Orpheus du Valle and the Faculty of Heraldry

Inspired by Dom, written by James F

Heraldry is one of the oldest of the Thousand Arts. The earliest recorded arms date to the First Binding War, when mighty heroes of men and glorious religious institutions fought to overthrow the tyranny of insane gods. The language used to describe arms is not the language of the common man, it is a tongue full of archaic words with subtle references to events long-since passed. And also, it must be admitted, some terrible puns.

For almost a thousand years the Faculty of Heraldry of the College of Thousand Arts has served to educate heralds and genealogists, and they are responsible for the creation of all new armorial designs inside the White City. They also educate heralds for the other great cities- from the cruel heralds of the South who work only for those of noble bloodlines and strange religious beliefs to the bustling mercantile heralds of the East willing to work for anyone with money, and from the hearty heralds of the West who will design anything as long as it features animals and is coloured blood-red to the enigmatic heralds of the North.

In recent years heraldry has become ever more popular. The newly-created Cristoforis clamour to have their arms recognised in both Crossroads and the White City, the displaced nobles of the various revolutions seek to make new arms to symbolise new beginnings, and adventuring nobles constantly demand new arms to reflect their latest triumphs. Because of this, the Faculty of Heraldry is used to difficult clients.

Most of them, however, weren't as difficult as this client. The Herald in Waiting that day was a good man, but he was also rather timid. And hadn't yet managed to speak.

The client's name, as he had repeated at great length and in a variety of accents, was Orpheus Du Valle (although the Herald took that for hubris, and assumed he meant Orpheus du Valle).

His breath smelt fragrant.

He didn't stick to his topic. He digressed. He even kissed the Herald, once, when the Herald had pointed to a sign saying “The Faculty of the Governor's Heralds”. The kiss was followed by a length monologue on the beauty and majesty of Her Eminence Rebecca. The client had even said that The Governor was the reason he needed arms, that otherwise Her Eminence would never return his love.

The client had successively and consecutively demanded that the Herald find the Du Valle family arms (the Herald had failed to find a mention of Du Valle, du Valle or de Valle in any of the White City registers), create a new Du Valle family arms, create new personal arms for the client, design a City Shield for the client (but surely he couldn't be one of the new High Captains, could he?), and register a new temple arms under the client's name. He'd also demanded to have his arms registered as the military arms of a mighty combined army of trogs and trolls (but the Herald was trying to forget that part).

The client had been talking for over an hour by now.

And then he mentioned he was from the Whistful City.

The Herald seized his chance, took a deep breath, and spoke as fast as he could: “I'm afraid foreign coat of arms would be kept in the official repositories in the city under who's jurisdiction the arms have been granted. We do keep records of known coat of arms of foreign lands, but I'm afraid our Whistful City collection doesn't include any records for the Du Valles. If you brought us evidence of your foreign armorial grant we would be glad to add it to our records, of course.”

Orpheus looked confused. The Herald continued: “Or, if sir is known to Her Eminence- a diplomat, perhaps?- foreigners can have coats of arms designed for this city's jurisdiction if they bring us a Warrant sealed by Her Eminence.”

Orpheus now mingled confusion and interest- he'd understood the reference to The Governor, if nothing else. The Herald concluded: “Of course, your third option is to speak to a herald of the Whistful City, who could possibly create you arms under the Whistful City's jurisdiction. As luck would have it, we currently have the Belette Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary for the Whistful City staying here. Would that suit you?”

Orpheus asked what the Herald meant.

It took another half an hour to explain the terminology & options, and for Orpheus to settle on the third. The Herald sent a runner to the Belette Pursuivant.

The Belette Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary for the Whistful City, when he finally arrived, turned out to be a tall slim man with dreadlocked hair entwined with ribbons, in clothes made of hundreds of brightly coloured rags- each with an heraldic pattern on. He was also wearing heavy eyeliner, dark lipstick and a huge grin.

He walked somewhere between a sidle and a caper, bowed frequently, and Never Stayed Still. Even Orpheus was impressed.

“Hello fine sir. I pray, sir, that sir will allow me to introduce sir's humblest servant, sir. My name, sir, is Canting, and I, sir, am the Belette Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary for the Whistful City, if it pleases sir.”

He paused. Orpheus opened his mouth to speak, but Canting chose that moment to resume his introduction.

“Now I hear sir has needs, sir, as do I sir. Sir provides things, sir, as do I sir. Some say all glory is vain, sir, but boosting the (vain) glory of aristos using the art of blazon is my career sir, much as boosting the spirits of expats using Vainglory is sir's. An exchange, sir, of services between us, sir, could be not vain, sir. Oh no. Not Vain but Glorious, sir. Agreed, sir?”

Orpheus, once he'd caught up, indicated it seemed a fair exchange.

“Well. If sir were a citizen, sir, of the White City, sir, then only if sir were a powerful noble of proven glorious blood could sir bear arms, sir. But sir is a citizen of the Whistful City, sir, and sir's proof of power depends on the proof and power of sir's Vainglory.”

Orpheus produced the required payment.

“Thank you sir. Very kind.”

Canting pulled an elaborate pipe from his pocket, filled it with Vainglory, lit it, and took a deep puff. All was silence in the Faculty.

Then Canting giggled, and cried: “Indeed, sir! I have it, the perfect design for an Orpheus du Valle!”

Canting made a wide, sweeping gesture with his arms and announced in a deep and ominous tone: “On an Escutcheon Sable, on two Piles Azure, Feuilles Or.”

With a broad smile, Canting explained: “That is, sir, a black shield with two blue triangles descending from the top, with a decoration of gold leaves.”

Canting dissolved into a laughter. After another tug on his pipe he recovered, and explained: “First let us examine the charge, sir. The design is simple, sir, with many associations with sir- a gold leaf references your career sir, shows sir's herbs are truly golden, and shows sir's money, sir, comes from and to herbs. And, of course, as I already told sir, the old term for gold leaves is… Or Feuilles.”

Orpheus groaned. Canting silenced him, and concluded: “And the background, sir? Well, sir must see the black shield represents sir, the Urbane Shadow. The two blue v-shapes, sir, coming down from the top, makes the black seem like our home, sir, the mountains of the north. Of course, by now sir will see that if the black is mountains, sir, the two blue shapes must be two ravines, gorges or valleys- or as I could say sir… Deux Vales.”

And that was how Orpheus du Valle got his coat of arms.

misc/fiction/ovfh.txt · Last modified: 2011/04/03 22:29 by osj01
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