Part 1: Raise
(Twenty Years before the Millennium)
Do you fear this latest dawn?
With talk of changelings being born?
Chapter One: Beautiful Tertia
Thirteenth Age: Year 980, Month Quin
The City of Tertia One
"I don't want to leave here." It was the quietest of whispers, a mere breath of sound.
As the housekeeper bustled behind her, humming tunelessly, Marilla gazed out of her bedroom window and down onto the street in the city she had called home for the whole of her eight years, trying to come to terms with the imminent move.
Beautiful Tertia One; its pentagonal houses stuccoed in white, yellow, umbra and orange. Perfect Tertia One; flower boxes in every window and designs pointed under every eave and around every door. At that moment, eyes brimming with tears, she was unsure how she would bear the loss.
"Why the big sigh, Marilla?" the housekeeper asked. "It's Quin today and there will be presents waiting for you downstairs."
The girl quickly turned, forcing herself to smile.
"It is a very special day," she replied. "I should not keep my family waiting any longer."
"Perhaps you could check on Geral before you go downstairs?" the lady asked as the girl made to leave. "He was still in bed when I went in earlier and not at all keen on getting up."
Rolling her eyes, Marilla left the housekeeper to her work and headed out the door, walking around the house's inner balcony to her little brother's room on the south-east segment. She briefly glanced through tall bannisters decorated with blue ribbons and down to a dining room full of holiday food, and finally managed a genuine smile, the house move briefly forgotten.
Geral was sitting cross-legged on his pentagonal mat when she walked into his room, apparently deep in conversation with something in front of him. For a moment, Marilla was certain she saw the faintest flash of orange by his legs, but a quick shake of the head soon banished the strange illusion.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
The little boy looked up, straw blond hair falling over his eyes. "I'm telling the fairies we're moving."
Marilla folded her arms and glared. "We don't talk to the fairies, Geral, remember? They're not to be trusted."
"They're my friends."
"No, they're not. They're evil spirits who lure little children into the forests, never to be seen again. They're the servants of the magicians, drawn to our Quire by the old men's spells. If we don't talk to them then they have no power and we are all safe."
"But ..." The little boy's lower lip quivered. "I like them."
"They make themselves attractive to the young." She nodded, recalling her own experiences of the tiny light-filled beings. "I remember. But we are quire and follow the path of The Five now, not the old magic ways."
"Urgh, Mari. You sound like one of those old Priestesses."
"Well then, perhaps you should listen more carefully to their teachings today at Temple. The Five knows I won't care if my little brother is spirited away by the mutants, but I doubt Mama and Papa will be pleased to lose their son so young."
Geral got up off the floor reluctantly and slouched towards her, his lower lip quivering, and Marilla smiled fondly, kneeling down so she could tidy her brother's hair and tuck the hem of one of his sharovary legs back inside his boots.
"Where is your Gem?" she asked. "Why is it not in your shirt pocket?"
"It's over there," he said with a pout. "But it's not fair. I want to wear it around my neck like you do."
"Not until you're five," she replied, handing the polished black stone to him. "Just another couple of months. But, until then, you must have it with you at all times. It's important."
She shrugged. "It just is."
He took the Gem from her with a heavy sigh, holding it briefly on his palm as he studied the tiny gold flecks dancing within it.
"I don't want to go away," he whispered.
Marilla gently took the stone from him, placing it in his shirt pocket before holding out her hand for him to take.
"I know. I don't want to move either, but it's a great honour for Papa to be singled out by Tertius Korvil for this job. It's a promotion, you see and means he has a better chance of earning a senior position next election.
"I thought he worked for Omal?" Geral said as they walked back out onto the inner balcony.
"Pa is sponsored by Omal and Omal is sponsored by Korvil so it's much the same thing," she explained, pointing to the bannisters in an attempt to distract her brother from his sulking. "But look, Geral. Look at all the beautiful ribbons. It's Quin today!"
"I still don't understand why he can't just get a better job here," the boy continued, barely glancing up as they headed down the stairs.
"That's not the way things work," she explained as they reached the bottom. "When you're a magistrate you go where your sponsor tells you to - where it will be best for the Team - and right now that means Quarta. In a few years time, we may be able to move back here again. Or perhaps even Prima."
The boy looked suddenly more interested. "And then Papa could become Primus and rule the whole Quire!"
She laughed. "Why not? Do you hear that, Papa? Geral's predicts you'll become Primus one day."
Voril was sitting in his usual place at the head of the table and laughed, good naturedly. "Well, who knows. Our system means that it's a goal that any magistrate can achieve."
"Could I?" her brother asked.
"Of course. I would certainly hope for my son to follow me into politics."
Marilla sighed, wishing that it would be as easy for her. Unfortunately there were no female magistrates here in Tertia and she knew better than to mention such a thing now and risk her parents dismissing the idea out of hand.
"May we start?" she asked instead.
"Presents first," her mother said, signalling for a servant to put a large basket of ribbon-tied bags in the centre of the table. "Happy Quin."
"Happy Quin," they all chorused.
"There are so many ribbons," Geral enthused, finally distracted from his concerns about the move to appreciate all the decorations. "Blue ribbons."
"Quin colours," their mother said. "See if you can untie them by yourself."
The parcels were untied to reveal small gifts stowed inside, with the abandoned ribbons then enthusiastically snatched up to be tied in their hair. Their father even decorating his beard with a few, much to Geral's delight, whilst others were wrapped around wrists and shirt toggles with abandon. Afterwards a few additional presents were given to the children - those too large to be able to be placed in bags - including a pile of new books for Marilla which she was especially delighted with.
The special Quin breakfast was far larger and more delicious than usual and, afterwards, there were tasty sweets wrapped in yet more ribbon-tied bags. Then the two children played with their toys, read their books and tried on new clothes or jewellery before being told it was time to remove all the ribbons and dress more soberly.
"But why?" Geral complained.
"Because it is not suitable attire for Temple," their mother explained. "You can tie them on again when we return."
Marilla gave her brother a sympathetic smile and began to remove hers, selecting one especially wide one to tie up her long blonde hair before studying her reflection carefully in the hall mirror to ensure she was looking smart enough.
The family walked the perfectly straight Secunda road towards the centre of the city where all the major buildings were nestled in extensive parkland and surrounded by trees in full bloom. Although not as tall as the impressive Palace, the Temple was perhaps even more beautiful. It was two storeys high but still taller and wider than a typical mansion and made all the more dramatic by the numerous towers and minarets decorating its five corners. As Marilla and her family approached, the bells began to ring loudly - calling everyone to worship on this very special day - and the young girl lifted her face towards warm sun, recalling the time when she was Geral's age and was convinced she could walk all the way here with her eyes closed, so strong was the pull of the place.
Her Gem vibrated gently in its casing around her neck, as if in response to that odd memory.
"If the fairies are bad, why are there so many of them here?" Geral whispered to her.
"Hush, I told you. Ignore them."
The ceremony was lead by five white-clad priests and priestesses wearing five-sided hats and long, intricate chains. One by one they told the tale of the Quire; today with rather more emphasise on the magistrates and the vital part they had played in the last war.
"Once unelected kings ruled with their puppet magicians," the first intoned, "and their magic demanded much from ordinary quires, including the sacrificing of women and children."
"The magicians made pacts with the mutants," the second continued, "infecting our women and stealing our children to grow up as mutants themselves. Cursed. Unnatural."
"The kings are long gone but the magicians exist still. Their power is much weaker sincer our ancestors' Great Revolution almost a thousand years ago, but still a threat to us all. Especially in twenty years when the fourteen age comes upon us."
We must remain vigilant," cried the fourth. "We must not look back to the time of kings, magicians and mutants. We must not allow our children to be enthralled by false visions of fairies ..." Marilla nudged her brother and gave him a pointed look. "… We must not be tempted by the old stories of doom or of salvation but look instead for the Truth of the Five."
"We are free now," the fifth intoned. "Free from the superstitions of the past. For when we follow The Way of the Five we always move forwards because, if we look backwards when walking, we are likely to trip and falter."
All five lifted their hands up towards the highly decorated ceiling. "So we reject the old magic and embrace the new technology instead, for in that direction lies our true salvation. We are quire!"
"We are quire!" everyone dutifully chanted back.
The service finally ended, but the talking did not, and the two children shuffled impatiently as various friends, colleagues and family members came over to wish them all Happy Quin.
Her father's sponsor, Omal talked about work for ages until he apparently remembered it was supposed to be a holiday and moved away to rejoin his own family and then, just as Marilla was sure they would make it outside, the senior priestess hurried over to their position and there was no way they would wish to avoid someone so honoured.
"Ah, Vorril, Sanya, I am glad to have caught you," the lady said in her quiet, calm voice. They all bowed deeply. "I wanted to talk with you about young Marilla here."
"Of course, Mother," her Pa said with a respectful bow.
"I was wondering if you had considered what study she might undertake after her Rite?"
"Ah, the last consultation suggested a number of possibilities," Vorril started, carefully.
"That does not surprise me, as I hear her school teacher is especially impressed with her exceptional memory and reading ability."
"We are indeed blessed to have such a clever child."
"Only I believe one option was for her to train as a priestess?"
Marilla had mixed feelings about such a future. On one hand, it was a highly honoured job and one which few were considered suitable for, but heading down that route would ensure a rather abrupt end to her secret ambition.
"Unfortunately, any such training will not be able to take place here in Tertia," her father explained. "As we are moving to Quarta very soon with my work, you see."
"Ah, I hadn't realised." She nodded, seriously. "Although, the choices up there will be much the same."
"Perhaps, although I am rather nervous about what those northern Temples may be teaching."
The priestess nodded again. "I understand your concerns, Vorril, although I believe the major centres are generally inclined to follow the Five, unlike many of the more remote villages."
"One of the reasons Omal wants me up there, in fact. To help with that particular conversion."
"A noble and worth cause," she said. "Either way, I'm sure Marilla's new teachers and priests will say much the same. The child has a rare talent and such training should definitely be considered."
"Then we certainly shall consider it," Sanya said with a bow.
And finally they were able to leave the building.
"Not that anything is certain until after your Rite, Mari" her father said as they made their way back down the Secunda road.
"And I admit I'm not a fan of that particular choice for you, despite the very great honour," Sanya added. "Most priestesses don't marry and I would wish for you to have a family of your own."
The young girl looked over her shoulder at the large, beautiful Temple and paused, wrestling with a feeling - or perhaps a memory - something only subconsciously acknowledged. Her Gem buzzed again.
"I'm not sure Priestess is a path I wish to follow either," she managed at last.
Her mother seemed satisfied with that, hurrying forward to catch up with Geral who had impatiently rushed ahead but her father seemed to catch something of her mood.
"What is it, Mari?"
She shrugged. "Just a thought … a wish ..."
"Is there any chance at all that I could train as a magistrate? Even as a girl?"
"You mean, that is something you still think about?"
"I know you used to say it when you were Geral's age, but I assumed it was because you were so small and didn't fully understand the Quire and its ways." He paused, thinking. "Such work would certainly be frowned on here in Tertia but I have heard of girls who work in the northern Halls. I've not sure how far up in the system they've reached but perhaps, up there, it may be something you can study for a little while at least."
"Really? It might be possible? I could be a magistrate."
He pulled a face. "I don't know, Mari. I would hate to get your hopes up. Some training and knowledge of the system would be useful for your future marriage negotiations, it's true, but when you are married, your energies should really go towards helping your husband's career, rather than pursuing your own."
"I know, it's just …" She looked back over her shoulder. "I really feel that I should be walking forwards and not backwards."
He laughed loudly. "So you don't trip and falter? Well, as we said, there's plenty of time to decide."
A/N: Welcome to The Quire. This is a long saga which potentially has seven books! I currently have four written and have made a start to the fifth. Names and terms are listed on my profile page. Art work can be found on my Deviant Art - same username.