Writing Catalog

Demeter Winkel

Grade: 11

Hawken School

Instructor: Rennie Greenfield

On the Religion of The Barwicka

Science Fiction & Fantasy

On the Religion of The Barwicka


At a point approximately a century ago, the rightmost peninsula of the Barwicka land opened to trade. In this brief, five year span, many merchants and scholars traveled to the peninsula to learn more about the famously isolationist nation. Throughout this time, Kilatrep of Eramptiop journeyed to the land for purposes of trade and curiosity. According to Kilatrep and others, he was welcomed further into Barwicka land than any outlander post-split. As such, he is regarded as a reliable source of information pertaining to the Barwicka.

On the Religion of the Barwicka

The first time I made the trip north, I suspected that I would be welcomed warily, and for good reason. My crew was armed to the teeth with the sharpest swords our salaries could purchase. The journey north was often roaming with Rising End ships, who did not hesitate to slaughter ships not bearing red. As such, we were aware that they might have refused our entrance. Instead, we were allowed in after a spot of inspection. One of the members, who I originally thought was sort of a grunt worker, boarded our ship at the port and began speaking. It also came as a surprise that their tongue was almost exactly like ours, with the exception of it carrying an older cadence. They informed us that they would have to keep hold of our weapons during our stay in Barwicka. This command was obeyed with ease, at which point they yelled for assistance carrying our weapons. As two more fellows boarded our ship, I realized that clothing did not matter in this land. I expected our first guest, who was barely clothed, with a sort of net surrounding their arms to be a lower class member. However, it seemed that the net was actually a sign of status, as the two individuals boarding our ship did not possess it. Our new friend then escorted us down to the port.

Despite the fact that the Barwicka tended to exclusively keep to themselves, this port was lively with individuals from all over the world. I saw many Rising End ships, others from the twin islands, I believe I might have even spotted a Tidrenian ship as well. Our friend, who introduced themselves as Tradde explained that the port held many, many peoples from across the world, but none were allowed past the edge of the small area. I asked them how this was possible, considering there was no security, but Tradde simply laughed and explained the trees assisted them. For a moment, my crew and I were quite confused, before we realized that the edge of the forest bordering the pier looked strange. It was contorted, but not gnarled. It seemed as if the trees had chosen to make themselves nearly impossible to venture through. Trade explained further, saying that only Barwicka knew the path through, and did not use it in the presence of others. I said it was ingenious, and Tradde laughed, then asking us what we would like to trade.

I must confess at this point that I had directed my crew towards Barwicka simply because it was a rare opportunity. At that point, I told Tradde that we would like to trade for what was offered, as well as knowledge. They adopted a curious tone, asking first what we were able to trade, which I answered by describing the Eramtopian marble we had mined. They shook their head, before asking what sort of information we had to trade. At this point I had become sufficiently befuddled. Despite the fact that they had opened for merchants to advertise their wares, Tradde seemed completely disinterested in our top-quality marble compared to the knowledge I had offered. Due to this confusion, I answered off the top of my head, "question for a question?" Tradde laughed uproariously at this, delighted at the prospect. They agreed that this was a fair bargain, and told us that drinks were being offered further down the port. My crew had been keeping sober for about a week, in case we encountered red sailors, so they eagerly headed towards the makeshift tavern that must have been built recently. I stayed behind, still feeling the need to satiate my curiosity.

Tradde seemed to understand this, and asked their first question. "What is the use of your marble?" I was too stunned to speak for a moment, before I began explaining to them the various uses of marble. It was very profitable to sell, it was quite an attractive stone, it was useful for building sturdy homes-. Tradde cut me off at that point, muttering what I believe was "homes'' under his breath in an exasperated tone. I then asked my question, which had been burning inside my head since I observed the border of the port. "How do you put the trees in that position without hurting them?" It seems that this was not an expected question, as Tradde considered me for a moment before asking me, just how long would my crew stay at the tavern. I told them it wasn't their turn to ask, before answering his question. Since my crew was likely going to pass out at said tavern, I suppose Tradde was comfortable enough to show me just how they had manipulated these trees in this way. They led me behind another building, before entering the trees as if they were walking through air. I attempted to follow him with the same decorum, but found myself with several scratches before I collapsed on the other side. Tradde pulled me up from the ground, and I understood something important. The port may have been Barwicka land, but it did not have Barwicka soul.

Where I expected to find a city, I saw nothing but beds made of fallen leaves. Where I expected to see parks, I saw children roaming through the great forest. During my moment of awe, Tradde said something that stuck with me, far after I left. "For our brief time here, we must live with beauty." I understood him. The waves had always been my beauty, the forest must have been theirs. Tradde walked forward, before gently lying on a patch of dirt surrounded by grass. I felt an urge to lie next to them, ask more questions, so I found a spot. I would never have forgiven myself for lying on the grass, disturbing it, so I found another patch of dirt, not too far away, and reclined. Looking up, I saw that the trees were in a strange configuration. Save for a few open spots that seemed too rigid to be natural, the entire ceiling of the forest was covered by plush leaves, and countless branches. I asked Tradde what the slits in the trees were for, and they told me to wait and see. So I did as they said, and waited on my patch of dirt. I must have spent hours there, staring at the whispers of movement from the leaves, and the voices of those surrounding me. I never looked at Tradde, but somehow, through the dirt I knew they were there, staring at the same leaves.

When organized rays of sun shone through the openings, I first thought that it must be some sort of clock. I saw little to no metal on the Barwicka people, and they must tell time somehow. I found out that I was half-right, as various members stood and began walking in all sorts of directions. Tradde also stood, walking a short distance towards a nearby tree. There was such a gentle, practiced motion to all of their movements all I could do was sit up and watch. Getting any closer felt like an invasion of privacy. I watched as Tradde picked up a piece of stone, and quickly pricked their finger with it. They then placed their bleeding hand on the tree, and murmured to it. The sound of their voice blended in with hundreds of other gentle voices, all of which spoke with such devotion. Some were shedding tears onto the trees, others pricked fingers. They were all sacrificing something, whatever it might be. After what must have been half of an hour, Tradde calmly walked back to their patch of dirt, as the other Barwicka went about their business. I went to ask what I had just witnessed, but before I had the opportunity, Tradde spoke to me. "Humans are made of passion. Nature does not hold passion, it holds instinct. We make our sacrifices, giving our passion, our devotion to nature, in exchange for its favor." It was at that moment I saw it. The grass stood taller, flowers had appeared, the trees bordering the port had seemingly strengthened. They had made sacrifices to nature, and in return nature gifted them what it could. A most beautiful symbiotic system from which passion came and instinct arose.

It took me a moment to realize Tradde was standing above me, offering a hand. I grabbed it and pulled myself up. Tradde smiled, grass in his hair and flowers in his eyes. They asked if I wanted to go further into Barwicka land, learn more. I could never have said no, but my first concern was voiced immediately after my approval. "What about your sacrifices? Won't you be too far from your tree?" Tradde ginned even wider, though I couldn't imagine why. They explained that an unclaimed tree would do just fine for his travels. I was tempted to ask what an "unclaimed" tree was, but decided I would have time on the journey. After informing my crew to come back for me in two weeks, at Tradde's instruction, we set off. My heart was fit to burst with fascination as we walked further into the forest, hand in hand, guide and traveler.

Throughout my journey, I learned much about the religious beliefs of the Barwicka, all from Tradde. It was explained to me that when a child has walked for three years, they are sent into the forest to select a tree. They then visit that tree each month, providing sacrifices of food. Once these children reach adulthood, they climb this tree as the sun filters through. They will then spend the entire day in their tree, until the sun yet again filters through the openings. At this point they will descend, and be marked an adult. As Tradde explained this to me, I asked what they were meant to consume atop the tree. They laughed, which reminded me of the rustling of grass underfoot. They asked me what the trees were meant to consume when it didn't rain. I didn't have much to say to such a thing, so we simply kept walking.

After a week of a journey, which consisted of sleeping against a tree, many falls, and countless hours staring at the treetops, we finally reached an area dubbed "Father's Rage." One day, as we rested against a tree, I asked why it was dubbed such an unusual name. At this point, Tradde recited a story that explained the origin of both Barwicka traditions and the forest itself. Apparently, a child had been running through a dead forest, and fell against a small, insignificant tree. Once the child realized that they were well and truly lost, they began to cry. As they did, the trees around them sprouted into mighty, infinitely branched trees. As such, the "capital", if it could be referred to as such, was dubbed "Child's Tree". He then went further, explaining that the child's father ventured through the forest, but was unable to find the lost child. He gave a great scream, sacrificing his anger. At that point, trees larger than any other rose through the sky, as he mourned his child. I was so enraptured by my guide's story that I didn't notice he had stopped until I finally noticed him grinning at my awe.

Once I had regained my composure, I asked why we weren't traveling to Child's Tree. Tradde grew solemn. He explained to me it was a very sacred area, and it was unlikely I would be allowed to step foot into Child's Tree, but Father's Rage would likely accept my presence if I was accompanied. Knowing nothing of these standards, I trusted in Tradde, and walked along with him into Father's Rage. Tradde was correct when it came to the size of the trees. The trunks alone were five to six of me standing side by side. And their height was impossible to describe. Tradde decided we would spend a day resting before some sort of event. I didn't complain, the trees were as comfortable as ever, and Tradde was a wonderful companion during these long, relaxing days.

The next morning, Tradde was more chipper than I was used to. Not entirely sure why, I asked him why he was so happy. The only answer I received was there would be a great sacrifice today. Eager to see it, I followed Tradde into the town. At the base of a great tree, many people gathered. In the middle, an individual of some age told the surrounding crowd a final sacrifice would occur. Apparently an elder had recently passed away. At this point, I noticed two covered bowls at the base of the tree. The speaking individual removed the coverings, and I nearly fell over. I would have if not for Tradde grabbing me and holding me up. In one of the bowls was a collection of bones that must have been from the elder that had recently passed. Now I was used to seeing bones, any sailor is, but the second bowl, filled with the blood of the elder. I had seen more than my fair share of horror in my life, but this was something I was not at all prepared for. Tradde held me up as the speaker tripped the bones in the blood, before spilling the entire mixture onto the tree. As he did so, the crowd cheered the name of the elder, celebrating his final sacrifice to the tree he had bonded with so many years ago. As Tradde slowly let go, I regained my footing, and walked away from the ceremony. Tradde caught up with me after a few moments. He seemed quite understanding, and explained that the ritual we had just witnessed was a way of honoring nature once Barwicka passed, the largest sacrifice yet.

I accepted that this was a way of life I simply didn't understand. After the ceremony, which I reluctantly rejoined, Tradde and I began our week's long journey back to the port. Throughout that time, we did not speak much. I believe I finally connected enough with the life around me that there was no need to speak. Tradde knew when I wanted to stop, and I knew when Tradde wanted to go. We were quite the pair. I finally returned, with my crew returning to the port. I said my goodbyes, and went on my way. I never returned to Barwicka, but I think of it often. Tradde gave me a gift before I left, a leaf from his tree. It has never wilted. When I am sailing, and the sun hits that highest point in the sky, The leaf rustles no matter the wind.

Publisher Notes

The unnamed port that Kilatrep describes in his experience is now referred to as The Curse of Commerce, according to Barwicka deserters. Five years after its opening, The Rising End attempted to make a landing in order to gain a foothold in Barwicka territory. The landing, led by High Sea Captain Refelotera was unsuccessful, with the Barwicka pushing back the invading army. After this occurrence, Barwicka returned to its isolation, the only news given by those who deserted the nation.

It should be noted that according to other individuals who have witnessed Barwicka "funerals", they are not nearly as bloody as Kilatrep describes. However, it is possible the funerals have a more carnal association in proximity with Child's Tree. As Kilatrep is the only known outsider to travel as close to Child's Tree as he did, let alone attend a funeral as close to the "capital". Of Barwicka land.

A final note. The Tradde mentioned in the story passed away approximately 30 years after the events of Kalitrep's journey into Barwicka, according to Barwicka deserters. In relation to this event, Kalitrep seems to have passed away at the same time. In an interview with a former crew member of Kilatrep's, a leaf attached to his hat wilted one day. After this happened, Kilatrep ordered his crew off the ship at the nearest port, and sailed for Barwicka. His ship, along with his corpse, were located off the jagged coast.