the ritual

Their order of stone workers could trace its lineage back to ancient times. Back to when there was one kingdom and one dynasty. Before the splintering and the wars and the abandonment of old traditions and any lingering sense that a moral life was the one best lived. This new order of stone workers were themselves a splintering after a war and struggle over their trade’s traditions. As a society, they were aware that they were not the only stone workers left in the world but they certainly held themselves to be the most legitimate. They had retained their mantel through heavy sacrifice and adhering themselves to a particular sect of Masters who steeped themselves in the old ways. Their pride was not unfounded. They were sought out by many adventurers, king-pretenders, and fallen blood of the old dynasty. Their trade and craftsmanship were a fading artform but not altogether dead.

Like all orders of the stone, this cloister was led by a strong tradition of mysticism. Their stones were chosen with great care, collected in accordance with outdated but trusted methods, and then each stone was ritually bathed the in the earthly delights, terrors, or enormous griefs of the cloister. The emotional bond the cloister chose to strike with each particular stone was a spontaneous act. One that consummated during a ritual lasting the entire length of a waning moon. By far though, their more prized and powerful stones were those that were ritualized immediately after the birth of a child of the cloister .

In their natural state, the stones varied greatly in size and color. But these distinctions were nothing compared to the astonishing craftsmanship and otherworldly design that were applied to each. As a chanting circle spent hours repeating ancient words and spontaneous outbursts, a chosen member of the cloister would thrust him or herself upon the stone with an instrument of their choosing. It could be a chisel. It could be an axe. It could be flame or water or sandwood. The chosen artisan would labor for hours, in a frenzied state. She would make manifest a truth upon the stone’s body, in accordance with the rhythm and the incantation of the group. In this way, the stone order created talisman of extraordinary value. Each stone could take months to sculpt and imbue with its magical properties, to say nothing of their impeccable provenance.

As a result, each stone had its own history. Some resembled flames. Others, hollowed out basins. Some were as smooth and shiny as marble while others were painstakingly stippled, cracked, or burned. Beyond those, there were a great many that could only be described as “remaining in their natural element, only more so.”

Strictly speaking, the order only sold these stones to those of pedigree or great learning. The price for each was also selectively high. Each was worth a small fortune but only a depreciating number of available patrons truly understood this. So, the Kaiji had, on occasion, been known to make a few exceptions when a wealthy collector, or dealer of an unspecified trade was interested in a purchase. But only with the agreement of his Chockton and the Lai-sen, of course.

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