My name is Raechil.
I would like a record of my life, but I have no way to do that except in my head.
My father is called Garnussil, in my language ‘na’ means daughter of, so I am Raechil na Garnussil na Gallam. Gallam is our family name.
My mother is gan-Garnussil, that is the wife of Garnussil. When a woman gets married she becomes a wife and does not have her own name any more.
I am a D-Harna from Montfad province in the Fenigruin Empire, and live on a large farm near the town of Antok. Antok is where I go to church every day, though we also have a chapel in our villa.
I only get to leave the villa when we go to church. Since I grew older I am not allowed outside without my father or the family priest except to walk around the cloister enclosed within the villa.
I can see the trees from my window.
I am a D-Harna, that is a servant of Harnakos, the One True God. We are part of the Xenic Church.
On the front of my dress, indeed over my heart, and depicted on the wall of the chapel and in the church, is the D-Harna Circle of Life.
Born in Innocence
Grow in Sin
Live in Pain
Die in Redemption
The white is for innocence, green for sin, red for pain, black for death and salvation.
The yellow in the middle is for Harnakos. It is not permitted to picture Him.
I attend seven services a day, six in our family chapel and one in the church at Antok. Before the service we get to mix with other D-Harna and I sometimes see other girls. And even occasionally pass a few words. But that is not important, of course.
I used to worry that I would not get to Heaven, that I would burn for eternity in Hell.
But I have only lived a pious and chaste life, so I hope Harnakos will favour me in the End.
I spend most of the day in my own room as the door is locked. And all of the night, of course. This is where I sleep, and I suppose it is quite large while also being quite empty.
The windows look out over the fields but are always shuttered. They also have bars. If I am careful, I can look out though, between the slats, so I see the trees change colour and the blue sky and sometimes even the moon and stars. I must never be seen by anyone outside, that would be a sin and would get me into trouble.
I have a bed, a wash stand, a table, a chair, and also a small altar. Beneath the altar is the Holk an Harnakos, our holy book. I read that constantly as it is very large. Oh and I have a sewing box. I always have embroidery to do too. And there is also a chamber pot under the bed.
The floor is stone flags and the ceiling and walls are bare except for wooden panels. These are black with red letters.
The one over my bed is ‘YOU GROW IN SIN EVERY DAY’. I am glad I cannot see it when in bed.
Then there is ‘REDEMPTION IS ALSO GAINED THROUGH VIRTUE AND CHASTITY’ and ‘LIVE WITHOUT PAIN, DIE WITHOUT SALVATION’ and ‘DEATH AND HELL ARE ALWAYS WITH YOU’. And several others.
I try to live as good a life as I can, so I am hopeful that I am not too wicked or sinful.
I get to leave my room to attend services in our family chapel, to eat meals in the dining room, to walk around the cloister, and to bathe in the washroom. Oh and to go to church once a day.
So that is my room.
I am seventeen years old.
That is good because as D-Harna we do not marry until we are eighteen, so I have a few more months.
Then I would have to undergo the Paskarl. All my hair is shaved off, both the hair on my head and elsewhere. There is more but nobody will tell me what.
I have red hair, well coppery-red I suppose. My hair is always covered, except when I sleep or when I bathe. I am a devoted disciple of the One True God but I do not want my hair cut off.
My mother told me I was pretty. Not that that was a good thing, she was ashamed that she had borne such a pretty child. And she thought my mouth was Lustful.
I do not know. I have never seen what I look like but I can assure my Lord God Harnakos and All the Saints, Messiahs and Prophets, no part of me is or ever has been Lustful.
I have to wear the Constract. I am told it is to keep me safe. It is an undergarment made of leather that covers my whole body with just wee holes if I need to relieve myself. I am locked into it, my father and my mother have the keys.
When I am married my husband will be given all the keys.
I am glad I am seventeen years old.
I have three sisters and two brothers, though I never really knew my brothers and I have only family affection for two of my sisters. I know I had a third sister but my parents never talk about her.
My brothers are both good D-Harna and are married and have their own farms.
I have wondered in my ignorance how my parents conceived five children, that they must have shared what I believe is called congress at least that many times. Perhaps the One True God Harnakos will enlighten me one day. I may be an innocent girl but I live on a farm with many beasts.
My older sister was called Manta before she was married. Now she is Gan-Hamgrist, the wife of Hamgrist. We were not close. She seemed content to be wed until the day she was. Then they took her away and shaved her head but I saw blood on her legs. She cried all through the service. I have not seen her since but my mother often tells me she is a good D-Harna.
Cleppa is my younger sister. I have never been wicked but I was unknowingly foolish when I was younger. Not that my parents would have known if Cleppa had not informed them.
I find myself baffled that now she is older and herself in the Constract it is she who now attracts my parents’ wrath without any intervention on my part.
I have a few friends among the girls who live in the province, most notably the sisters Beldaya and Henchik na-Gamgikil from a neighbouring property. We sometimes get to talk before services and at stonings. When we were small we were allowed to play together, but that is not permitted since we approach our own marriages.
I have my own maid, to dress and wash and care for me. She is a black girl and has no name as she is a slave. I am not permitted to talk to her, though if I were to lose anyone in the One True God Harnakos’s creation I would most want it not to be her.
I had not realised how hard it is to keep frowning for any time. God knows, I have tried. My face just aches.
I have been told by my parents and by the priest, of course, that it is not seemly to smile and laugh, especially a foolish wretched girl, that I mimic a demented monkey in appearance and sound. Indeed, that to laugh is an affront to the One True God Harnakos, for if you find humour in the sin and vice that is your existence you only mock Harnakos.
Therefore frowning is more seemly, though not easier on the face.
In truth my mother never had any trouble frowning and finding fault in all things.
Of course the wind may have changed and left her that way.
As I mentioned, I have to wear the Constract at all times, except when bathing.
In the morning I need to get washed and dressed, but it was decided that such tasks were ‘work’. As the servants of God, the D-Harna, our only work is only to serve Harnakos and so we have slaves to wash and dress us and do all other mundane tasks. So I need to wait until my father unlocks my bedroom and my slave arrives to get ready.
In truth I like being washed by my slave, even though the water is very cold, and then dressed.
I have several frocks, though they are all identical. They look like a sack, made of a course scratchy fabric, brown in colour, and exceptionally baggy. The only adornment is the Wheel of Life. I also have heavy black boots.
My slave brushes my hair, which is also nice. Then all of my hair is tied up and hidden in a scarf.
When finished dressing only my face is visible.
For a long time I thought everybody dressed like a good D-Harna, so it came as a bit of shock that many are so wanton and flamboyant in appearance.
Anyway, once I am washed and dressed I am ready for the first service of the day, and then for breakfast…
I am just back from church and have got ready for bed.
My mother instructs me to reflect on what I have done and said and should have done and should have said, so I am doing that.
That was a weird sermon.
Of course I always pay close attention to the sermon, whatever the topic, and not of course just because my mother may ask me questions about what was covered.
The sermons should always be listened to carefully and any lessons learned. I think it would be accurate to say that, at least as far as a D-Harna girl is concerned, that really only embodies obedience, chastity, abstinence, serenity and acceptance.
Today the priest told us of some conflict far in the south. He implied it was a holy conflict between good and evil, but it seemed to centre around who controlled two provinces. I do not know which two or why anyone would covet them, or why Harnakos would become involved in a land dispute.
The Empire has been at war at times with the Bardrachad kimgdoms to the south. I know little about them except they are godless barbarians.
This resulted in a resolution with Champions. The priest said the Bardrachad champion was a giant orge called Black Igrar. He killed all the Imperial forces arrayed against him, until a band of heroes went up against him and, right on their side, they slew him with righteous fire and steel.
So good triumphed, Harnakos be praised.
What was weird is that the priest then told us that this band of heroes were actually a band of mercenaries, cutthroats and scoundrels, called the Sisterhood. That it was only the glory of the One True God Harnakos that had converted them to our cause.
This was weird because I remember a sermon not so long ago damning the demons of the Sisterhood after they had murdered some noble man and had taken his head.
I do not doubt the power of the One True God Harnakos, yet I do doubt that is what would motivate goodless mercenaries and scoundrels.
Beyond the lands of the D-Harna, even I know steel and gold have as much weight as prayer and priests.
I have just finished my prayers.
I pray to be a better person, to be healthy and righteous and upright, and to be a true and devoted disciple of the One True God Harnakos.
I pray for my parents, to be healthy and righteous and upright, and to show me a little regard.
I pray for my brothers, to be healthy and righteous and upright.
I pray for my sisters, to be healthy and righteous and upright.
I pray for my maid, to be healthy and righteous and upright.
I have been instructed, both by my parents and by priests, that slaves do not have souls, so my maid cannot have a soul. That means she can not go to Heaven.
If I live a perfect life and get to Heaven I would want her to be there. It would not be Heaven without her.
I will be eighteen in a few months, that is when D-Harna maidens are married, on their birthday. I should be very glad.
I am betrothed to Simion an Simion, a respectable and pious D-Harna from near Matasuk in Dandamata provice, far to the east I believe. I have not travelled beyond Antok.
There is a map of Eastern Empire in the Holk an Harnakos, our holy book, so I consulted that.
Most of the Holk is scripture but there is also a section on the history of Fenigruin Empire in its religious struggles against the godless and the heathen, not least the hateful Drudicain. There is a lot of smiting and begotting in that part.
My parents believe I should be grateful to be betrothed to such a worthy man as Simion an Simion. I am not sure I would rather not serve Harnakos as a unmarried maiden. And avoid the Paskarl.
Simion an Simion is forty years my senior, and has been widowed twice, and has children who are older than I. He is very well-to-do, and he has a much larger farm than my father as well as a town house in Alamata.
He is older than my father and more righteous than my mother.
I am happy to be a virgin in all things, and I have prayed to Harnakos.
A bell sounds three times for first prayers. I need to ensure I am ready by then, ready in every way. Not a thread or hair out of place.
I am always ready in time for I am a good D-Harna.
The first service is in the family chapel. My father is wealthy enough to have his own priest. I have to respect the priest.
The chapel is very simple, just an altar and the D-Harna Wheel of Life on the wall above. We kneel or stand, but do not sit.
The service is short, though the priest’s sermon can be longer. Then to conclude:
Born in Innocence
Grow in Sin
Live in Pain
Die in Redemption
By the grace of our Lord Harnakos
Then I go back to my room, and then we have breakfast in the dining room.
Today my sister Cleppa was late for first prayers, and was out of breath and her scarf was askew. Nothing was said at the time but I knew a storm was coming.
I was extra careful during the service, indeed all day, as there is more than enough indignant wrath to snare me too.
After the service Cleppa was severly chastised. She claimed that she was late because of the tardiness of her slave. That was cruel and most likely a lie, but would get her slave beaten in any event.
My mother said to Cleppa, ‘I wish you were more like your sister Raechil!’
Cleppa was sent to her room without food all day.
I enjoyed my breakfast, though no more than was proper.
I am not sure I know what they mean, but these verses are in the Holk an Harnakos.
They seem somehow appropriate to my situation, though my parents tell me I should welcome such an advantageous match to my mature prospective husband.
Flowers o’er touched with fragile beauty,
Poisoned in their first spring of loveliness,
Fair fronds torn by grinning fangs,
Soft buds crushed betwixt bloodless lips,
All life left writhing in rank remembrance,
Of thy vile and venomous breath.
Shall Death brag thou wert more Great?
Hoard proud praise with piercing vent,
But swift! Tender executioner of thy breath,
Choke thy black deeds, expire and fall!
Yet that final vapour taunting whispers,
A bolder tale than truth could tell of thee.
‘The Fall from Grace’
Hanagrymm, Soothsayer to His Imperial Majesty Constant, High Lord of the Fenigruin Empire
I have always been good at throwing rocks.
Unlike many of the things that I did when I was a child, I still get to practise regularly. So many other pasttimes, such as skittles or archery or even throwing a ball, are now denied me, though I was always good at games.
Until I found out such pasttimes were ungodly. Or the enjoyment or even satisfaction I got from them was ungodly. I am not certain what was ungodly.
Perhaps once a week there is a stoning. If the wrongdoer is a male he gets stoned by the the males, if she is a female she gets stoned by the females.
Many things will get you stoned. Being found out of the Constract without permission, being discovered in a compromising position with a man, or most damning of all being found with child. Oh, and blasphemy and witchcraft and evil, though these are seldom reported, while fornication, adultery, incest and carnal crimes are.
I do not know how many stonings I have attended since I was an infant. Hundreds, I suppose. So far I have not known any of those who were stoned, and for that I praise Harnakos.
At the end of the service the priest outlines the crimes of the wrongdoer in some detail. The wrongdoer is not permitted to speak or to try to defend themselves.
All the girls and women gather in the courtyard and you have to take three rocks of a reasonable size. The priest says a prayer for the miscreant and then the rocks are cast.
Stoning is an ugly way to die. Very ugly.
I am in my own way skilled at casting stones. I hope it is the One True God Harnakos who has shown me charity and wisdom but to date I have never by design or mistake hit a wrongdoer. This is done carefully. For if I am too wayward I might be punished myself for not doing my duty.
This is just a small thing, though.
Nobody has ever survived a stoning.
One of the highlights of my life, by the grace of Harnakos, is to take exercise twice a day. I do not get to leave the villa but we do have an extensive garden in the middle of the house, surrounded by a cloister. You cannot see the outside from anywhere in the cloister except the sky.
There is a fountain and many beautiful herbs and plants and scented flowers, as well as vines and shrubs and even small fruit trees.
To avoid any unnecessary conversation, I take my exercise alone. For that I am grateful as there is nobody with who I wish to converse in the villa, except perhaps my maid. And I cannot speak to her.
Not that the plants are there because they are beautiful, they all have their uses, either culinary or beneficial or occasionally medicinal. It does seem to me the Harnakos made creation beautiful to look at and smell and feel and taste and hear, and I do not see the sin in appreciating His creation.
The sun was shining today and half the cloister was bright and heady, the other cool and peacefully gloomy. I do not know the names of the herbs and flowers, nor did there seem any design in their layout, but the place was very lovely in the sun.
I brushed against a purple flowered bush, the fragrance was delightful.
I need to to be wary.
Once when young I so loved that bush that I rubbed my clothes with the needle-like leaves. My mother smelt me, told me I was arrogant and indulgent, and punished me.
I love being outdoors.
Then I am back to my room.
I am rather ashamed to say that I anticipate stonings.
There is to be one today after the service.
This is not because some poor girl is to be horribly killed but that I get to talk to and exchange news with my friends.
When we are all milling about and collecting our missiles, well that gives us a chance to chat. I suppose I justify this by reflecting that the poor girl is going to get stoned whatever happens.
You have to make the most of life, that is one of the lessons I have learned from the Holk an Harnakos.
I found out recently that my friend Beldaya is soon to be married, she is some months older than me. Her betrothed is Gaksing, a pious but mature good D-Harna. How lucky she is!
He sounds only slightly more agreeable than my own betrothed.
I once asked my mother why such young innocent girls were married off to aged men, many of whom have already been widowed and have children older than us. She told me that older men have reached a higher level of piety and no longer are consumed with lust.
I have prayed to Harnakos to enlighten me but remain doubtful that is the case.
I think I have sinned and I will need to pray very hard for guidance.
I have hit somebody at a stoning, and it was utterly intentional.
Myral was the miscreant, I did not know her, nor do I ever remember seeing her. It is better when the miscreant is a stranger.
They accused her of fornication. She was very brave and undaunted. I so admired her.
I was told by Henchik that Myral was pregnant, perhaps it showed a little. We do not know how that could have happened as, like all of us, she was constantly in the Constract. Rumour is that the father was a slave.
This rumour is circulating because it is usual for the baby to be born before the mother is stoned. After all, how can a newborn be guilty? Even one fathered by a slave.
I prayed for Myral and her baby.
We gathered our missiles and waited. Then the first stones were thrown.
The priest was at the side. I saw his face. It was not the face of a godly man, no priest should take satisfaction in the destruction of a life, whatever the cause.
I threw my rock and missed Myral as usual, though she had already been hit repeatedly. I always go close. You must never been seen to be deliberately missing.
My second rock went somewhat astray, a sudden impulse took me and it sailed towards the priest.
I did not see it hit. By then I was casting my third rock.
When we were leaving I saw that the priest had been hit in the head. I fear I may have killed him. I do not believe anyone knows it was me that did this.
The One True God Harnakos of course knows what I did.
I am going to pray very hard for guidance because what I did was a sin yet I feel no remorse or guilt.
May the One True God find a place for Myral and her baby in Heaven.
Well, things have been pretty much the same as the year has turned.
For four months I have just existed. So little new had happened that I have nothing to report. Just the change in the days from longer to shorter to longer again.
I would not notice even that if it were not for the hours being rung so many times to announce the beginning of services and for meals and all that.
I did have some nice baths and have enjoyed many meals, though not too much, as well as a few sunny days in the cloister. It snowed for about a week, that was different.
I think I may not have killed the priest, though he was seriously injured and was not at services for weeks. I really believed I had. I did not feel guilty over what I did, no matter how I tried, even when I thought he had died. But I feel I should.
I prayed to God to help me understand my lack of feelings. He knows, of course, that I am not going to consult the family priest or my parents about such a matter. So far I am known the wiser.
I suppose I have just greyed my way through the last months. The days have been short and gloomy, but have hastened rather quicker than I would have liked.
In the spring it will be time to set off for the east to the city of my husband. That does not seem as far away as it used…
I am looking forward to the trip, though, if not the arrival.
I hope to see more of the world.
It will take many days to reach Alamata, much can happen in that time.
I have just learned that we are to leave for Alamata tomorrow morning!
To meet my betrothed Simion an-Simion in the White City of Alamata, to the east and south according to the map in the Holk.
Apparently to visit his large farm would have been rather vulgar and improper, though I am not sure why. His town house is less intimate, my mother told me…
Intimate? As with so many things, I do not understand.
The journey should take about a week, from what I can reckon from the map it is about 150 miles away. We are travelling in our own carriage. My mother and father and my sister Cleppa, as well as a guard of soldiers from Antok.
The roads are safe, I was told, so I am not sure why we need a guard.
I am quite excited that I might get to see more of the world. I can smell spring in the air now, see the leaves coming on the trees, the days are longer, the sun stronger. I think part of the journey is through wild hilly country, maybe I will even see mountains and forests and waterfalls. And then the sea when we reach Alamata.
I have never visited anywhere beyond our own farm.
We will be staying at inns in different towns, that is even more intriguing.
I pray to the One True God Harnakos to look after me and to allow me to experience a little more of the world. And to look after my family too, of course.
One reassuring thing is that there are still months until I am eighteen and will be wed. So I do not need to worry on that score.
I am not sure how well I will sleep tonight.
So I have left the villa! And we are on our way to Alamata.
It was an early start, just as dawn was coming. The sky was magnificent, the sun burning over the copses and fields.
Creation is magnificent, the One True God is magnificent.
I am so looking forward to the journey…
I have prayed to Harnakos, but to be honest the past few days have been very disappointing.
I had thought that I might see more of the world but if anything I have seen less. I never appreciated how uncomfortable travel in a carriage could be, and how boring. The windows have drapes and these have rarely been opened.
And I am under the constant inspection of both my parents. I could have tried to sleep but I am concerned that if I dozed off I might talk in my sleep and say something incriminating.
And we have stayed in new inns but again I have experienced nothing new. Being with my family all my waking hours has been challenging for me.
So, so far it has all been rather dull and sad.
I have prayed to the One True God to make me a better person, to cherish and care for my family, and to allow me to see some hills and forests before I die, if that is not too much to ask.
We are off!