The word has changed, and not for the better.
The Faepocalypse came, with its shroud of eldritch gloom. Cities crumbled under roots and armies turned into flowing seas of hungry flesh, to be knitted and waved by she whom we call the Queen of Thorns.
Mankind has regressed.
We found refuge like our ancestors did, in secluded places where the grinding ice then, and the chattering Eerie now, would not find us or dare to trod.
We live now among the remnants of the previous industrial civilization, like children setting up a tree house in a museum they do not understand, and surely not for lack of want.
Some of us refrained the old credo that iron and fire would protect what we managed to salvage. That in time, we could rebuild what was lost – in the ignorance that with so much knowledge and expertise gone the way of the festering flesh, there were no bases to rebuild and they intended to place the roof on walls made of air.
We thus withdrew further to the strongholds and safe places where the Fae would not dare trod. Those at sea during the apocalypse were mostly spared, and those who managed to find refuge in place surrounded by them, such as coastal cities or ancient platforms or islands, were spared. At least for the time being.
Other found help in hot spring water. Not as powerful and not as protective as the blessed sea, but effective enough to allow them to rebuild.
And others yet took advantage of the weapons and defenses lay after the first assault of our world, such as building towns around the protective embrace of an Anchor or comforted by the everlasting flame of a Generator.
And yet, even like this, the Fae and the Eerie would withdraw into the ever-expanding forest each spring, only to come back for winter, with the Tide.
Each year it pushed a little further towards the coast, and it seemed that in a few scant decades all of mankind would be living offshore in forgotten, besieged islets that would one day flounder.
But it was not so.
Salvation came in the form of the Vestals. As the Faepocalypse took so much away, it at least gave something back, and that would be the ability to pierce the veil and even see into the future.
These young women, covering their eyes to better depart from the world of the living and the material, would peer into the unseen and the unsightly realm of the Fae. They would then be able to foresee their attacks, rebuke their influence, and skirt even close to the feet of the Queen of Thorns herself.
They first appeared in Venexia, the floating city that is a marvel of the world from the thunderous times between the start of the Faepocalypse and the fall of Mankind.
A young woman, the first Vestal, found out about her Sight when she protected her village time and time again from he attack of Eerie during the Tide. After the third time she managed to correctly foresee the assault, the villagers understood that she was a prodigy and a hope for mankind. The first after so many decades spent hiding in the dark.
She took the name Aurora Foscari and the title of Mastra and High Seer of the Order of Vestals, for they would burn like the everlasting fire of the Generators, but unlike the relics from the Ereworld, they would carry that torch whenever they went.
Soon the High Seer gathered more like herself as voices spread of strange new powers appearing at random in the female population.
Under the guise of Mastra Foscari they managed to thrive and to give Mankind a chance to fight back, as long, and that was something that Mastra Foscari had forecast, they did not tread too closely to the Wicked Fae herself.
For seven decades they did as they were instructed, even as Mastra Foscari eventually reunited with the Spirits, as it is this world’s want.
And for a few decades, the Vestals did heed her warning.
In time, the Order expanded, thus needing a wider division in ranks. At around this time Vestals began to be divided in Novices, whom would always be trained in Venexia in the headquarters of the Order, true Vestals, who could done a blindfold but whose Sight was deemed too faint to be of actual service on the frontline of the defense against the Wicked Fae, and Augurs.
Augurs would don a metal mask, either made of steel, bronze or silver according to their rank in the Order, and dress in white. The High Seer would dress in a white robe lined black and gold.
Beneath her, six priestesses clad in black-lined white would take over the six Districts of Venexia, and would comprise the Council of the Order.
The metal masks would cover their sight completely and were both a symbol of status and skill as well as a powerful tool to enhance their Sight. They would seldom take them off, and the High Seer was expected to keep it up at all times.
Thanks to their clairvoyance, the Augurs could then settle in a specific town and protect it from the assault of the Forest, distributing advice thanks to their Sight and most importantly bathing themselves in scalding water. By mixing their blood and their prayers into the water, they would bless it and infuse wit properties that it made a powerful weapon against the Fae.
Eerie would hate the stinging touch of the blessed water, and the most powerful Augurs could even make them howl in pain. There were only ever two Augurs though, who could set the cursed flesh ablaze, and of those we will speak later.
Next time we will take a deeper look at the history of the blessed water, its protection of the world besieged by the Fae, and the history of the greatest and the most calamitous High Seer the Order had ever to contend with: Mastra Verna Sorgiva.
Author’s Notes: I am down with a fever. I will try to update regularly for these last few weeks of the challenge. I hope you will have fun with this little piece.
Thanks for reading.