I very much appreciate your notes. Thank you for taking the time to write them down. And thank you, again, for all of your guidance in this matter—I would not be improving so steadily if it were not for you. But I do have further questions.
Everything in my argument was researched. I have the citations for every piece of the Hymn and the writings of the philosophers and the temple scholars. I don’t believe any of my conclusions were unique—maybe the way I connected some of the different pieces was? But none of the works I cited answered the questions, or attempted to answer the questions, that you ask in your critique. “What is it about the Darkness that is evil?” It’s not about why; it’s never been about why. It just is. Why do you think I need to go deeper than that when it’s widely known already?
Also, I noticed that you haven’t been practicing with your shield very often in the skirmishes. It’s taken me some time, especially since they’re so large and unwieldy, but I’m starting to better understand how to use it in battle. Would you like to practice together? If you have time.
If it’s so widely known and so widely agreed upon, don’t you think you should dig deeper? Who agreed upon this? When? Why? Why are there some things we have collectively decided to take for granted as truth?
You asked me to take a look at your argument and help you structure it better. That’s all I’m trying to do here. If the argument can’t be structured well based on canon and orthodox thought, or at least the canon as we know it... then maybe the underlying assumptions are wrong or don’t make sense. Maybe the restricted tablets answer all of these questions, but maybe they don’t. I don’t know, because we’re not allowed to read them! It’s so frustrating!! That’s why I try to base my arguments on what we do have access to, and ask for clarification where the text doesn’t give us any.
But, you did a lot better this time than the last time around. I can’t wait to see your next oration. Let me know if you believe you will want my assistance beforehand, or if you’d rather surprise me with your arguments.
And thank you for the offer, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to successfully wield a shield. It’s too distracting and weighs me down too much to focus on my attack. And besides, as long as I’m on your team, I know at least one person’s defending me.Diana
12 toward the Nadir
I want to commend you on your improvement these past few weeks. Already you were debating well, but clearly you have dedicated yourself even further to this work, and it shines through you.
Apologies for the interruption during your oration today, and know that I and the Candescent Priestess will be dealing with it. Do not concern yourself over it as you continue your path toward excellence, and toward Her Light.
In Her blessed warmth,Sunsworn Priestess Nemyah
12 toward the Nadir
I, Sunsworn Priestess Nemyah, provide an accounting of the actions of acolyte Diana, ward of the Rakkor, and the penance she faces in response.
Acolyte Diana interrupted a fellow acolyte’s presentation, after having been instructed weeks ago to remain silent during class. When she was told to quiet down and allow the oration to continue, she instead attempted a rebuttal to the other acolyte’s argument. In a blasphemous furor, Diana suggested that the Light does not belong entirely to the realm of the glorious Sun. (May the evencurse be forever kept at bay.) In doing so, she has poisoned the mind of every shield-aged acolyte in the class with dangerous heretical thought.After I spoke with Candescent Priestess Thalaia, a decision as to Diana’s penance was reached. Diana will spend three days standing in the Light of the Sun, with neither shade nor water until the Sun sleeps for the night, to remind her of the Sun’s merciful judgment.
...I don’t really think that, but it doesn’t feel like She loves me.
I have my third day of punishment tomorrow. I can only hope for clouds. Or rain! Snow? Anything. My skin is red and raw and I just want to sleep.
But it was worth it. That debate with Leona is probably the closest we will ever come to talking in public, and we got to do it on our terms. I didn’t even bring up the light that pierces the Darkness at night—I didn’t have time before Nemyah dragged me off to Thalaia for her retribution. I wonder what they would have done if I had.
I hate everyone here. I don’t want to celebrate anything with any of them. I don’t want their lying smiles and their celebratory glares boring holes through me. Instead of going to the Nightless Eve, I’ll just... climb. Get someplace higher than this. Maybe look at the stars. Watch the nighttime light.
Besides, the only person I would want to go with would never want to be seen with me. Not after this kind of public penance. Probably not before it, either... So I have nothing to lose.
I don’t hate everyone. But not everyone is kind, with a shining smile and a gleaming heart, and not everyone sees me as... worth anything. Their time. Their attention.
But I’m sure she doesn’t see me as worth anything anymore.
—Six different people have asked me and I have turned them all down
—I don’t want people to think I am uptight—I am fun (?)
—Sebina and Hyterope believe that I have a secret companion
—My parents might be in attendance and they want me to be more social
—Because it’s only a week away
—But I know who I want to go with. Would it be a good idea, though? Diana just finished her penance and no one is being very kind to her, even though I am the one who let her speak. I wanted to watch her deconstruct my points and ask me questions, and to answer them with my list of citations. The Sun would urge mercy, but I don’t expect her to ever gain favor with the Priesthood again. Would going with her make everyone treat me the same way?
—Does that matter? Is she worth it?
—She doesn’t care what others think about her. Why should I?
—She gets this look when she thinks she’s right, when she’s won her argument, and the Sun’s Light shines through her eyes and her smile and she wears triumph like a crown and it’s just magnificentOkay, I have made up my mind!
5 toward the Nadir
I am writing to inform you that your daughter Leona was involved in a fight with another acolyte. It did not, to the best of my knowledge, get physical—I only arrived at the end of the altercation, and did not hear what it was that they fought over. Both girls were spoken to, but neither took me into her confidence as to what started the fight. There will be a measure of penance meted out to both girls.
With Her Light cast o’er the world,Candescent Priestess Thalaia
That’s when I realized... Oh. She’s proselytizing.
Apparently, all of this time we’ve spent writing notes to one another has given Leona the idea that I am available to be preached at, converted to full believer, made to see the Light. She asked for my help... because she thought she could help me.
So I got angry. I yelled. I’m not proud of it, but I couldn’t help it. I’m just glad I didn’t cry. I should have known that was all this was. All it ever was.
Luckily, I was not the only one who got in trouble this time. Golden child Leona had to perform penance, too, but they wouldn’t make her stand out in the Sun for days on end. Instead, we’ll have to scrub floors all across the temple, even in the Priesthood’s cenobium.
I wonder if an instructor may have asked her to intervene on the Sun’s behalf.
If that’s all I am to her, a heretic able to be swayed back onto the path? Then she and her lousy arguments can rot and fail Oratory for all I care.-D
—She looked disgusted that I would even ask if she was going
—She started yelling at me, publicly
—We both got in trouble and now I have to miss skirmishes to scrub floors
—She doesn’t care about celebrating the Sun
—She’s practically a heretic
—She probably wouldn’t even dance if she did go
—Now she’ll never write to me againI should have just said yes to somebody else.
2 toward the Nadir
Your mother and I are displeased to hear of both your penance obligations and your disappointing performance at your last skirmish. We know that you are capable of better, and expect you to rise to the occasion. Leaders in Her Light do not run into impediments that they cannot overcome, nor do they get hindered by such earthly mischief as “a shouting match at school.”
We will be in attendance at the opening ceremony for the Nightless Eve two days hence, and will speak with you about how better to secure your future then.
In the Love of Her Light,Father
She wasn’t trying to preach to me.
SHE WAS ASKING ME TO GO WITH HER TO THE FESTIVAL.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHDIANA YOU ARE SUCH A FOOL
To our shield-aged and above,
May you have a joyful Festival of the Nightless Eve, and may you forever bask in Her unending love and warmth. Our celebration begins at twilight—be sure to dress appropriately in your formal temple garb.
With Her Light cast o’er the world,Candescent Priestess Thalaia
Glory to you both, in the Light of the Sun, and may the days grow long as we know Her love once more.
I know that you expected to see me at the celebration, and I
I wanted to explain why I wasn’t at the start of the
I missed the first half of the Festival.
I’m sure you were wondering
And yet it happened.
I watched the others get ready for the Nightless Eve, in their mantles and their veils and their armor. And I... didn’t. I took my warmest robe and slipped out the door to the acolytes’ hearth, past the temple palisade, and out into the wilderness. There is little above the temple that was made by human hands, on the lower peaks of the mountain—it is supposed to be where we go to feel closest to the Sun. So I went up, and looked for a good place to sit and watch the sky.
I witnessed the setting of the Sun, and the sky growing dark, and the Sunspark Torches burning brightly below on the temple grounds. Even from up there, I could feel the horrible heat. My skin remembers the burns from my penance. But looking up at the night sky, at the Darkness, at the stars, at the beautiful glow above... I could forget about that for a little while.
I know it was wrong. I know I shouldn’t have done it. But... that glow, that soft silvery light from above, made me feel at peace for the first time in forever. I don’t even know how long. I didn’t feel worried about the instructors, or the Festival below, or what would happen when they realized I wasn’t present. Even now, just remembering being there and looking up, I feel a calm settle over me. It was everything that everyone says the Sun should be.
So I offered Her a short prayer. None of the elaborate things we do when we prostrate ourselves at noontide, just a few simple words of thanks. I won’t repeat them here—I don’t want to cheapen them.That’s when I heard Leona calling for me.
I’d never seen Diana out at night before. She goes a painful pink if she is outside for too long under the Sun’s glory, but here, cloaked in Darkness... she looked like she belonged to the night. But not in a bad way. How could it be, when it is the same color as her hair, her eyes?
She asked me why I was there. Wasn’t I supposed to be down at the Festival with the others? She looked at me with... I’m not sure. Fear, maybe. Apprehension, at the least. Disappointment stole the words from my lips, and I remained silent. I could only gaze at her.
Then, she asked if someone had told me to bring her back to the temple, to the Festival. I shook my head and croaked out an apology. For making her upset, for getting us both into trouble. She stared back at me, then shook her head and apologized to me for the same thing. I wanted to laugh, but things still felt too fragile for that, and I did not want to break this moment. This was, I realized, the first time we had ever spoken with no one else around.
She gestured for me to join her, so I did. We sat together, closer than we’d ever been to one another before. Our arms brushed, and she flinched away like she’d been burnt. “So you’re not going to the Festival at all?” she asked. Maybe not exactly that, but something like that.
I said something like, “I don’t know. It depends.” My heart was beating hard in my throat as she leaned her head against my shoulder, but she didn’t seem to notice. She looked up, then, at the sky, and smiled.
I don’t think I’d ever felt so happy before.I’m not sending this letter.
At some point, there was a cloud that darkened the sky, and I could see the light from the torches reflecting off of it. I still didn’t want to go to the Festival, but I know how important this sort of thing is to Leona. And she’d stayed with me for ages without complaint.
So I asked her if she wanted to dance with me, down at the Festival.
I expected her to say no, but a smile broke across her face, bigger than I’d ever seen her smile before. I want to draw it, but I don’t know if I can capture its brilliance. She grabbed my hand and said—and I will never forget this, as long as I breathe—she said, “Not yet.”
And Leona kissed me.And I kissed Leona.
Tablet Seven, Broken and Lost to the Solari, Lines Unknown
Their dearest wish is to share a sky
Made large enough for both to dance
With hands and hearts entwined.
Instead They must steal glances,
Wait for the other to approach,
Or watch the other depart.
Yet here and there, a kiss,
Love freely given, a gentle embrace,
Moments of ecstasy and joy.
Rise with me, She whispers,
I will calm you with caresses
And let the world wait for the Sun.
Rise with me, She cries,
I will warm you with my passion
And let the world be Moonless tonight.
And from their union, we emerge,
Made of twilight and dawn,Encircled by their love.
- The story is the first story explicitly depicting homosexual romance.
- Due to the nature of the story, details about the attraction between and are removed in certain localizations.