Tryg stood on the raised platform at the end of the circle surrounding the firepit. The soft stars of the northern sky glittered between the boughs of the towering Sacred Wood around them, sheltered from the wind by the walls surrounding them. Odette stood near his side with their son, watching him with a smile. He returned it briefly before raising his head to face the gathering around the circle. He let his steady gaze pass over every person present before starting into his sermon in an enthusiastic, steady voice.
It is said that Shalherana was here first and that She will be here last. It is said that she is responsible for the creation of all natural life as we know it. And her creation is inescapable. No matter where you go - north, south, east, west, land and sea - it surrounds you. No matter how many stone walls you build to keep it out, it still surrounds you. And it is vicious. It is Theodra, the goddess of wisdom, strength, family… and of survival, who embodies that wilderness. She is the unbridled spirit of the wild, every animal and every being that breathes and bears children.
Tryg stepped down from the raised platform, continuing to watch each and every person in the circle in turn as he began to circle the fire slowly. Occasionally he paused to look one in particular in the eyes as if challenging them.
So how do we honor such a God? She teaches that the world is merciless, and we’ve all seen that mercilessness in one way or another. Begging a merciless god for a blessing will yield nothing if such a divine blessing is not truly deserved. It seems we might just as well believe in none of the Gods and fend for ourselves without them. We can find our own way, can we not? All of us feel it at least at some point, that the Gods do not care about us, and for some of them at least that is undoubtedly true.
Theodra is not a goddess to pray to for coddling and to be able to tuck yourself in at night. But Theodra has already blessed all of us with wisdom. Aye, honor her with incantation, meditation, prayer- but more than anything else, honor Theodra by finding the wisdom and strength within yourself and those you trust to discern the way forward, to survive and protect what you hold dear, may it be family, honor, something greater than that, or only your own life.
The wild is merciless, but mercy is a fickle thing. When does mercilessness end and cruelty begin? Part of being “merciless” is knowing not only when you must kill without hesitation, but also when you can spare a life that does not need to die. So whenever you must make such a decision, honor Theodra: look for the wisdom in yourself and in those you trust before you follow the urges of your dark heart or the weakness of your sympathy.
By now he had made his way around the firepit, and he stood before the raised platform, facing the fire.
So now that all this is whirling about in your heads, Theodra’s doctrine may seem terrifying. You may want to go home and crawl into your warm bed in the temporary safety of your home. But the call will always be there. ‘Always defend your family, home, and honour. Do ensure to perform your duties scrupulously. Be ever vigilant- Do not give mercy, and do not expect it. Don’t allow your body fall into disrepair. Needless hunting is a Sin- Respect and honour the Beasts and the Hunt. Observe the Divine Law.’
He paused a moment to step back onto the raised platform before continuing.
My friends, the call to Theodra’s doctrine is not an easy one to heed, but it is inevitable. All of us will face it at one point or another if you have not already, and it will make you strong or it will break you, and it is up to you, and you alone, which is the outcome. It will be hard, very hard at times. You may have to kill for the good of your kin, among other things. And you will make mistakes, it is in our nature. But you must not waver when you do. I have certainly made my share of mistakes, some of them costly. Yet the moment you begin to doubt yourself is the moment you become vulnerable. Acknowledge your mistakes, learn from them, and push. Forward. Always push forward.
It is not hard to envision how Theodra would cast and mold the world to her vision- only the strongest and wisest would survive. The world as we know it certainly is not as simple as that, but in the darkest times, take comfort in the fact that you have made it as long as you have, for there is a reason you still live while others have died. And push forward. Embrace Theodra, and be made strong.
He gave a moment of silence before bowing his head slightly and starting a solemn, poetic incantation as he gazed into the fire. His voice carried a melancholy mood that echoed through the Sacred Wood.
Back to the forest,
Back to the wolves,
Back to the outlaws,
Misfits and fools,
This is a place,
Where brave men come to die,
And hearts are full of lies,
Truth never on the lips but hidden in the mind,
But among all these woes,
There is a peace and a frightful beauty,
That every heart longs for,
Tucked in the shadows and riding on the wind,
And so back to the forest,
Back with the wolves,
back to the desperate,
The lovers and the fools.
(Credit goes to Lady Alec for writing this poem found in Compendium)
As the incantation closed, he was silent for a moment looking into the fire before looking up to his company once more.
May wisdom guide your strength,
and may your aim always be true.