It had been a bloody and horrifying sight to see, especially in the early morning hours when only the light from Hightower gave the Sept any illumination beyond the torches. The elongated shadows of that hour had framed the sight of the Starry Father. Had it not been for the pool of blood and multiple stab wounds which dyed his white robes and rainbow belt red, he might have looked as though he slept in the middle of the floor of the Starry Sept. The speckled black marble from which the Sept partly earned its name hid the blood well if the robes could not, and her sisters and brothers who had gathered for early morning prayers all left the Sept that day with bloody hems from walking into a part of the puddle well hidden. The shock of finding their old and beloved Starry Father stabbed to death in the middle of the Sept proper had nearly caused a panic amongst them all. Several of her sisters not sworn to silence had fallen to their knees crying before the altars of the Father, Mother, and Warrior—begging for justice, mercy, and action against the villains responsible. Her holy brothers whispered amongst themselves that no one could have possibly entered the Starry Sept to commit such a heinous crime.
“This must be the work of a demon from the Seven Hells—it’s the only explanation.”
“Here in the midst of the Starry Sept?! Are you mad?”
“It’s a punishment from the Seven—a sign we’re on the wrong path.”
“What have we done wrong?”
“It’s the Lotharians. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Lothar and his pamphlets have poisoned the commons. We should respond in like!”
A small chorus of ayes echoed around some of her holy brethren, but just then a figure who hadn’t spoken before, the Starry Son Luceon—the Starry Father’s assistant—came forward.
“It is pointless to speculate like this. A tragedy has befallen our Starry Father, and we must see that he is honored and prepared for the Father’s judgment. Sisters, your silent services are needed,” prompted the Starry Son Luceon, and Selyse and her sisters sworn in silence took a moment before approaching the body off the Starry Father.
“Brothers and Sisters, we must speak with the commons and hold prayers out beneath the stars so our sisters sworn in silence may perform their task,” spoke the Starry Son Luceon as he ushered out many of Selyse’s brothers and sisters.
Along with her sisters sworn in silence, Selyse hauled the body of the Starry Father Hugh to their chambers where they would clean, bathe his body in oils, and dress him for services and the funeral that was likely to be held in his honor. Only after that would their true work begin of stripping his bones of his fat flesh. Selyse and her fellow sisters set to work expertly, putting aside their welling emotions as well as they could. It would do no good to think of how the Starry Father had comforted her when she had first arrived, and like the father she had never had taught her the mysteries of the Stranger that she would need to know. He had been kind and patient with her, never raising his voice in anger or punishing her for her mistakes, instead prompting her to see it as an opportunity to learn for herself.
Those memories only brought tears… and tears would ruin the oil and contaminate him, and the Starry Father Hugh deserved the best of all her treatments. Selyse dipped the sea sponge into the vat of blessed oil. She then adorned it to the Starry Father’s round bare chest, careful to avoid the jagged wounds where the dagger or daggers had killed him.
Sister Naeryssa, whom Selyse knew by her blue eyes comforted the distraught Sister Lyla whom Selyse knew by her green eyes, the two were communicating rapidly through signing, their hands flying though the different words as only two Silent Sisters could. It was the only form of direct communication permitted them with their vow of silence. Each swift movement or position of the hands held a specific meaning and was known amongst all their sisters. And it wasn’t just useful to her fellow sisters sworn in silence, but in the Sept across the Sea, when a sister who had trouble speaking the common tongue rose to prominence, she always could use signing to communicate what she wanted. Lyla and Naeryssa continued to sign.
“I can’t believe it.”
“Aye, but we must treat him.”
“It isn’t right to treat him like any other pile of bones. He was more than that.”
“Then show that he was, and help us cleanse the vile humors from his body.”
Lyla was a newer sister, only with them for three years but she had been quick to pick up on the signs, but she had yet to fully understand the full mysteries of the Stranger. The flesh were but the armor of the bones—once freed of the flesh, the bones of a man could be better judged by the Father, and be freed of this life’s corruption. Lyla had been sent by her parents to be educated by the Faith when she was but a small girl. Upon returning home she had been caught kissing in a closet with her family’s young and newly oiled Septon. Not long thereafter she had been sent to Oldtown to pursue a sudden interest in serving the Stranger—well not so sudden as Selyse could obviously determine.
Lyla’s story was not unique either, many girls who parents had thought their attention to boys or men were more than inappropriate at ages such as ten or eleven were often sent to join her sisterhood. Others, such as Naeryssa had come from humbler backgrounds such as the City in the Shadow of the Tower—Oldtown’s Flea Bottom—and had chosen the Silent Sisters for the opportunity to be something other than a whore. Only the Starry Mother Teryse seemed to have joined their order out of genuine piety—at least that was what Selyse assumed from the way she insisted upon following the strict guidelines that had been laid down for their sisters by the Stranger’s own hand.
Sister Rona, who now attended the Starry Father Hugh’s hardened groin with a good dollop of oil, had been a rich social climbing merchant’s daughter who’d joined to avoid a marriage to a poor and vile nobleman who upon meeting her had said that a wife held nearly the same social status in his house as that of his hunting dog, slightly higher to be sure—but only slightly. The old Selyse, the child that had lived all her life at her Uncle’s command would have thought the girl mad to have refused any proposal of marriage—especially one which allowed for such a rise in social standing—for such a petty reason, but Sister Selyse was more inclined to appreciate the desire to be treated well, like the Starry Father Hugh had treated them all.
Now that his body was blessed, it was time to dress it in the finest white robes available. Sister Tyanna came forth having been sent at the start of their task to gather his best robes. It was hardly a task she found stimulating—much preferring to have her nose stuck in a book she took from the Sept’s small library, but it was her role in the process. She had made easy work of them, slitting them down the back so that they could dress him with ease and not manhandle his anointed body. After all, no one but them would see his backside. First went on his alb—made of the purest white silk that Selyse had ever seen in her life. Next came the outer robe, followed by the girdle, and then they draped the wide stole which bore the banner of the Starry Sept upon it, with an onyx diadem above it to denote his station as the Starry Father. The banner of the Starry Sept was sable, with a seven pointed star argent encircled by seven smaller ones of the same. Last but not least they placed the onyx diadem atop his head.
Having finished dressing his cold and stiff body, they then moved his body onto a litter that he would be paraded upon for the funeral. Were he not the Starry Father, they would have considered him prepared for his wake—but as Selyse knew from the funeral of Sister Megya—the brothers and sisters of the faith would further adorn the body of their holy sibling or parent with accutremonts that represented their relationship with their beloved deceased holy sibling or parent. Flowers and fruits were most common, with each having developed a language all their own that only those of the Faith truly knew the meaning of.
It was mid-morn when they broke their fasts. Their other holy siblings had long since finished, leaving them to their meal. The thought of eating did not appease Selyse in the least. She looked instead upon the collection of fruits before her and after whittling the choice down to two possibilities, she weighed the options of whether an orange—patience—or an apple—knowledge—would best represent her relationship with the Starry Father. Naeryssa soon elbowed her.
“You need to eat,” Naeryssa signed by pointing to where her mouth would be beneath her veil.
“I will later,” she signed by twisting her right hand at her wrist in a circle three times.
“No, now,” signed Naeryssa by bringing her hands together palms up with her right hand striking her stationary left hand.
Selyse sighed, knowing it would be useless to argue with her sister, took an orange and slowly began to peel it. Naeryssa’s hard blue eyes continued to watch her and did not let up until she’d skinned it, broke it into smaller pieces, and then placed one of them in her mouth.
“That’s better,” signed Naeryssa with a clap and the nod of her head.
Selyse nodded and decided that the oranges were a little on the sour side. It would be better to give the sweeter apple to Hugh.
Just then the old, blind, and dark-skinned Dornishman brother named Rasul could be heard tapping his sentinel cane as he made his way to join them. Rasul had long since lost his wits but Starry Father Hugh had kept him saying that a holy family such as there’s could not afford to cast out their siblings. For a moment Selyse wondered what would happen to Rasul now that Hugh was no longer there to speak with him and advocate for him. Once she’d hear the Starry Son Luceon argue with Hugh on Rasul’s benefit to their Sept, but Hugh hadn’t budged.
Rasul after assessing through groping that he was in the company of his sisters sworn to silence, then spoke aloud—as he was often apt to do “My dear sweet silent sisters. The Seven have truly spoken this day, for up in the sky a star does bleed.”
Like most of Rasul’s mutterings they did not make sense. He often spoke of having the Stranger whisper things to him in his ear and how the Stranger had been his friend and companion since infancy—playing with him as a child and blinding him then as well. According to Hugh, Rasul had only begun to go blind seven years previously, and at that time he’d never had the habit of announcing the Stranger’s whisperings to anyone, but most especially to her and her fellow Silent Sisters.
Rasul continued, “The Seven despise the vile act that has been committed. They shall cast blood upon those guilty for all to see.”
At this Selyse saw Lyla stopped eating as she began to stare at him.
“Stars will fall like city walls, and woe be to any left inside,” finished Rasul. For once Selyse was not the source of change as the Starry Mother Teryse nodded and Sister Erelle rose and escorted old Rasul to the table, placing a bowl of fruit before him, which he managed to begin stuffing his face with and Selyse began to consider this episode over.
It wasn’t until later when she was outside looking for the missing Sister Lyla who had vanished not long after they had broken their fast Selyse noticed a streak of something red in the sky. She looked up and saw suspended above and clearly visible against the blue sky—a falling star.