26.

THE SECOND ITEM INSPECTED: A SABER HILT WITHOUT A BLADE, DATING FROM THE TENTH CENTURY.

During the Bulgar dominion of Euxinova, when Ellubecque had yet to be called Elbequond by the Byzantines, and was still known as Albaquadrum — though the Roman fortified camp of that name was long gone — a modest insurrection restored independence from the Tsar Simeon in a manner that would inform Euxinovan political strategy for centuries to come.

It began at a public ceremony, with the Bulgar praefect of the territory receiving a collection of gold as he had the year before. Quite unexpectedly, the man presenting the tribute produced a blade from his robes and slit the magistrate’s throat. At this, other innocuous figures revealed weapons and skills of their own, overcame the Bulgarian guard (who were only slightly superior in numbers and insufficiently surprised out of their indolence), took the city and claimed the contiguous regions as once again sole property of the Moesians, as the Euxinovans still were known. This revolt, as if by design, directly followed a spate of notable colonial investments by the Bulgars, who, considering this fecund valley a satellite to their own kingdom, had by then founded a library, built a royal palace, expanded upon Ellubecque’s burgeoning harbor structures, and added other improvements that would continue to benefit the usurpers.

It seems that the obscure parties who organized the rebellion obtained help from the semi-legendary Moesian bandit clans (still extant from their time of thriving symbiosis with the Roman landed gentry), for the praefect’s assassin is recorded as being the so-called “bandit prince” Rhauminogg. His famous saber bore an inscription on the blade — REQUIRIT FUR SUIS REBUS TUERI — that became a maxim popular among historians and pragmatic nationalists.

(However, that blade is gone, if this artifact is even what the placard beneath it attempts to suggest.)

6.

The puppet theater traditions that derive from western Euxinovan or “Sub-Moesian” folklore center largely around the figure of Ygzauba, who is most often referred to as a type of ogress or ghoul, while specters of her devoured victims (usually children) are called “little husks” or larvae. Early stories of Ygzauba as a sea princess (expelled from her home for some infraction) are rarely if ever depicted in puppetry. Instead, the plays tend to fall under three categories:

The first are essentially ghost stories, sometimes cautionary in tone, of the ghoul lurking in the grain fields and consuming her prey. The pronounced horrific elements of such plays have led them to be viewed as unfit for very young children.

Secondly, there are stories of magical trees and bushes: the result of Ygzauba venturing out of the fields on occasion and spitting out or defecating one of the seeds stored in her belly. The plants can be dangerous or beneficial depending on the narrative.

The final category resembles the first but is comical in nature, involving the shepherdess Pellephide — away from the slopes of Haemusmont in search of her straying flock — and her encounters with Ygzauba and related spooks. Though rustic and clumsy, Pellephide proves resourceful and always triumphs. Her poor eyesight leads to her mistaking various creatures for her sheep, including Ygzauba’s bipedal horse-demon servants. Her attempts to collect them with her oversized crook provide much of the humor.

The puppeteers eschew the marionettes used in the eastern regions, instead employing various forms of rod- and hand-puppetry. In smaller booths, Ygzauba’s steeds are made of preserved and decorated hummingcobs mounted on long sticks.

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