Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Comics: The Path Taken

"The Path Taken"
Artesia #6 (June 1999) Story & Art by Mark Smylie

Synopsis: Outside the walls of Dara Dess, Artesia sacrifices a ram to the gods. Soon after, the Kings of the Highland Citadels arrive. She tells them of the arrival of the Thessids in the Midlands. The kings will not ride with her, but they agree to each send a banner lord to accompany her. They ask if she plans to proclaim herself Queen of Dara Dess. If she presses her claim, they will standby and bear witness.

Her siege has taken its toll. Only a hundred men still stand with Bran; the rest are dead or have deserted. Artesia's forces greatly out number them. She gets word that they have breached the walls:

Artesia encounters Ulin, one of Bran's best warriors. He's angry at her ambition, asking why should couldn't have waited until he had gotten  Bran out of the way. The two fight, and Artesia finally stabs him with the end of her polearm. He staggers away through the doors into the throne room. Bran is there with the rest of closest warriors. Through the back, Artesia runs Ulin through.

Bran chides her for killing Ulin and says she comes as a usurper. Artesia retorts that that was how Bran took the throne. In the highlands, she reminds him, kingship is taken by popular acclaim or force of arms not bloodline.

He accuses her of betraying him and stealing his men. She replies that she served him well and made him a conqueror--and then he killed her sisters. She sends their ghosts to confront him. Bran protests that he didn't kill them, it was the Agallites, but the ghost of Lysia points out he didn't stop it.

Bran and his men proclaim they are not afraid of ghosts and order the spirits to begone. Their charms protect them.

Artesia responds that he understands so little. (They come, the ghosts say. They come.) Did he think the sacrifices and prayers were for nothing? Does he not understand who she serves? And then, they are there:

Bran falls back in fear. His men fall to their knees before the goddesses. The goddesses of war proclaim their blessings on Artesia. And they are gone.

Artesia tells the men to hold Bran. They do as she bids, removing his crown. She begins a spell, a curse, even as Lysia asks her not to:

She takes his head past her troops to the shrine of Yhera. There she places it on a pole. Bran's spirit must stay her and watch over the highlands and one day Artesia will return and he will tell her what he has seen and heard. She kisses his head on the lips. This too shall have consequences, Lysia warns.

Artesia cannot turn back. She has made her choice. For good or ill, she is "loosed upon the world."

Things to Notice:
  • Poor Ulin. We barely knew him.
  • Artesia employs a voulge I think. Sorry Gary, I've forgotten all the polearms you tried to teach me in AD&D.
The three goddesses that come to Artesia's aid are the Gorgonae, the triple war goddesses. Their name comes from Greek mythology, obviously, but they most resemble the Morrigan, a Celtic trio of goddesses associated with war and death.

Bran (the Welsh word for "jackdaw") is named for a character in Welsh myth, whose severed head also keeps watch.


Jack Guignol said...

More commentary: the panel in which Artesia holds Bran's severed head is a direct callback to Gustav Moreau's Salome paintings.

Cursed Armada said...

Man it seems like everywhere I look I've been seeing something about this world. I've had The Barrow on my radar for months and I love the idea that he's got graphic novels out that are set in the same world.

Trey said...

@Jack - Good catch!

@Cursed Armada - Yep. This was where it started.

garrisonjames said...

That is a great homage to Moreau's Salome. This series is fascinating. You've got me re-doing the budget to spend money on this stuff...