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It is easier to describe what a Keeper
, than what a Keeper
. Most simply, a Keeper is a specialized form of matrix technician, able to withstand the rigors of working within the center of a circle of joined minds, and the leader of a Tower. In times past, the office was held by men - one of the most famous historical figures in the Domains, Varzil Ridenow, called 'the Good' was Keeper of Neskaya Tower during the reign of King Carolin of Hali, and founder of the Compact. But at some point after that, the office shifted from the shoulders of men to those of girls; scholars point to the first legendary female Keeper as a woman of the Alton Domain who established the Tower in Thendara with her handmaiden, a prophetess of Aldaran blood kept ritually virgin to preserve her powerful Sight. Or to a gradual shifting in balance due to those born
, without gender, as
sometimes were in those times, being able to hold the office better than any. And of women being ritually neutered by matrix operations to fill a needed place. Considering the form of mutilation modern Keepers still undergo, the latter may even be closer to the truth.
In order to keep their nerve channels clear for the tremendous amounts of
energy for which they must be a conduit,Keepers are pledged to a rigorous life of chastity and seclusion. Trained from childhood or early adolescence, novice Keepers spent their first year of training in isolation in their Towers, and many do not ever leave it. In order to instill the correct discipline, deep psychological conditionings are placed on them to shy away from even the barest physical contact; the most arduous of these is a conditioning that turns a touch into burning agony, leaving lifelong, small scars on the hands of these young girls. This compulsion is eventually lifted, but the memory of pain is sufficient enough to keep a girl apart, save for the most carefully guarded and shielded of touches. It is said that anyone who lays a hand, unwilling, on a Keeper takes his own life and sanity into his hands, and is true - once fully trained, a Keeper's own
will defend her from assault, or even perceived assault, whether she is willing or no. And once fully trained, a Keeper's conditioning rarely unmakes itself without some outside influence. In public, or working in the circle, a Keeper wears robes of brilliant crimson as some animals wear bright colors to signify venom; to mark her apart, and remind all that the slightest touch from her is dangerous
Of all of the young women in the Domains who can take the office, there are understandably precious few that do. Either unwilling to pledge themselves to a living death, or unable to take the training, they can be content to pledging themselves to the towers for a shorter time; traditionally three years, if they do not choose to spend their life in some other position.Ritual and superstition keep a Keeper's position sacrosanct; swearing by the virginity of the Keeper of Arilinn is a powerful oath in the Domains. Even greater than her capability to work matrix science is her position as that ritual object among common people, who
are the quickest to avenge even a perceived slight upon the office. Even from a Keeper herself.
A Keeper may choose to lay down her office if the burden grows too heavy for her to bear, but is expected to lay down all of her power with it. This was easier done in the past, when there were more women who could and would take the office; now, with only a scant few fully trained women scattered like seeds in the wind among the Towers, there is a sense that they are less free to do so. When their burdens are heaviest, and need most great.
There are many legends to circulate and keep that superstition active. One is of Marelie Hastur, Keeper of Arilinn several generations past in a time when there was still war in the Domains. Her Tower was attacked, and she was overcome by the enemy in the one way to render a
of her station harmless. But, with the lack of anyone else to raise a circle in Arilinn's defense, she concealed what had been done to her and took her place in the energon rings. She was able to turn the tide of battle, but at a terrible cost; it is said that, her channels impurified from the assault, overloaded with the weight of energy and burned her up from within. The monument to her within the walls of Arilinn Tower serves as a caution to novices.
Another is Dorilys Aillard, better known as 'Cleindori' or 'Golden Bell' after the sacred
flower. Born of the famed renegade male Keeper, Damon Ridenow, and a woman of the matrilineal Aillard line, Cleindori was tested by Arilinn and took the rigorous training there. Once instated as Lady of Arilinn, with a voice that traveled as far as the Comyn Council, she sought to change the rigorous laws of superstition and restore sanity and reason to the arts of matrix science, taking them off their pedestals and making them more accessable. She succeded in some degree and may have in others, had she not attacked so vehemently the most sacred of traditions - a Keeper's virginity. She took a lover openly, even bore him a child, and in defiance of her superstition, lost none of her power, nor did she lay it down as was expected. The backlash was sudden and merciless - after being driven from her Tower by her circle, she was set on by fanatics and murdered. Her lover received the traditional punishment for a man who dares to defile a woman of her office, his flesh torn by sharp hooks and left alive as a feast for
. Gruesome examples for any who dare flaunt the Way of Arilinn.
Cleindori's death did change a few of the Towers' stifled laws; for the first time since the Ages of Chaos, matrix mechanics and technicians began to be licensed through a careful screening process to operate outside of a Tower's confines. It was even thought that changes in the inhumane Way of Arilinn that turns a girl into a Keeper might change for a time. And it might have, if not for the novice sent from Thendara Tower to replace her at Arilinn. Who maintained the rigorous tradition, passing it on to her own two apprentices, Gabriela Hastur and Melisendra Elhalyn. Only time will tell if gentler reason will erode superstition where brute force could not.
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