Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tiny Story Time: Ring


How do you begin a tale that never ends?

Growing up, Jakdaraa’s mother often said this bizarre phrase, “Ach, this one is worse than Man’Ari Sins,” without explanation or apologies, whenever Jakki (family nickname) got in trouble. With her thick Draenei accent, it sounded like “Akdis Un Vurs dan Mahnarzins.” It seemed like a harmless mother’s curse at the time, though she did not understand the origins of these sins, or why her mother frowned so deeply. She knew it had something to do with wars, and Orcs. Every time they met an Orc in the streets or in neutral zones, her mother involuntarily shrank away, and turned pale, yanking Jakki’s small arm to move her away from the brown or green face, even though Jakki had never know an Orc to cause any real harm.  Actually, they seemed kind of shy. She had heard some stories about ancient blood feuds between their peoples, but like most children, was more concerned with what mischief she could get into, or how to torment her younger sisters.

She pieced together what little she could of her culture from clues in comments and grand proclamations, proclamations without substance or analysis. This cultural trait of beginning and ending every conversation with a grand blessing become tedious, and she lost interest in her own race, as an anthropologist might in her own backyard. Everyone she encountered in her young life did this, from the leaders to the stall attendants. A passing Exodarian guard seemed to needlessly mention that though the Draenei were “no longer interested in the acquisition of gold or material things,” he could point her to the vendors and auction house in the city-ship. Jakdaraa just took this as typical Draenei drama, an overstating of the obvious. Why not just point her to where she asked, and be done with it? She had the patience of a goblin most days, which meant none at all.

When Jakki came of age, prior to her shaman training, her mother and father told her she would be receiving her tail ring, which seemed more of a clamp or brand than a ring. She was both thrilled and terrified, because the ritual was said to be even more painful than giving birth. In order to be considered a true Eredarian, a true Draenei, she would have to go through with it, and face it bravely.

The sacred process to create the ring required a sacrifice from direct family members, a total of three generations. Each ring was taken from the paternal and maternal grandparents, and the ring from each parent, their rings were surgically removed by a priest/anchorite trained in this process, and placed in a replicated forge that was rescued from Draenor. (The original had been smelted down for weapons during the great wars.) The removal of the ring clamps from family members was more of an inconvenience, and not truly painful, because scar tissue created calloused protection, so when put back on, it didn’t hurt nearly as much as the fresh, first ring. Over the course of a lifetime, parents saved a certain amount of gold and fel-ore on their child’s behalf to add to the pot, including their own two rings. Then, once the rings were smelted together, a master jeweler created seven new rings, rings to return to the four grandparents, the two parents, and one for the child. (Jokingly, this is why Draenei families tend to be small, keeping to two children in most cases. Jakdaraa’s sisters were half-sisters by maternal blood, but this was not spoken of.) The new ring may have a birthstone, (created from ata’mal crystals), placed in it for the individual child, but this only happened with families of means. If the grandparents or parents were deceased, they were buried with their rings, a mark taken to the grave. * Subsequent ring generations had to be supplemented with lesser quality ore if gold or fel ore could not be secured. Many orphans received no rite of passage ceremony at all.

Another forgotten story, another lost tradition.

Because of Jakdaraa’s paternal lineage being of question, there were some late-night arguments and whispers concerning her paternal grandparents donating or adding their rings to the crucible, but in the end they realized they had grown to love Jakki as their own grandchild. After all, it wasn’t like so many of their friends hadn’t lost children and grandchildren, and the blessing of a child, from whomever it came from, was a gift. The grandmother’s sister had warned her years ago to accept these gifts, take in and treat all the grandchildren fairly, or be cursed. She had seen this happen too many times. It was either that or face humiliation of their son’s love for her mother to become a topic of public ridicule. Through their own wisdom, they chose love. Jakki was a wonderful child, even if her mother was not “one of them.”

The day of the “Ringing” (untranslatable in Draenei, and awkward in the common tongue) includes very specific procedures, and shrouded in ancient ways. It is never, ever spoken of outside of Draenei circles, though curious fortune seekers, lore writers and collectors have known of the ritual since time out of mind. Much of the rationale for traditions has been lost through the eons, like the spinning of the ring, but some still remain logical in their practice, such as the cleaning of the tail before the ring is placed to prevent infection. This was before anyone knew of microbes and bacteria, but saw the effect of ‘tiny monsters’ on wounds. Left unchecked, the ‘tiny monsters’ could kill a wounded soldier, or birth-room mother.

First, the recipient is brought into a room filled with seven candles, an anchoritic priest, and mother. (If it is a male child, his mother is present, but his father may attend as well. This is because only mothers are always the known factor, and fathers’ seed may be questioned.)

The young Draenei is dressed in rough-spun linen, and gagged with a mage cloth. This symbolizes the silenced voices.

Her hands are bound in front, and hooves in shackles. This symbolizes the enslavement of her ancestors.

The ring is ensconced in a crystal shard when created, and then broken by the anchorite with ancient words, half-sung, half-chanted, with a resonance only a red crystal creates. The interior of the crystal keeps the ring hot and malleable. The tail is cleaned with an acidic mixture, which burns the flesh of the tail, but will leave the area free from any trace of infection with a near half-life of efficacy. Ancient mages and necromancers, using boiled fel-flowers and elekk tusks, create this tincture. When applied, hair and skin sizzle and bubble: this is the first pain. This symbolizes the eternal sting of war.

Next, the ring is spun on a pointed dagger while the anchorite chants gibberish of blessings, curses, and speaks in mumbled tongues. It was almost funny. Jakki would have laughed if not silenced, or in the first waves of pain.

The words he speaks include the curse of pain of childbirth if a female, or pain of sword if male, and the cost of blood from ancestors to get the child to his or her future, and the sacrifice of respect, family, and generosity of soul that must be ever sought.

Remain vigilant.

Next, the ring: seven spikes, thick, gleaming, untarnished. The ring is scraped up through the bottom of the tail, and when it reaches the mid-section, the anchorite takes heavy iron clamps and brands the ring solidly around the tail. The seven spikes dig into the marrow, and as it cools hardens to shape. This process causes blistering pain, moving up her tail to her buttocks, spine, and back of her head, explosive red, a silent scream, and no arms to stop, to smother.

Seek the path of the light.

The path of pain symbolizes the path of betrayal: coming up through the seat, to the heart, and intelligence of mind, the betrayal of Kil’Jaeden and Archimonde. Just when the rite could not get any more painful, the anchorite utters the last blessing, and stops. So does the pain.

Blessings upon your family.

Her mother took her home, and she slept for three days. This is normal.

Once a Draenei youth has gone through the Ringing, he or she is welcome to find a mate, enjoy the privileges of the community and other adults, but it also comes with a responsibility to serve in the military or community. The days of childhood play are over, but the secret no adult can share with a child is that though childhood is brief and full of many joys, adulthood is, too.

Jakki felt renewed patience with her people, but still couldn’t find it in her heart to hate Orcs. They were betrayed, too, and lost so many. Wasn’t Thrall a great and wise shaman, as she wanted to be? She looked more to their common ground than generation’s past treachery.

But though she sought peace, agitation and taunts of her kind kept old wounds from healing. One or two willful Orcs would mock her, and Trolls especially seemed very vocal in their views on Draenei. As her parents and grandparents tried to warn her, to show her, she realized no one wants to hear these stories anymore. No one believes them, or cares. Some even go as far to say it never happened, it was all a lie to give the Draenei land they didn’t deserve. No one power could be that evil, that destructive: the Draenei were liars. This chafed her to no end. Those who dismissed history, chose to forget, or worse, re-write it for their own greed and gain. This she could not tolerate. She would wear her ring till the end of her days, and with any luck, or love, or both, have a child to share her ring with, too.

We…survived.




*Some archeologists have been saddened to see the grave-robbing of Draenei crypts, where removal of tail rings is rampant in some locations, usually by Goblin-Orc black market syndicates, or the occasional gnome who justifies the theft by saying “it was for the cause:” whose cause is anyone’s guess in the tangle of political maneuverings in modern times. Superstitions keep most Orcs from stealing Draenei holy relics, but not all. However, pilfering by humans has been the greatest, due to their insatiable curiosity. They mean no harm, and keep all artifacts safe, but do not realize the trespasses incurred. It should be noted that Night Elves and Tauren rarely, if ever, dig up other races’ tombs. Night Elves will catalog and scribe, but never plunder other's sacred shrines.

8 comments:

  1. Oh, wow, this is a very different take on what the tail ring might mean in Draenei culture! You've really put some depth of thought into it -- my idea was just a silly little bit of fluff.

    The concept of fusing the parents' and grandparents' rings with new metal to create seven new rings for all is a beautiful symbol of the ever-renewing cycle of family relationships.

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  2. Wow, that was a very detailed account on another take of the tail rings. It does sound very painful though...

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    1. All rites of passage tend to have some cost of flesh and blood it seems...even prom night.

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  3. Well I guess that explains why I only have one level 85 Draenei. One tail ring ceremony and that was it for me apparently. I'm glad Jakki is going forward without the prejudices of the past but an open mind.

    And Cat and my Hunter were relieved to see that Night Elves never plunder other's sacred shrines, whew.

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    1. Night Elves have had too much of their own history plundered and destroyed, so when they can, they try to be recorders of history, and not fortune seekers. As you know, their libraries and anthologies are some of the richest in Azeroth, and they take great pride in their research and academic excellence. Draenei are still trying to gather the shattered pieces, having them strewn over time and space.

      (My take on it all, anyway...) :)

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  4. :) I love having previews! And it was as good as expected! Did you put it on the story site? Let me go look!

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    1. No, not yet, because I wanted to ask ya'll which one you think I should submit. This may be the one, but it needs some further editing, methinks....

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    2. Oh a romantic one, or wait, the pokey demon one ... I'll have to go read through some again, I can't decide.

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