The Branding of Derbin Blaine River

The family caller yells out as he walks through the nook.

“Today we celebrate! Today we brand our newest member. A child has come to us. All go to the swirling pool!”

He continues repeatedly as nook members exit their home and begin the short journey to the swirling pool. The family caller’s voice fades away in the distance as he continues through the nook.

Nodra shakes as she swaddles her infant son. Her nerves are showing. Vorless wraps his arms around his wife trying to still the shake. “The dreams mean nothing.”

She pulls her child in close as if never to relinquish.  Vorless continues, “This is our boy. This is our everything. Today he is branded and named. This is a celebration of life in our family. You make all of this possible.”

She nods as a tear sprints down her check splashing on her infant son. “I fear for the struggles that come for this one. I pray for ease of life and feel deep in my heart and fear it will not. It is my fault.”

“Do not be so hard on yourself.” Vorless exclaims. “We are in this together.”

Nodra sighs loudly and clears her cheek of emotion. They turn to head to the swirling pool and says “Today, everything changes.”

The Broman, the primary religious text of Hearwind, dictates the ritual process. It clearly states that one elder oversees the ceremony and two elders are selected as receivers. The elders stand around the swirling pool and the pool selects them. The parents get to choose a person to submit the infant. It can be anyone not of their immediate family. The Broman indicates that distancing from the family will allow nature to see clearly into the soul of the infant.  This will keep the analysis free from any family traits.

The Elders form a line with their backs to the pool.  Sixteen very old, beloved, wise figures loom at the chilled edge of the swirling pool.  There are many, many blooms among them.  Most are loved. Some are hated.  Some are crazy and some are both.  In this cycle there are fifteen men and one woman.  

“Today, we celebrate natures gift of another soul.”  Roster starts.  

“A soul from the past.  We know not of who this ancient reincarnate soul may be.  But a soul from our past that we have missed so much.  Welcome all of you!  and welcome soul returning! “

“Welcome!”  chimed the people in chorus.  There must have been 100 people gathered around the small puddle of a pool.  People from all the families.  This is a special day.  A special branding.

“Will the love that brought the soul returned to us please come before us.  Nodra and Vorless River of the family CROSSRIVER.”  The two walk with their infant child and face Roster.  They share a quick nod.  He shoots a quick wink to Nodra as she is visibly nervous.

He continues “We begin and continue our connection with nature.  The Elder Receivers will now be chosen.”  Roster steps back into place as all the elders turn to face the water.

“Tell us the first receiver of the soul returning!” exclaimed Roster
The pool immediately began to swirl and spin.  A whirl pool that rises up instead of sinking down.  There begins a spray above the pool visible by all.  The water begins to shift and sway and change in color as the symbol of the first receiver appears.

A cheer goes up in the crowd.  Ara, The only women of the elders is presented clearly above all.  Nodra shields her son from the spray.  She manages to crack a smile.  

It has been a long time since she has shown any joy.  Ara is a younger Elder.  Only in her first cycle of office.  She has already been a receiver to many souls returning.  She is a very likable choice.  She brings much love, compassion, and creativity to the returning soul.

“Ara” announces Roster in his booming voice.  The pool immediately stops and splashes back where the water had come.  In so doing getting all of the Elders and Nodra and Vorless wet.  They take a moment to gather themselves.  The crowd giggles as they shake the water off.

Ara turns and bows.  She goes to hug the loving parents. and peek at the wide eyed baby. and returns to her place by the pool.  It is eerily quiet.  All of nature has quieted to listen and observe the ceremony.  More so than normal.  Something is very different.  This one is special.

Nodra is elated by the selection of the first receiver.  But she still worries about the oncoming selection.  

The receivers act as guides through the child’s journey through life.  The child receives many of the tendencies of the receivers, and the parents, and the submitter.  The receivers are the only ones in which the parents have no control.  

Some of the families have been known to have “undesirable” characteristics.  They can be cruel, devious, un-natural.  The fears for many parents are receivers from the wrong family.  That is an underlying fear for Nodra. 

The time has come.  Nodra’s insides are churning.  Facing the crowd once more Roster continues “Nature has spoken to us.  The first receiver is Ara.  She will bare her soul and guide this young boy through the trials, and joys of life.  We welcome this as nature’s will.  Now, we choose the second receiver.” The elders return to facing the pool again this time dripping from the first selection.

“Tell us the second receiver of the soul returning!” exclaimed Roster.
Once again the swirling pool began to swirl and turn, rise and ebb. This time definitely more violently then before. Nodra’s eyes are glazed over in the glory of the spout and the fear of the potential selection. A symbol begins to form and then fade… form again and then fade… nothing decurnable. Finally at the peak of the pools violence the symbol appears. The crowd gasps. Nodra slams her face into vorless’ chest. Her worst nightmare has come true.

“Gruvech” announce Roster with an audible bit of bewilderment. And the water crashes down violently. Knocking most of the elders off of their feet. Gruveck turns and smirks. He towers over the couple and their child. He remains silent. Vorless looks back with as much strength as he can bare. Nodra can’t look at him through her tear ridden eyes.

This is quite unusual. Gruvech is one of the oldest elders and longest running elders. Many people wonder how this could be. He is evil. And heartwind doesn’t believe in evil souls. though he continues to be selected. It is no surprise he is evil. He comes from bogside. The meanest, most hateful people come from bogside. No one knows why. They think it has to do with being so close to rot. The bog is full of rot. Full of death and dying.

Of no surprise to anyone gruvech has never received a soul returning. Not one. Roster thought to himself why? Why this one? Fear began to grow for him.  The elders turned to face the crowd once more scrambling to get to their feet.

“Nature has spoken to us.  The second receiver is Gruvech.  He will bare his soul and guide this young boy through the trials, and joys of life.” Roster says questioningly.  “We welcome this as nature’s will.”  There is little applause and half-hearted at that. No one knows what to make of this. This child gets the best and the worst of receivers. You could almost feel the prayers beginning for this boy.

Roster continues with the ceremony. “Now for the submitter.”
Brix steps forward, hugs Vorless and Nodra, as tear stricken Nodra gives him the infant.  He gets a nod from Roster and turns to the crowd. Lifting the baby above his head he bellows, “I give you… Durbin Blaine River!” The crowd cheered. Nature’s noise erupts around them all. This too is unusual. Nature never responds at this point in the ceremony. People are beginning to wisper. Some claiming prophecy. Others touting fear.

“We welcome Durbin Blaine River into our family.”

“Welcome Durbin!” The crowd echoing Roster.

“As is custom we will commenced with Durbin’s branding. Will the submitter please bring Durbin forth to the chill of the swirling pool? Please, if I may, Ara position yourself to the east. The east from which the sun rises bring us a new day. And Gruvech position yourself to the west of Durbin. The west where the sun falls and the day closes.” Roster recites as he has hundreds of times prior.

Brix brings Durbin up to the edge of the pool. Ara positioned east and Gruvech to the west. The receivers place a palm on either side of Durbin’s head.

“Swirling pool please brand this soul returning now residing in the body of Durbin Blaine River.” 

The pool sprang to life once more. Rising above the level of the adults hands. Rising above. Bringing the water completely around Durbin. Submerging him in the hands of the trio.  As the water rose the crowd, the elders, Nodra, and Vorless looked on, eagerly awaiting the brand of this soul returning.  The mark will be shown in the same way the receivers were selected. The water continued to churn.

“What’s happening?” Exclaimed Nodra. “It never takes this long! Where is his mark?!” 

The crowd grew uneasy. Shortly, the Elders too, showed worry. What was going on? Still no mark. This has been the way of the world for thousands of blooms. Nature’s noise grew louder. “Do something, Vorless!” Says Nodra, not able to take any more of this. Nature’s noise was deafening. The elders began to look at each other wondering what to do. Still no mark.

Then, silence. As if nature didn’t exist. The water from the pool had stopped moving. Completely still, Durbin still immersed. No one moved or said a word. Slowly, gently, the water began to recede back into the pool. Softly, the mass that so violently toppled many elders, began to return. The pool was now completely calm, peaceful. The pool return to normal. As did nature’s noise. All were left with nothing. No mark, only questions. Durbin was completely dry.

The dreams most certainly mean something.