Firmel: The Darkest Night


It was during the empire of the First Reign, It covering the known world at the time. That the 23rd of Delanmer, the winter solstice of the Oldernel calendar was declared the official rebirth of the year and the day of Mortnel et Blancer, the Darkest Night.

It was during the empire of the First Reign, It covering the known world at the time. That the 23rd of Delanmer, the winter solstice of the Oldernel calendar was declared the official rebirth of the year and the day of Mortnel et Blancer, the Darkest Night.

In the ancient Empire during the bitter winter months the world was thought closest to the void and demons to stalk the night. It was held in doubt if Selenar (sun goddess, sower of life) would have the strength to return and vanquish the darkness. Families would keep a candle or fire burning to lend strength to the goddess, often keeping a vigil to insure the fire never burned out. It was a somber occasion; offerings of grain and salt were cast into the flames to ensure a renewal of the fields and preservation of life. Small cakes containing sweetmeats were baked and given to the children; the cakes were a symbol of prosperity and the nuts, fertility and harvest. Families gathered around the glowing flame remembering the past year and making vows for the new. Together they waited out the darkness for the rising of the sun and the start of a new year.

In the current day kingdom of Kerlingar the solstice is a time when the restraints of class are forgotten and all enjoy the bounty of the ocean. The royal houses host grand festivals. The Sea Monarchs dress in their finest garb, placing title aside and mingling with their subjects. All rank and station are forgotten this day, to start the year afresh and on equal standing. Presents (small golden and silver fish charms) are given to children to commemorate the bounty of the ocean and the gifts given by the sea gods to the royal families. Entertainment is to be had in the great houses including; minstrels, tumblers, and puppet shows, contests of arms and exotic animal to challenge the strong and delight the eye.

Conducting the four-day ceremonies and holding mock court is the Monarch of Misrule (avatar Cepceler), god of the sea and civilization. The lord of the house often chooses a favored house servant for this position; all must obey this king of fools or suffer a year of misfortune. Within the bounds of tradition the monarch's power is absolute during the three-day festival, but if they wish to keep their lord's goodwill, and their head, a monarch will not to go to extremes.

Their task is to entertain the guests with crass jokes, barbed limericks, and call the toast of Year Ending. The courts of Kerlinger are fond of limericks and a good Monarch of Misrule can spin a poem so well as to leave the recipient of his disfavor in stunned silence. Themes for limericks in years past have been: If a man named__ Is__, The ladies of__, Are__, and last year's was, Their once was a fine fellow named__. Who__. The winners of last year's unofficial limerick contest were:

Their once was a fine fellow named Pete.
Who couldn't stand on his feet.
If the ladies saw him crawling around.
They all got up and quickly left town.
Leaving poor Pete to weep.

Their once was a fine fellow named Rapier.
Who saw a woman and. . . kissed her.
She was left stunned.
He thought he could run.
Now he has a band on his finger.

There once was a fine fellow named Marc.
Who took a dare on a lark.
The three ladies had said.
"You could have us a bed"
All you must do. . .
is buy us a diamond ring, pearl necklace, mink coat, ruby bracelet, seven pairs of shoes, a new dress, Swiss Fudge cookies and a lemon tart.

Their once was a fine fellow named Spangler.
Who grabbed a woman and spanked her. . .
"Three pats on the ass,"
"For the pretty lass."
He cried out as he pulled down her Wranglers.

That the goblin tribes of Oleta celebrate the solstice was known, but the stories were always so distorted that their value was suspect. What we truly know comes from a seer of Emsdale who was able to live among them for some years. How she accomplished this was never told. She returned semi-annually until she was never heard from again, her essays are an enlightening look at goblin culture.

What she says of the solstice among the goblin tribes is that it's a time of mad celebration. Old tribal feuds are forgotten and new ones started: drinking, feasting, fighting all-night and retiring for the daylight hours. Leaving the Korol of Unreason to defeat the sun, and ensure another night of celebration. The Korol (king or chief) of the tribes appoints one of the smaller goblins or slaves to be the Korol of Unreason, their reign lasting three days up till the solstice.

During this time the unfortunate soul is collared and leashed to an old stone totem. The seer said of the slave chosen, "While their reign lasts, the Korol of Unreason is tortured both verbally and physically. They have no power or kingdom and are left begging for food and water. The smaller goblins take perverse delight in torturing this living effigy of the Korol. " Killing of the Korol of Unreason is thought to anger the ancestor spirits and incur their wrath. The shamans of the tribes go to great lengths to ensure their survival till the appointed time. She witnessed the final ceremony "At midnight of the longest night The Korol of Unreason's leash is shortened and he is bound to the totem. Then fuel is piled about and set alight, a symbolic sacrifice of the Korol. To lend strength to the night and conquer the day."

The winter solstice festival as we know it today in the empire had its start in Grassmere. The celebration is a combination of many outside cultures and some uniquely their own. According to Celve's classic study of myth, magic, and religion " The Grassmere celebration spread throughout the Empire changing from one region to the next as local customs were adopted. One characteristic remained the same, the choosing of a mock king and queen from among the revilers. The king is chosen by the cutting of a nut-cake, the slice with the small gold fish or coin inside bestowing the honor of King of the Darkest Night. The King is given a mantel, crown and set upon a throne, he has the responsibility to call the toasts, direct the consumption of spirits, and the authority to choose a Fool of Unreason.

In the majority of celebrations the queen is crowned by chance, a golden acorn baked into nut-cake decrees the position. However the city of Grassmere follows the ancient traditions of a king selecting his bride, "He [the king] sits upon his throne holding court, receiving homage from his subjects. As the first evening merriment gets underway the subjects of the mock court demand the King find him self a queen. At this signal the minstrels will start to play the older somber songs of the First Reign. The lords will then offer their arms to the ladies of the court who gracefully accept, and traditional court waltzes are performed; just as they were for the decadent rulers of old. The king sits absent-mindedly playing with his scepter looking indifferent as his subjects perform elegant and intricate arrangements for his amusement. Suddenly stepping from his throne, hastening forward, he interrupts a couple asking for her hand in the following dance. As the King and his chosen lady perform for all the court, he presents to her a ring or necklace with small diamond or crystal fish that was baked intos the cake. Asking her to be his bride and queen to rule beside him in the upcoming festivities. This royal marriage last as long as their reign, from the turning of one year into the next."

The unfortunate reveler, who is chosen to be the Fool of Unreason, is given the traditional garb of motley robe, horned hat, goblin mask and bauble scepter with a dead rat or bird affixed. He or she is to don the clothes and mask and entertain the other guests with crude jokes and pantomime. Each day of the festival the Fool is made the butt of jokes and pranks until the final night of the celebration, when he is killed in some (symbolic) appalling fashion. The last night's entertainment includes elaborate allegorical drama, called mascherata or masque, the theme offered during a mascherata is always the Sacrifice of the Fool, and is designed to mock the darkness and show that the revelers have no fear of the night.
As the sun sets and the night deepens, bands of costumed and goblin masked revelers bearing torches roam the streets. Carousing about town looking for celebrations to disrupt with their unsophisticated attempt at a mascherata.

These masquers are often simple band of town's folk in crude costumes wandering the streets terrifying the locals with their drunken antics. In the more affluent areas it is more likely to be a group of young nobles or mob of goblin and kobold garbed, bards and performers introduced by a herald foreshadowing their appearance. The masquers enter the estate with much pageantry, dancing and mingling with the guests until the time comes to kill the Fool of Unreason. After which the goblins are called back to the night, till they locate another fool to sacrifice.

An unfortunate Fool of Unreason could be allegorically or symbolically killed three to four times in a night. This could be nothing more than a mock sacrifice with the Fool standing near a staff, yelling curses at the night and the assembled masquers. Other times the Fool is bound to a post brought for just such an occasion. Then they will be doused with alcohol inside and out. After which small bladders of red dye will be thrown to represent their burning at the stake and make mockery of the unfortunate Korol of Unreason. Others less tradition bound; or lacking in cultural knowledge, have invented new ways to dispose of the Fool of Unreason. Some have taken to binding and not so symbolically tossing the Fool into a cask of ale or spirits to end their days in drunken bliss, while the masquers lift flagons to quench their thirst.

During the Darkest Night, the King of Misrule and the Fool of Unreason are similar aspects of older, darker gods and traditions. They share common ancestry with Cepceler, the ancient Lord of Misrule, who presides over the Kerlingar festival and the Korol of Unreason, the living sacrifice of Oleta. Along with the nut-cakes and night-stalkers of the First Reign, the city of Grassmere has incorporated all these influence and more to make a solstice celebration that has spread through the Empire. These festivals held by the royal houses give the people a chance to set aside the concerns of the day and step outside the normal boundaries; inhibitions are forgotten, characters (ex)changed, everyday restraints relaxed, remembering the old year and welcoming the new with misrule and abandon. This reflects the cycles of the natural and spiritual world. Will Selenar bless the fields and overcome the night or will the void open and the world be lost to eternal darkness?

Third Instruct, Weirland
Gnyr Permin
1205, Second Era

I like the first one better and will adapt it to my campaign, mind if I call the ritual "The Firmel".

I'll pass on this article and your others to my gaming buddies they'll get a kick out of some parts of all three.

Nice ideas, thanks.

Please use and change anything you like, I am clad the articles inspired some ideas for other people.