The Collected Stories of Livia

Here follows the story of Livia, according to the approved holy texts of the Islanders:  

There was much discontent and spiritual loss on the streets of the Qadaq city of Magna Ventis in the windswept north of the region. The gods were worshipped, but only by a few. The rich seemed to grow ever richer, and the poor found it increasingly hard to live in the great centre of the Republic. Whilst the patrician families flourished in their excessive lifestyles, the common folk had no answer – other than to accept things, or drink, whore and fight one’s way to a bitter conclusion.

Reclining comfortably in his palatial pleasure dome, The Republican Consul Primus grew bored of his administration; even of his harem and fighting animals. It so happened upon a spring morning, that one of his trusted spies quietly informed him that a spectacular, young northern beauty was practising as an initiate in the high temple of the Mother, whose radiance was quite unmatched. When he heard of this new maid, even the Primus decided to lift his bloated, bejewelled mass from the cushioned rest and conduct a little…“temple audit”.

The initiate Livia was a spirited girl, who had risen quickly from attendant to her current position in barely a year and very little was known of her origins. She was first brought to the Republic as a slave from the savage Northlands, where she was purchased as a temporary cleaner for a priestess of the high temple. With her rare, flaxen hair and piercing eyes, The Priesthood had already needed to reprimand some of their number for pestering the foreign girl. When the Lord-Chancellor arrived upon his silken palanquin, unsolicited and over-friendly, the suspicions of the temple’s guards were stirred. It was a further coincidence then, when he asked for initiate Livia to assist in his worship. When strange noises began to come from the altar-room he had chosen, they burst in; weapons levelled.

What they found inside was carnage: the accompanying praetors of the Senate were slain, as if by some great beast. The priest had been impaled, apparently by a jewelled gladius. Slumped over the great altar with his under robe undone, the Consul Primus himself had been gelded and had his throat cut, like a sacrifice to the gods. Below him sat a shaking Livia; dressed only in blood, her holy vestments having been ripped off her by greedy, grasping hands. When questioned, it emerged that the grand official had disposed of the priest and attempted to have his wicked way with her. Livia must have resisted, saying that she remembered very little other than “I prayed, and the Mother sent her protection to enshroud me”.

News of the Consul Primus’ bloody demise travelled fast. The Senate went into uproar, incredulous that a commoner, and a foreigner, would dare refuse the demands of such a high ranking official. She was clearly asking for it, or a thief. Most certainly, a whore! Worse still, plebs were arriving from far and wide, just to try and get a glimpse of the pious girl who dared to challenge the high echelons of the Republic. When the IVth Praetors marched forth to apprehend the treasonous temple folk, they found their way blocked by throngs of angry commoners, who rioted and drove them away.

Inside the high temple, the young initiate was in a terrible state. Wracked by seizures, vomiting and a bizarre light behind her eyes, no sense could be had from her. After nine hours of babbling, Livia finally arose, telling the high priest that she must address the crowd. Facing the certain martial wrath of the Senate, and with little alternative, The Priesthood of the Mother relented.

Surrounded by guards in their heavy armour, Livia was helped atop one of the giant hound statues. In the pale light of the full moon, she almost seemed to glow as she spoke, with clarity and conviction that stilled the raging crowd before her.

“Are you happy? Is life good? Or do you feel trapped? You look trapped: gathered here with no way of escaping the punishment that the big men of this place are bringing. Thay cannot stop us. They cannot hurt us all, for we have had enough!

Earlier, the Mother took hold of me. I was put upon by a man who tried to do terrible things to me, but she saved me. Not only that, but her divine wrath came from the Afterworld and struck my defiler. Even now, he is food for demons in the dark Abyss, with all those who would defy the Mother and all the glorious names of the gods.

What happened today will happen again! Those with faith must not stand idly by whilst our gods are mocked or used by evil people. Do you think that the wealthy and corrupt will forgive you for stopping them here? Do you want to be crushed and abused by these fat princes by another name? I would say – No!”

As she spoke, an assassin’s arrow whistled through the air in a deadly, inevitable arc. Without interrupting her address to the crowd, she caught it in her hand and flung it down upon the stone steps beneath her. The mass of folk fell still, in terrified amazement; the would-be killer knelt in remorse and asked: “be my forgiver, for I did not know.”

“How do I know this? For I have been sent a vision of a new future; a new way we can live and prosper. The snake’s tail will lead us to a land that will run red, like blood, into the seas in the West. I know you do not understand how or what this means – but if you believe and trust in us to guide you, then you shall be delivered unto prosperity!”

-Extract from Our Deliverance, one of the holy texts of Livia

Livia finished her address with a furious call to arms, in the name of the Mother and all of the gods. The mob turned on the city; burning the wealthy districts and overrunning the Senatorial compounds. Those rulers they found, the furious common folk lynched or captured, making an example of the Senators. Fearful of the consequences, most of their elvish servants hid, or fled from the righteous rabble. It soon became clear that the followers of Livia and her high-temple could not stay in the Republic any longer – they were rebels and had no desire to remain in such a den of iniquity.

As the pious refugees fled the capital, a bloody civil war broke out between the remaining senatorial families, as each faction made their gambit for control of the disrupted Republic. The failed Praetor Marshall, Sullo, was bathed in acid and others burned to the bone or poisoned to death. Several attempts were made to hunt down the Liviate horde fleeing west into Palamyr; all met with disaster, desertion or more commonly: betrayal. Some dissidents were captured and publically roasted, or thrown to the beasts in great displays to appease the remaining plebs. What followed was a steady period of internecine war and decline in the Republic – as foretold by the Prophetess, who had also warned that ‘You in the East shall end your days in flames, but death itself shall turn its back on you…’

When the travelling horde reached the hard, grim city of Frostguard, where the bitter, young Queen Adelinde reigned over Graben. A widow, and unable to bear children, the Queen was known for both her wisdom, as well as her complete lack of compassion. When Livia had the audacity to demand an audience with her, Adelinde went out to meet her, fully of a mind to execute her where she stood.

No one knows what words were said in that first meeting, but the young queen fell to her knees and begged for deliverance from her suffering. Embraced by the Prophetess Livia, she immediately gave up her throne to a fiery (and incredibly grateful) cousin, who wore his new crown with all the pride befitting a crude client-king. This new King of Elland, advised Livia and her followers (who now called themselves “Liviates” in her honour) to travel to the western Seas through Caerlyn and Sarqand.

– Extract from The Reign of Adelinde, author unknown.

Though the life of travel was hard for some, most townsfolk were sympathetic to the powerful message of deliverance preached by the refugees and their striking leader. Local lords were less happy, but equally keen to move the migration along as quickly as possible into someone else’s territory. During this time, many new followers joined the Liviates, with joy in their hearts and faith in the visions of the young prophetess.

When the Liviates finally reached the great Forest of Caerlyn, they set out along the wide, woodland paths, looking forward to meeting the fabled Feralian tribes that lived within. Contact was made, and the elvish sorcerers and their kin named them friends, with a promise of wood and supplies. When partway through, Livia and her mass of believers chanced upon a huge clearing, with a clean, freshwater lake. Remembering the Feralian promise, she called for a rest and to make camp at this comfortable place. The water was sweet and the giant trees near the lake provided good wood for supplies, weapons and cart repairs. Some days later, as the migrants were almost into Theocracy territory, they were ambushed. The same Feralian sorcerers and hunters who had sworn friendship, were now attacking them with arrows and icy blasts of magic; claiming that some sacred grove of theirs had been violated! The fighting was fierce, with many lives lost. The Prophetess herself was almost killed by a frozen bolt, which caused her great suffering. Only the doting ministrations of Adelinde and the prayers of her followers kept her from passing away.

When she awoke, Livia was furious. Such unbelievers clearly rejected the bounty of the Mother and wanted to keep the fruits of the earth to their greedy clan. No more should the treacherous nature of elves be tolerated, nor the fell practice of magery. What few elves remained in the assembled folk were removed from the Faithful; wizards willingly broke their staves and vowed to find a better way to conquer the mysteries of the world.

– Extract from Elves Can’t be Trusted, a seminal work by Salvius Camerius

In Sarqand, the Archimandrite himself deigned to meet with the remarkable Livia. It was unheard of, for the leader of the Grand Circle of the Faith to grant an audience with a lowly initiate. For weeks, the Circle debated her new tenets. Whilst the leaders of the Faith argued various points of lore and faith, the widowed lover and her followers organised safe passage along the Zybris, to the bay of Almitra. There, the great expanse of the Western Ocean would lead them to be delivered. Eventually, Livia emerged, shining and radiant in the robes and mask of an Archpriest of Sarqand! Miraculously, the spirited Prophetess had been approved to form a new denomination, in service to the Mother and all recognised gods; the Archimandrite had personally decreed that a fleet of large boats, called Tetremes, would be made available for them to set forth to their so-called “delivered land”.

Many months later, the Liviates left in a great ceremony, taking that final journey upon the waves. When their detractors in the Republic heard of this, they were overjoyed: for no-one had ever made it past the feared Serpent Reef and they would surely meet their end…

The voyage was hard. Some ships were lost to dreadful monsters of the sea; others lost faith and turned back. For those who remained, their belief in Livia began to wane like the moon. ‘Perhaps they had made a mistake in trusting her?’, they asked. Some cursed the golden-haired Prophetess; others wept at the hopelessness of the situation. But Livia stood firm, with the stern Adelinde keeping morale in check.

After what seemed like an eternity, land was spotted. As the fleet sailed closer, the good souls on board began to weep with what they saw. Great cliffs, which ran for miles and miles, filled with the colour of deep, earthy blood. The Visions of Livia were literally true: the “riches” she spoke of turned out to be the wealth of ore and precious materials in the very ground itself! Making land, the Prophetess went ashore and immediately named this new place Deliverance. They had arrived on the Red Coasts.

Soon, the refugees found that primitive tribes lived on the isles. As a young child in the Northlands, Livia had heard tales of such Skraelings, and went out to meet them with open arms. The priests were invited into a settlement filled with totems to crude, blood deities, and set upon by the savages, who tried to roast them as a meal. It was only thanks to the swift arrival of the ever-suspicious Widow and her tracking hounds that the Faithful and their leader were not eaten alive, which was seen as further evidence that the Mother watched over them.

Though Livia wanted to go to war with them after many months of skirmishes and raids, Adelinde swayed her fury to a softer end. The savages would be offered a choice: convert, or be resettled, in a lone Island to the far North. Afterwards, Adelinde and her followers were forever called “merciful” for their actions.

After several years, the Liviates chanced upon vessels from the Far Lands. The new contacts were keen to trade with the colonists for their valuable resources, now that the dangerous Skraeling tribes had been “removed”. Some of the foreigners were gracious enough to hear the words of the prophetess and stay, as converts. Such serendipitous fortune was clearly another act of protection by the Mother.

– Extract from A New Start written by Sabucia Maja, chronicler of the Life of Livia