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A Fragment: the Founders - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
wemyss
wemyss
A Fragment: the Founders
Strange things come to my mind when I'm feeling seedy.

In the days when Ethelred was king of the English, there lived in the Fens a half-foreign family, and they with an ill name and an ill-favoured son. Long had the Fenlands been part of the Danelaw, and foreign to the folk was as foreign did: Norse and English alike were none so foreign there, and the folk tall and straight, with hair like their own cornlands and eyes like the great North Sea or the sky over it. Foreign, though, in look and mind and deed, were these part-familiar strangers in their midst, dark of hair and cheek and mind and speech. Dark not in the way of the Oldest Ones in the land, the Celts, at that, but more like unto the darkness of the men who had watched those shores before the Saxons came, and faded into echo when the Legions were withdrawn.

And now the Danelaw that had been Guthrum’s portion was England again under the ancient crown of him who had tamed Guthrum, Great Alfred, whose successor now held the kingship of a new-united England.

But half a hundred-year had it been since the English had the Danelaw retaken, that had been theirs and been ceded to a stronger, and the peace that had followed was but brief and part-worn. Ethelred that was king was a man uncertain, and ill-counselled by them that had the advising of him, and the Northmen like wolves of the sea and strand snuffed the scent of uncertainty, and circled ever closer. As well, across the narrow seas beneath the high chalk cliffs, there was a new power rising, and it also boded ill towards the English. When the Saxons had come into the West, Cerdic the conqueror that was king in Wessex thereafter, he who began the line that Alfred adorned and Ethelred now embarrassed, was himself a Briton who had seen the coming Saxon threat and made himself its master at any cost, but the blood of Cerdic the Crafty was now thin in the House of Wessex, and its strength was feeble.

Cunning was not Ethelred, ill-counselled and weak. Cunning and canny and crafty was the King of Scots. The House of Alpin was nearing its ending, though no men knew it, but its last heirs were thrawn and canny as men must be who take and hold a throne by war and murder and the killing of kin. Already, Kenneth 2d, Cináed mac Maíl Choluim, had cast his eyes upon Caithness and the North, and the Strath of the great River Spey, knowing that he and his crown must in the end master the lands of the jarl of Orkney, Sigurd and all Sigurdssons thereafter, or be mastered. It would be left to Malcolm 2d Forranach, Malcolm the Destroyer, to secure Sutherland and Caithness by war and wedlock, Jarl Thorfinn the Mighty being his grandson, his daughter’s son by Sigurd Eysteinsson; yet that was but the culmination of the long policy of the mac Alpin kings.

The unsettled times, even in days of putative piece, in the Saxon lands, had caused no small emigration by magical folk. Hengist of Woodcroft was but one of many in his day who found that his neighbours, and, worse still, his lord, were becoming all too interested in his powers as days darkened and uncertainty grew and folk began to demand protection and to look askance at any who declined to provide it.

Yet the Kings of Alba had a use for such as these, as they had found a use for the Britannic refugees from Rome and then from the Saxons, for the Romans and the Romanised refugees from the barbarians, for the Saxons fleeing the fury of the Northmen: as, for one, the long-fathers of Rowena Kentish-maid. Hengist was granted a fief in the debatable lands between the king’s realm and the holdings of the great Orcadian jarl, and encouraged to bring magical folk there to settle and to hold the land. Not for nothing were these Scots kings of the distant begetting of cunning Cináed mac Ailpín, Kenneth 1st, and learned in statecraft after the manner of St Columba. 

Long ages before Colm Cille, the Dove of the Church, had come to Alba from the land of Erin, or ever the Saxons had taken to the sea from their Teutonic forests or the Northmen taken to the whale-roads, long ere this, far off, in Portingale and Espagne that would be, there was a people whom the Greeks, voyaging, called Saephe and Ophis and Dragani, ere even the Celts came to Iberia; and the Greeks, recording all things as was their ready-minded wont, called the land Ophiussa, the land of serpents: for the folk that dwelt there, the Saephe and Ophis and Dragani, worshipped snakes. Their chthonic goddess was a serpent-maiden, and a dragon of the solstices, and they were a serpentine people in all ways.

To them the Greeks came, and Carthage, and then Rome, terrible with eagles and swift, stabbing swords, and newer and perhaps lighter gods. The serpent-worshippers were pacified and their women given to the conquerors. 

Then the Germanic tribes came, an irruption of fury and gore. The Suebi and then the West Goths ruled the land, and mixed their blood with that of the indigenes, and their tongue was spoken in the hot, sun-leached lands even as cognate Germanic tongues were heard in the mists of Britain and the tangled forests of the North and the fiords of the sea-raiders. And the heat of battle and of blood cooled with victory, and Sueve Gallaecia became a Christian land as behoved a province of imperial foederati, even as was its contemporary Honorian foundation, Britannia. 

Nor did this change when the Visigoths conquered the Suebi in Galicia and absorbed their lands. Nor, even, did this change when the Eastern Empire, purple with majesty and stiff with pearls and jewellery, iconic, hieratic, solemn, took and briefly held the southern part of Hispania, far from the lands of Portus Cale and the Douro vale and the ancient, secret memory of the snake-worshippers.

On the 19th day of the month named for the great Caesar, Julius, in the Year of Our Lord 711, Roderic the King was defeated and slain at the River Guadalete, thereafter long called the Río de los Muertos. With him fell into eclipse the heritage and traditions of Rome and its Empire and of the Church and the Faith. For the victors were not the dispossessed Vandals and Alans, kin and enemy both to the Visigoths, and like them heirs at however many removes of Caesar and of Constantine and of Constantine’s Christ.

In the second century after the Incarnation, a Syrian priestling of Homs in Syria, one Varius Avitus Bassus by name, became briefly, by a series of events no sober historian would dare imagine plausible had they not happened, emperor of Rome. He was the priest of Al-Jebel, the Al’ or God of the Mountains, who was now identified, in these sub-Hellenistic days, as an avatar of Helios, of Sol Invictus, of the Sun-God; and, become, improbably, the Emperor of Rome in the Seat of Augustus, taking the name Elagabalus or Heliogabalus, he erected his god upon the Palatine Hill: a black, conical meteorite: around which he danced whilst the Senate was forced to look on.

The crimes and follies of Elagabalus were unique to him: the disordered insobrieties of a spoilt, Levantine youth of seventeen years, unbridled power, and notorious homosexual proclivities so unrestrained that he, the successor of Augustus, proclaimed himself, publicly, the happy wife of his slave-charioteer, and gave out offices to his lovers on the basis of their endowments. His religious excesses, by contrast, were not.

Two centuries before the disaster at the River Guadalete, the tribe of the Quraysh worshipped their goddess, Q’re, and held her to be a form of the Tri-Partite Goddess of All, Al’Lat, an Al’ of the same sort as the mountain Al’, Al-Jebel whose black idol-stone Elagabalus shamefully erected in the Palatine precincts to affront the dignity of better gods than he. The Arabs, like the Syrians of Emessa, Homs, in Roman Syria, worshipped black, meteoric stones, which they believed to house their gods, and they built temples around these stones to shelter them, which enclosures they called ka’bah.

In Roman Syria, Varius Avitus Bassus’s god could be identified with the Sun. In the desert, the true desert, the Sun was less god than demonic destroyer, a god, if at all, of terrible aspect, and men betook themselves for mercy to a cooler goddess, the Moon. Al’Lat, the Goddess, the Goddess of the tribes, was three-in-one, maiden, mother, and crone, Q’re of the crescent moon, Al’Uzza in her fullness, Al’Menat the waning but potent old moon, mistress of divination, prophecy, and fate. Kore, Isis, Sheba; Alilat in the records of sharp, inquisitive old Herodotus. Her greatest shrine, her ka’bah, her stone that was the desert tribes’s omphalos, was at Mecca; it is yet. Its priests were the beni Shayba, the sons of the Old Woman; so are they yet. Around the stone idol, the starkly obvious and unmistakeable vulva of the goddess, her worshippers revolve seven times, for the planets known of old; so they did in the days of Al’Lat, and so do they unto this day, by the idol beside the sacred well. Even so did Inanna, Ishtar, pass the seven gates of the underworld to stand at last before her elder sister Ereshkigal, ‘the Goddess’, Allatu.

There came in after days to the tribe Quraysh, the hereditary priests of Q’re and expositors of the Sacred Word of Q’re – which is Qu’ran – a son of the tribe who heard the Torah of the Jews and the Gospel of the Christians, and took elements of these and mixed them with the worship of Al’Lat and her sacred stone, the axis mundi of the tribes, and under a crescent banner synthesised a religion of his own that gave a masculine ending to the goddess’s name; and his syncretic pastiche of a faith ran like fire through the imperfectly Christianised lands of Rome’s East and amongst the heretics who did not accept the divinity of the Son as proclaimed by the Patriarch of Constantinople and defined by the ecumene. Under a newer guise the old goddess was restored, and the new faith was a thing at once hidden and blatant, clamantly proclaimed yet slaying any who ventured to look behind its proclamation to its roots and secret well-springs or to assess its history and claims; and where it conquered, it required unquestioning response, submission or embrace, conversion or dhimmitude, and its thinkers and questioners in after years were always its heretics, possessed of ideas and methods alien to the tribal mind, taken from the loot of Greece and Byzantium. It dreaded enquiry, and for good reason; and it dreaded philosophers and Wizards with a peculiar dread, and persecuted them dreadfully.

This was the force that assailed and defeated Roderic and the Visigoths at the Battle of the River Guadalete on 19 July 711; and despite the survival of the remnant Kingdom of the Asturias, and the Iberian determination within seven years’s time to begin the long reconquest, Wizards were well advised to flee wherever the banners of Mohammed had triumphed. 

Thus it was that one family departed the Peninsula. They were a kinship spread between what is now Spain and what is now Portugal, but they long antedated such concepts. Before the Greeks and the Punic traders and the Romans, they were. Before the Celts, they had been in and of the land. They were of the most ancient stock, that had worshipped the serpent in the dark dawn of man, and they had remained in the land and of it through all changes after, until now. They were called for the small settlement that was the caput of their region, Salazar, in the Ebro watershed. Many of the people of the Asturias, of Portugal and Northwest Spain, fled the Moors; most sought refuge amongst the Franks. But these were Wizards. They could flee further than most. And so, whether by accident, or by an error in Apparating, or by a spell gone wrong, or for reasons of their own, they fled from the shadow of the Cantabrian Mountains, the Cordillera Cantábrica, to the mere and fens and wash of waters in Cantabrigia, Cambridge.

There they were, then, this half-foreign family of Salazar. The Sliders, the neighbours by-named them: Slyþrian. The ill-favoured son of the house, now, some generations later – and in all those generations, the Sliders have remained alien – was named at the font for St Matthew, but the wit of his neighbours calls him ‘Maðkur’, ‘Worm’, the Snake.

Ethelred the King, ill-counselled, is losing control of events. In the Summer Country, in Somerset, between Avalon and the Thorn, Godric has found his advice disregarded. He senses evil times ahead. The Scots King has heard of Godric: not always has his advice been disregarded by Ethelred, and it is to him as much as to any of that king’s witan that is owed the strong English coinage, the creation of the sheriffry, and the better legacy of Ethelred’s reign. The Normans, too, admire Saxon Godric: it is he who will in the end arrange the marriage of Ethelred to Emma of Normandy, whose grand-nephew William will later take the English crown. That same William will bear a line of bastards, the Peverils and Peverills, of infamous memory, and his long descent will include the Gaunts as well, and both those houses will, to the sorrow of all, become entangled in the lineage and legacy of Slider Salazar. But none now foresee this.

Rather, the kings bid for the services of Godric the golden, merry and wise, whom the Normans in their bastard French will name the Gryphon of Gold. Godric is wiser. Through his art, and through his web of acquaintance, Godric is well aware of the magical commons of the realm, and has long since exchanged pledges of friendship and, what is more, exchanged knowledge, with Slider. So also has he done with the Welshwoman of Norse descent, Helga Hvalpuf, Helga Haraldsdottir, daughter of Harald Whale-Spout, Hvalpuf, the Danish Wizard. So also has he done with the Lady Rowena, Claw of the Raven, Spruithean na-Bann, herself descended of Kentish refugees who had long antedated Hengist of Woodcroft’s removal to Alba and intermarried with the Scots. Scotland, war-torn and barbaric as it is, will be safer than this realm of England in the years to come, and Godric knows it. It will provide an abiding place for the youth of the Wizarding world, and he and Slider and Whale-spout and the Talon of the Raven will teach them there, far from Viking longship, Norman longsword, and internecine war.

It is sheer misfortune that Salazar Slytherin will find Scotland uncongenial, particularly once he learns that salachar, in the Gaelic, means filth, literally, and, in common usage – especially by gleeful pupils – shit. 

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Comments
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: April 9th, 2006 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lovely, especially the frightful pun at the end... It's clear now that things couldn't go well, isn't it?

Nice etymology for that intractable word 'Hufflepuff', too.

Can't think of any concrit, I'm afraid :)
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: April 9th, 2006 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
By the way, I trust it's nothing serious and that you will recover soon.
tiferet From: tiferet Date: April 9th, 2006 09:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Me too :)
wren_chan From: wren_chan Date: April 10th, 2006 04:09 am (UTC) (Link)
A marvellous break between two trig exams. Thank you, love. *cuddles tight and hopes you feel better*
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: April 10th, 2006 04:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Reminds me of a line from an underground comic of the sixties: "Dis crawling shit is guilty!"

But.

"And so, whether by accident, or by an error in Apparating, or by a spell gone wrong, or for reasons of their own, they fled from the shadow of the Cantabrian Mountains, the Cordillera Cantábrica, to the mere and fens and wash of waters in Cantabrigia, Cambridge."

That just cracked me up.
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: April 10th, 2006 10:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Brilliant! Steady on the old remedies, Wemyss!

Draco's in the Telegraph today; JKR FatWank, to be precise, has hit the letters page. He is pictured with two slim baddie accomplices; as the picture shows Draco with two Slytherin Quidditch players who are not Crabbe and Goyle, there may yet be more letters to the Telegraph. :-(. Narcissa and Bella get honourable mentions as does Mr No-Nose.
themolesmother From: themolesmother Date: April 10th, 2006 11:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Under a newer guise the old goddess was restored, and the new faith was a thing at once hidden and blatant, clamantly proclaimed yet slaying any who ventured to look behind its proclamation to its roots and secret well-springs or to assess its history and claims ...

I love the idea that the dedicated followers of the Prophet are actually worshipping the goddess when they go on Hajj.

This is a great backstory for the Founders. I'm making a mental note that I must dig out my copy of the White Goddess and re-read it, especially now I have a chance of actually finding it.

Hope you get better soon.

MM
From: lunaedraconis Date: April 12th, 2006 04:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Lovely, absolutely beautiful!

Hi. I found you commenting in an entry in ajhalluk's journal, about feminism and the question of whether in a writer it necessitates a female pov and so forth. And I very much enjoy reading what you have to write, so I wondered could I friend you. Thanks!
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 13th, 2006 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thanks.

Still a bit off-colour with this damned head-cold. Sorry abt the delay. Of course you may friend me, I'd be honoured. It's never necessary to ask, really. Thanks again for yr kind words.
From: lunaedraconis Date: April 13th, 2006 09:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thanks.

It's really not a matter of kind words. You don't understand. You're like this treasure, and I just found you, and it's just like...*boggles*

Anyhow. Look forward to a long and happy perusal of the rest of your amazing stuff!
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