Marks of Eden

Blood Bound

I'm wasting water. It pours from the spout and onto my hands but the black just won't come off. I rub and scrub till they're raw, but the damage is done.   I bring them into the light and crystal clear water drips into the basin. The blood stained my skin, a permanent change. The black is darkest on my palm, with threads like tendrils dancing along my fingers and across the back of each hand.   Fraeia sleeps in their quarters. It's a good thing too. They'd probably be offended if they saw me trying so hard. A mark of eden is supposed to be a gift, a form of bonding, and an indication of greatness. If so, then why am I horrified?
   
Lebhan blood always leaves a mark. The memory of the fallen haunts battlefields long after the war is done. They're like ghosts. Wherever the blood landed is now hallowed ground. It penetrates any surface, leaving a stain that forever remains.   It stains your skin, almost permanently. I've seen it before. The wayfarer Argus had a handprint on her shoulder, a mother's first gift to an adopted daughter. The mark of eden is said to bring good luck. It indicates one is destined for great things, an asset forever bound to the loop.   Why? Few alive can say they've seen an Eden bleed. To actually be close enough to touch it is something else entirely. It's worn like a badge of honor by those closest to the matriarchy. These pet species are the ones the matriarchy managed to uplift. Something I never realized, though: The Mark of Eden goes far deeper than that.

Thicker Than Water

The act of marking someone with the blood from a fresh wound began as a means of bonding with squadmates on the battlefield. While their history is hilariously incomplete, the tradition goes back to the earliest myths they have on record. In these myths, the heroes featured would mark their entourage with their blood.   It's so common in eden myth, it may as well be a part of their own hero's journey. Humans have a similar tradition, blood oaths and blood brothers. Each person makes a small cut, usually on a finger, hand or forearm. The two cuts are then joined together, symbolizing a bond. The idea is that each person's blood now flows in the other's veins   Eden tradition takes the mark seriously. To be marked is to be bound to another in blood. Given how prominent it is in their culture, however, there are variations to these marks and their meaning. Let's start with military organization.
     

Insignias

The Eden military is vast and it's not enough to be a simple soldier. Smaller divisions, a battalion or the crew of a famous ship for example, will often have their own cultures, and most importantly, their own marks.   Military insignias are stained onto an Eden skin, like a tattoo. It binds them to their respective groups. They have Mark's for their company, which is slightly altered to fit their platoon, then their squad, and even to specific officers if the bond is strong enough.   These insignias are not the only form of mark there are. The Eden do not discourage romantic relationships in their military. They believe that those who are bound in such a way fight harder to ensure they survive. They are encouraged to share their own marks, one's unique to their union as well as their ties to the military.
     

War paint

This tradition isn't just focused on marking others. You can tell how often an Eden has been wounded in battle by the marks on their skin. Each mark has a meaning, rooted in when, where, and how they were injured. This war paint is permanent, and it's up to eden who wears it to transform its meaning.   These Mark's often begin as a reminder, a lesson learned and a mistake never to be repeated. It takes time to unravel the trauma and turn it into a mark of pride. Those with the most marks are usually only seen in two places, on the front lines or at the top of the chain of command. The first are those with a mind to waltz through hell, the latter are those who made it out.
 
In Fraeia's own words, "Those who bear the most marks are often the first into battle. They have the most to prove. They prove it not to their peers, but to themselves. If they can, you will see them rise through the ranks with alarming speed. Those at the top have the most respect because they are the ones who truly deserve it."

Types of Marks

Some marks have a reputation due to how frequent they appear. This reputation is never negative, in fact it's usually regarded as an endearing quality to other eden.
 
  • Surgeon's mark: This is what I have now, though I'm still not sure how I feel about it. Eden medics are referred to as Denina Miah, Black Hands. They are always treated with respect and compassion. You never know if those they operated on survived, or how much they meant to the one who bears the mark. The more complete the change in color is, the more operations they've done. I have splotches and splatters, but most with the mark have lost the color of their skin entirely.
 
  • Lover's mark: Any time you see a mark you can't quite place, it's likely a lover's mark, and you should stop trying to decipher it out of respect. A lover's mark is given to romantic partners, and always represents something of deep sentimental value to those who bear it. Given that polyamory is common among all ethnicities of the Lebha, all parties involved in the relationship will have the same mark.
 
  • Widow's mark: Losing a loved one is hard and, much like a widow's mark, stays with you forever. A widow's mark is represented by teardrops near the eyes, along the cheek, or the hands of those who bear it. Every tear represents a loved one who dies, and the tears shed in mourning them.

The first Marked

This doesn't explain the connection to good fortune, nor how other species have adopted the idea. When the eden first made a habit of uplifting other species, some among those species excelled to a degree where they were welcomed in the ranks of the eden war machine.   These precious few were dubbed "The First Marked," the first of those outside the lebhan race to be treated as equals by the elite of elites. That means something, not just to the first marked, but to the eden as well. It was said to be a humbling experience.
 
In Fraeia's own words: "These first marked, they found their own romantic interests, felt the bond they had with their squads, platoons, and companies. As they accumulated their own marks of eden, legends spread. Bearing a mark makes one mighty. It makes one untouchable unless you wish to experience the wrath of an entire company of eden soldiers."
 
 
The eden heal wounds at an alarming rate. It's only been two days, or so, and I can barely tell Fraeia was injured at all. The only evidence of the black sores is the stained splotches on their skin, faded but still plain to see.   "Why was I even worried?" I say, shaking my head.   "I honestly don't know. I keep telling you-"   I laugh. "It was rhetorical." They look back at me as I remove my gloves. I see my hands and flinch, taking in a sharp breath before remembering it's only a stain.   "What's wrong?" Their eyes dart around the room then follow my gaze to my hands. 'Oh."   "Still getting used to this," I reply. "Let's crack open that black box you brought back." They nod and reach for their shirt, then I notice a small circular symbol on the back of their neck. The symbol looks like three, black, wavy lines stacked on top of each other.   "What's that on your neck?" I ask, "did I miss one?"   "Miss one?" They watch as I turn my head and point to the back of my neck.   "Is it some kind of tattoo?" I ask   "Tattoo? I don't think so. It's a mark, like your hands and my wounds." The shirt slips on as they continue. "The one on my neck was Viritine's insignia. Every crewmember had it."


Cover image: by Kartrin Hauf

Comments

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2 Feb, 2022 07:42

Lovely article. I love the meaning they gave to the mark.

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2 Feb, 2022 09:28

oh this is a really awesome ritual / tradition you have here! I love the significance of it, and I love how the Eden have extended that meaning + the importance of these marks to other species too. Great work!! And I'm glad to see Fraeia is ok!!!

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Garrett Grace Lewis
27 Apr, 2022 23:54

I quite like this concept! Taking ritual tattoos and making them much more personal.

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