Introduction to the Vita Sancti Cynnabari
composed by Master Alan Fairfax, November, A.S. 52
To Their Excellencies Ermenrich and Kasha, Baron and Baroness of Cynnabar, and to the populace of Cynnabar, greetings.
The deeds of great men and women are a fit topic for study, and the example of past heroes inspires us to greatness in our own right. Since ancient times people have shared tales of the great people they have known to inspire each other. It is fitting, therefore, that a personage whose sanctity and bravery is as renowned as the blessed Cynnabarius should be recorded in an honest and true account that inspires the people of today to imitate him through purity of heart and diligent service.
With this in mind I approached your Excellencies and inquired into all that was known of blessed Cynnabarius so that I could write all things in order for future generations. Little did I understand the magnitude of my task. For truly the tales of Cynnabarius are so varied and differ amongst themselves so greatly that I was thrown into confusion and greatly dismayed. For one tale places him in Carniola, another in Egypt, a third in Toledo. At first it seemed impossible that I might be able to discern the truth underlying these various tales. However, after much diligent work I believe that I have been able to discern the truth of the life of the blessed Cynnabarius, insofar as it can be determined.
Since the tales of the Saint were collected by the command of your illustrious predecessors Gregoire and Giovanna and are part of your inheritance as baron and baroness, I will take a moment to describe each one and what it reveals about the history of the blessed man and of the author.
The first tale was provided by the Honorable Lady Halima bint al-Rabii’. This tale was first in my consideration for several reasons. First, it is the oldest of all the documents regarding Cynnabarius and his life. Second, it provides information regarding the relic of Cynnabarius that came into the possession of Tairdelbach. Third, it relates traditions from the most ancient times, passed on from generation to generation and attested by reliable witnesses. Fourth, it related events that were remembered in the lands of the Saracens, who do not venerate the saints and their relics. Truly it is a sign of the fame and sanctity of the great saint that his deeds and history were preserved in those far-off lands. For these weighty reasons I concluded that this account was the most authoritative of all that I was given.
The second tale was provided by the Honorable Lady Johnnae Llyn Lewis. This is a work of immense scholarship, sources of such obscurity that only a truly great scholar could decipher them. In this account we learn of spider mites, the origins of the Feast of All Saints, the authorities within the tribes of medieval Serbia, and the establishment of the diocese of Ljubljana. Truly this little work contains profound knowledge. Unfortunately for us, it contains little knowledge of Saint Cynnabarius. The work tells of two other saints, Tetranychus and Pyconoporus, who were known by the surname Cinnabarinus. The Honorable Lady has done great service by uncovering the history of these two nearly forgotten saints. However, the account of these two bears so little resemblance to the other tales of Saint Cynnabarius that I can only conclude that she has discovered a tale of two entirely different saints—holy men and worthy of memory, but not the same man who encountered the elephant and left behind the relics now in Your possession.
The third tale was written by Lady Ysendra de Crag. This tale has a curious title: “The Continuing Tale of Saint Cynnabarius.” The title is all the more puzzling because the tale does not, in fact, continue—instead it is interrupted partway through the telling. It is valuable most of all for identifying the birthplace of Saint Cynnabarius, which, as you will see, helped to explain the origins of Cynnabarius’ long-standing association with the elephant. But the deepest mystery of the tale is a reference to Saint Joseph of Cupertino, born in 1603. While there is considerable uncertainty as to the year in which we are living, there does seem to be universal agreement that we have not yet reached 1600—and thus we can be sure that Lady Ysendra has revealed the name of a saint who does not yet exist! This astonishing feat could only have been accomplished by means of artifice beyond the understanding of normal humans. This ability to see into the future certainly explains the quality of the “Continuing Tale.” A woman who is seeing the past, present, and future in one moment would clearly not relate events in an order that ordinary humans would comprehend, and she may not view beginning, middle, and end of a tale as common people do. This incredible gift of perception indicates that we cannot rely on the Continuing Tale for a chronology of Saint Cynnabarius’ life, but lends additional credence to the events portrayed there.
The fourth tale, “Saint Cynnabarius and the Missing Baron,” was written by Master Midair MacCormaic several years after the first three. It is filled with jocularity and might easily be dismissed as the product of a feeble mind. However, it is well known that the words of one who is taken to be a great fool can conceal wisdom, as Scripture says: “If anyone among you is seen to be wise in this world, let them be made a fool, that they may become wise.” In like manner the words of Master Midair appear as foolishness to the undiscerning but contain wisdom for those who have the capacity to read it and I commend it to the reader as a work that teaches subtlety in the guise of simplicity—not a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but an owl in the feathers of a nightingale. However, like other writings of great wisdom, it cannot be properly understood if merely read in the literal sense. The personages Cynnabarius is said to encounter are clearly not real people but rather allegorical figures representing the virtues and vices that stand in the way of wisdom. To believe that this work told us of Cynnabarius, we would have to accept that the characters of Straum and Ute, Gregoire and Giovanna, Hannah and Tairdelbach were historical figures. This is clearly impossible, and so we must recognize that Midair’s work rewards the philosopher rather than the historian. Since my humble work does not scale the heights of philosophy, the noblest of human sciences, and thus I will not attempt to ascend to an understanding of Master Midair’s wisdom in this work.
The fifth tale you are most familiar with, since it is written by His Excellency. While written in a more serious style, it also carries an allegorical significance as it describes Saint Cynnabarius as growing ever greater as the Barony of Cynnabar increases in strength and nobility. This image is powerful and inspiring but, rather like the previous tale, it gives us no information about the life of the actual saint—other than to note repeatedly and accurately that Saint Cynnabarius began his life as a human being like any other.
The sixth tale was recorded by Lady Daeg ingen Aeda from an account by an unidentified speaker. This tale is different from the others in that it is a story of a single incident in the life of Saint Cynnabarius, his first meeting with the elephant with whom he is associated. This account is intruiging because it refers to events recorded in other reliable historical tales, including his pilgrimage to the Holy Land and his encounter with an elephant in a pool of water in the desert. Thus, while this gives us only limited information about Saint Cynnabarius, it serves to confirm the veracity of other accounts of the saint’s life.
I also had the benefit of conversation with some of the nobles who have been close to the relics of the saint more recently, including Baron Tairdelbach ui Conaill (whose name I can spell thanks to Master Midair), Baroness Hannah Schreiber, and Sir Jason Irenfist.
I have supplemented this work with some of my own research to find information relating to the saint and his life. Although it Saint Cynnabarius lived for many years in the Syrian Desert, I have not so far been able to find references to any records of his deeds or words during the later part of his life. I remain hopeful that further investigation will reveal stories that are not yet known.