The Day of Dark Waters
The Day of Dark Waters is the most prominent festival in the Kingdom of Tenebron, celebrated during the winter months on the longest night of the year, the solstice. Like all Tenebronian festivals and thanks-givings, it is heavily associated with the state religion, Church of the Depths and features the King and Queen of Tenebron as intersectional, acting as the divine vessels and blessing their Kingdom. The festival itself centers around the passage of the sun and the moon, as represented by the Tenebronian goddess Arawyll, as she journeys as the sun into the sea, taking the spirits of Tenebronians who died that year with her to their watery underworld. When she rises as the moon, there is great celebration, as it represents the rebirth of their deceased and the knowledge that their own future reincarnation is secure. It also represents a new day dawning in Tenebron, as the sins of the past year are forgiven and new life is welcomed. Children born on the Day of Dark Waters are believed to be especially auspicious, as they may carry with them the souls of dead kin who have returned to walk again on Alatoria.
This festival is as old as the Kingdom it originated from, with the first Day of Dark Waters no doubt being celebrated by the first Tenebronian King and Queen. As it is closely intertwined with the Tenebronian faith, the clergy and the church no doubt also helped in shaping the festival and its symbology for the people of Tenebron. However, the core of the holiday, related to the passing of the dead and rebirth of old life, has always remained the same.
It is traditional on the solstice to sleep during the actual day and only begin the celebrations when the sun sets. Everyone from the monarchy to the lowliest peasant will spend the short day in bed, only awaking when the sun, the goddess Arawyll, makes her descent into the ocean. This sunset is one of the most important moments in the festival, as the Church believes it represents the goddess taking the dead of Tenebron into her warm embrace and guiding them to their underworld, Ivalaris, the Water Garden, where their spirits await their mortal rebirth in paradise. After the moonrise begins, the denizens of Tide's Shadow and across the Kingdom will emerge from their homes to the streets, already decorated the night and day before. On the Day of Dark Waters, free food is given to those who cannot afford it, and all are expected to partake, memorializing their fallen kin and celebrating their successful journey into the afterlife. In the capital, the King and Queen of Tenebron will emerge from the Drowned Palace in the rainments of their gods, with the Queen in the celestial, salt-kissed garb of Arawyll, whist the King dons the mask of Erewyr, the god of day and night, and dresses in plain robes of black. If their heir has been selected by then, they too will walk in procession, though will not participate when their parents become godly vessels. The two gods are hand-fasted before the aristocracy of the Tenebronian court, representing their eternal marriage, and the Queen, intersecting with Arawyll, kneels before her god and is raised up by him, just as the sun and moon are raised by the day and night respectively. They then proclaim the success of the Day of Dark Waters in bringing their dead to peace and their forgotten to renewal, and the evening and following day are spent in utter revelry. There is hardly a break from the celebrations, as entertainers flood the capital and the neighboring towns, and as the people have a break from work and toil, they give thanks and celebrate wildly. After the festival ends, the people of Tenebron are left to clean up and recuperate, given another day of rest before shops re-open and labour is restarted.
Components and tools
The most notable iconography associated with the Day of Dark Waters is the religious attire worn by the King and Queen. The Queen wears the regalia of Arawyll, which is described to be a grand dress of gold cloth, woven so finely it appears to be liquid metal. Pearls, both white and black, anoint her, and her headdress is magnificent, a great halo depicting the rising moon and the setting sun with diamonds and opal. In contrast, the King is plain. He does not even wear his crown, nor silk, or precious gems. His only accessory is the mask of Erewyr, an ancient ebony masque that covers his face and is carved with the oldest-known symbols of Tenebronian magic, which cloak him in mist and darkness. His robes are drab black wool, and his hair is hidden beneath a hood. Not an inch of his skin is shown, except for when he is bound to his wife anew in a sash of black and white, another holy object used in the ceremony.
All are welcome to attend the Day of Dark Waters, even foreigners, should they have dead they wish to hope are reborn with the goddess. The most notable participants are the clergy of the Church, who open their temples to all who wish to have their voices heard by their gods, and the monarchy of Tenebron, who participate as vessels and hosts for Arawyll and Erewyr. Arguably, one might also state the deceased themselves are also participants, as they await Arawyll to carry them into paradise when the sun sets.
Though the specific date changes throughout the years, the Day of Dark Waters always takes place on the winter solstice, at the end of the year.