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Thread: Logos: The Golden Path
Saturday, 25th June, 2011, 11:05 PM #1
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Logos: The Golden Path
I recently started a campaign with a group of friends plus a friend-of-a-friend based on a setting I started developing way back in the mists of time. The world's been batted around quite a bit, but still isn't wholly realized; nevertheless, we've liked it for a long time. The last time I ran a campaign in it, the game wound up dead due to time concerns on my part; I ran it as a pbp game on another board for a different group (I won't be totally surprised if someone from there happens to recognize it, even if I use a different handle now).
We use 3.5e with some house-ruling. I'll start with something about our party...
Cael Akbar: Acolyte of Zauriel, god of trickery, oracles, and prophecy.
Agniprava: A young ascetic seeking enlightenment through privation, exertion, and meditation.
Mikealus Hel'Halmar: Unaffiliated paladin in the Order of the Silver Horn. A noble third son who dreams of glory.
Belsea: A young guide, hunter, and tracker; half-human. She alone of the group has no family to speak of.
Last edited by RedTonic; Friday, 1st July, 2011 at 04:34 PM. Reason: Rearranging and adding info.“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
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Wednesday, 29th June, 2011, 03:13 PM #2
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
N.B.: I've rearranged the sections to provide a little more coherence, since Agniprava's section begins with a mention of another stranger to Ceteran. Cael is that stranger.
The tiny cell was given Cael by the charity and forbearance of the priesthood, and more than a few of the clergy here in Ceteran let him know it, too. The plaster walls were pale, the floor bare, the straw pallet hard, but everything was clean, and there was nary a single louse to be found. A small table and thin cushion in the floor beneath an open shutter gave him a place to write, and there were a couple of candles should he decide to study at night. The library on the temple grounds was open to all clergy, permanent or visiting, so Cael had the luxury of reading alone in his room if he wished. A heavy trunk with a simple lock was provided to hold his things. If he had no company but the Red Brother, so be it--the food here was good, better than most he'd had on the road.
But for the first time in many a month, Cael was given the time to awaken at his own pace.
A scrap of parchment sat on the writing desk. "Make yourself known here, and known as useful. When it's time to move on, you will know." The ink was red, the handwriting hurried but graceful. Cryptic, but that was to be expected from Red Brother, as Cael never really spoke with the man outside of a mentor/pupil relationship. Most of the time, it had been instructions, sometimes chastising if he failed to grasp a concept. He knew very little about Red Brother, not even his true name.
The bell for morning services was ringing. There would be breakfast in the great hall soon--at this time of the season, that meant coffee, the last of the supplies for gruel and bread, cheese, and preserved meats--the standard fare of the region. Soon, the garden the novices here tended would sprout. The First Thaw had ended and the portents apparently looked good for harvest.
He dressed in his vestments and prepared to break fast. Other clerics and priests were in their prayers, but Cael had already said his at night as ordained by Red Brother. Before taking a seat in the far corner of the dining common, he said a quick prayer anyways, asking Zauriel to watch over his family, whom he had not seen in over two years. After he placed his setting of a meager spoon and fork, he obtained his portion of victuals, and sat in peace. Even though the other members avoided him, Cael was not put off by this. The rest of those staying here were mostly haughty, holier-than thou types that looked down upon Cael and his order. He noticed this from the first day Red Brother and he arrived, though it was made abundantly clear the next few months they spent lodging there. There would always be quiet whisperings when they entered the room that ceased as the two came near.
Cael slowly chewed on his meal, his mind drifting back to the note. It was odd that Red Brother would up and leave so suddenly without taking Cael with him. Cael was not even fully trained in all of the aspects of Zauriel’s order, much less capable of striking out on his own. How would he know when the time was to move on? He tucked the crust of bread into a napkin to save for later and took his plate up to wash. He would probably speak to Father Eltier to seek his counsel. Though advanced in years, his mind was sharp and his speech was pleasant. Of all those staying here, Cael had only felt truly welcomed by Father Eltier. He set his dish to dry and strolled to where the venerable man was deep in prayer.
The garden where the ancient priest prayed was unlike any Cael had seen before. In fact, by any common standard, the space could hardly be called a garden at all. The space was tucked away in a corner of the compound, between the Old Monastary and temple proper, and hemmed in on two sides by a high stone wall. There were a few dwarfed trees, mainly growing from those ancient walls; their boughs yet budded. Eltier knelt on a weather-worn stone in the center of a wide pool of sand, studded with dark, craggy rock. Moss and lichen grew on them. They could hardly be said to be beautiful or even unusual. The sand was kept clean of litter, a task assigned daily to whatever unfortunate novice aroused a senior's irritation. Eltier seemed to be the one to most frequently visit it. The appeal was lost on most of the rest.
Cael waited in silence and knelt down next to the man until he had completed. “Father Eltier, I come seeking your counsel. My mentor has tarried off to whereabouts unknown and I find myself lacking direction. I hoped you may enlighten me on what course I should take.”
After a time spent listening to the chatter of birds, the priest answered. "Ahh... Your master. He has left. I believe you will not see him for some time." He lapsed into silence again. The wind rustled the contorted trees. "So it is up to you what to do from here. Should you decide to remain with the Temple... Your stay has been long, and if you would do more than drift, you must find a role." He pulled a folded sheet of parchment from the sash tied at his waist. He turned it over in his hands for a few moments. The tiny buds swayed, and in another part of the yard, novices tended the plants which would feed the faithful.
Eltier placed the parchment on the stone beside him. "As a first step, you can make yourself useful. A patrol is leaving tomorrow for two tendays; they have need of one with some healing. They leave from the Sungate tomorrow morn. If you help the Silver Horn... You may not be well-loved, but you may become well-respected in Ceteran." And in an insular town that still remembered its frontier days, that was no small thing.
The wind blew softly through the garden as Cael reflected on the task. He had managed to learn some of the basics of healing, but to watch after an entire patrol? The most he had restored was a sprained ankle or a minor cut. And he had always had Red Brother’s guidance, even if his mentor spoke in mysteries. Cryptic advice was better than no advice, in Cael’s opinion.
On the other hand, the thought of sitting around here and doing nothing was less than thrilling. Not that Cael craved adventure, but getting out in the world to stretch his legs might not be such a bad idea. Plus, he would not need to suffer through the slights the other clerics threw at him ever so tactfully. Coupled with a potential chance to earn some respect would be a pleasant change.
“Yes, Father Eltier,” Cael spoke bowing his head, “I will do as you prescribe. I thank you for your advice, and if I may speak plainly, thank you for your hospitality until now. You have made this man feel welcome when you need naught. I can only hope that if, gods providing; I return, you will once again extend this humble cleric shelter. I shall leave you to your prayers, as I must go prepare my departure.”
Cael made another low bow as he backed away from the garden. He would need to stop by the stables to make sure his mule was saddled and packed before he left. For now, he would busy himself by packing the few scant items that belonged to him. Unlocking his trunk, he carefully laid his possessions on his table. There were many items he used in his prayers as well as a few other niceties he had received as gifts. His pride was his woodworking tools, which he reverently wrapped in a heavy linen cloth. As he placed the various items into his backpack, he finally came across the heaviest item in the trunk, a suit of armor made of hardened leather. Though it was not the prettiest of armaments, it did the trick and had saved him from a hairy situation once or twice. He felt the weight of it in his hands before setting it down. With most of his items accounted for or packed away, he locked the rest of his belongings in the trunk and set off to meet the stable master.
Last edited by RedTonic; Friday, 1st July, 2011 at 04:28 PM. Reason: storyhour added!
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
Friday, 1st July, 2011, 04:30 PM #3
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
The new storyhour entry is actually above. I'm merely rearranging these two sections.
The young ascetic had awoken in a simple cell not unlike, nor far from, that of the other newcomer. He, too, depended upon the charity of the temple at this time, though in his faith, it was the greater order of things which sustained and buoyed him. The monk glowed with a numinous holiness which was almost palpable even to those not gifted with the ability to detect such things directly.
Whilst under the temple's aegis in Ceteran, Agniprava was also submitted to the spiritual guidance of an elderly sage. He had found, through slow and considered discourse, that many of her views on the nature of existence were very similar to his own, and that in all ways, her insight appeared to penetrate much more deeply. With that, and due also to her age, he found yielding to her instruction less difficult than he might have--especially considering her nominal patron, the goddess of death.
The sage was called Usha, and had sun-darkened skin the color of a walnut, and hair as silver as a star. Her age, though great, was indeterminate--after a point, all old people simply looked old. It was with her that Agniprava currently meditated in silence. She had been sitting in the empty room before he arrived, and they had not yet been joined by others. The soft scrape of slippers and sandals beyond the curtained doorway and their own breathing were the only sounds beyond the turn of Agniprava's thoughts.
Her teaching methods were perhaps even more direct than those of his commune. An overreach on the part of her students was occasionally greeted with a resounding slap. Her lessons were laid out often times in the form of paradox in order to break down the walls of reason which blocked understanding according to the teaching she represented. She was, in a word, heterodox; yet she had somehow survived purges and orthodoxy and yet remained in this backwards town. Some said she had attained such a state of enlightenment that she no longer needed to eat or drink, so she had survived imprisonment; then she had attained a purity that no longer required her to breathe, so she survived the test of drowning; then she had attained a wholeness inviolate, such that she could not be burned at the stake--and so the inquisition let her be, for she obviously had the favor of the gods.
For now, Usha urged Agniprava, in her own way, to learn action without thought--such that all action emerged from instinct, and was in all things correct. She entertained questions, of course--but they had to be correct questions... Which could be difficult to form.
Agniprava had grown more accustomed to this method of meditation in his short time at the temple into whose arms his journeying had ushered him. He was far more used to the recitation of mantras, as was the way of the monks with whom he had grown up. That practice, however, had been affronting to Usha, whose stern hand was, much to Agniprava's surprise, nearly at strong as those of his masters, whose iron fists had been his tutors in the martial arts.
In truth, he was welcoming of different philosophies - it was, in fact, why he had ventured out of Astra Forest in the first place. But it was not simply a desire to learn that rendered him this submissive attitude. Much more to the point, Usha reminded him in many ways of the oldest of the monks he had left behind - the ascetics who were older than old, and whose wisdom and power were beyond contest. So it was easy for him to come to accept her as a new master - a new voice in his learning.
As they sat together in the consuming silence, Agniprava tried as much as possible to think nothing at all. This was a teaching not foreign to him, though he still struggled with it, a difficulty made more so since Usha seemed to stress it even beyond his family. Sometimes this proved unfortunate for him, should he manage to disturb her tremendous concentration, a trait for which he held a great deal of admiration.
He longed for the Mantras - the drone of the unending words, and the rhythm of the tones and syllables eased the passage of all thought from one’s mind. He had come to find, though, that that was her point precisely. Her annoying habit of rarely being wrong was irking, and though it had on more than one occasion left him put out, he appreciated the intensity and breadth of her unyielding wisdom.
Yes, a perfect teacher.
His breathing was well controlled, which after his time here, and his years in the forest had become effortless. His heart had slowed to a bare crawl, and he could almost feel the blood slow in his veins. The very ground upon which he sat seemed to beat in tender harmony with him. He struggled against a painful awareness of how loud the curtain in the doorway was as the breeze kicked it to and fro, or the thunderous crash of the feet of those walking by in the hall.
In this moment when he seemed to be entirely immersed in the flow of the world around him, a thought occurred to him. At first he was angry, as it had shattered his prescience, but then he turned it over in his mind, and he realized it was a question. A question for Usha.
He opened his eyes. He cringed - such attempts had ended very poorly for him in the past - she was at times a cruel task master. But this one seemed to be...well, the point. He felt as though he never thought of a question quite like this one. It was the first time when he had the impression that asking a question might not earn him a swift backhand to the face. Summoning his courage as he did when one of his teachers instructed him to attempt to strike them, he spoke.
"Teacher," he began, "If actions are to emerge from instinct only, and be free from our thoughts, then our actions are in tune with The Cycle, and in truth will resonant with the world around us." He paused, forming his question carefully. "If that is the case, and we are to be driven by instinct alone, how is it we judge when we must act, as our instincts will drive us to action in many ways, but only some actions will be in harmony with the Cycle itself?"
Usha did not crack an eye when she responded. For a wonder, she did not bat him. Her voice was of the potency of a budding storm. "If you act from the moment--from sincerity, as some say--then there is no judging. There is only the natural response; the spontaneous good. For what is to judge but to think? And what is the thought of a novice but the whisper of false understanding? A student asked me, 'Usha, if a man walking along a river sees a child drowning and a grandmother drowning, whose life should he save?'"
After she posited the tale, Usha returned to silence. Her aura of stillness had not diminished from Agniprava's question.
The answer was concise, but he had grown used to that. Not being hit had taken Agniprava somewhat by surprise. She however gave him a certain amount of clarity, not just about the murkiness his question implied, but also, he found, about his teacher. As similar as she was to his first masters, her thoughts and teachings sounded so different. The clarity of thought and action was not so different to be sure. Even the koan she offered to him sounded much like those the ascetics would recite to him. But to them it sounded much more like clarity of thought - that to consider, and to judge was the truth of the way. He felt as though the connection between Usha and his masters was that they would agree that the decision, the action which proceeds from the thought, should flow naturally, as merely an extension of ourselves, but there seemed to be a dichotomy as well, implied in that she felt there was no deciding, where to the monks it seemed to be everything.
Even as he thought the matter through, it occurred to him that the distinction may not be so severe as he first thought, though he felt as though he was thinking himself swiftly into circles. He was still a novice after all... He had time to think.
He tried to settle back into his meditation with his master, thankful for the decided lack of pain that accompanied not being slapped, but feet outside the door shattered his already fragile concentration. At the same time, his muscles tightened - Agniprava had a preternatural habit of being ready for anything, as often his masters would test his reflexes by trying - and often succeeding - to catch him off guard. That and even though he felt she did not need any of his help, he had an instinctual reaction to stand between intruders and his teachers, which was in no small part due to the fact that for his whole life his teachers had not just been dry old men, but his family, and a family to his parents.
Loyalty, it might be said, was in his blood.
He waited, his eyes now open to the veil in the doorway, to see who it was that was making their way towards them.
A slight young woman in a pale, dingy robe emerged. She stepped in and hesitated when she saw Agniprava also in the room. A nearly imperceptible change of expression overtook her as she finished her steps. She knelt beside Usha and spoke tentatively in a language Agniprava did not know, but had heard a few of the eldest of elders speak. He had not yet heard the language here, however. The language was tonal and sounded almost musical. Usha did not respond. There was silence, and then the novice continued to speak quietly, darting a glance at Agniprava meanwhile.
Agniprava wondered why the young woman seemed so off put by his presence, as he watched her step into the room. He realized it might have something to do with how intently she was staring at her, and felt some remorse if he had put her out, but then he had hoped his disposition towards everyone in the temple would relieve any stress his occasional intensity might cause.
Usha gave no reply, but he knew she was listening intently. She never seemed to lose her concentration either, which he found truly inspiring. She then pointed at him, and he hoped that he had not done anything wrong. The whole of his observations came full circle - she was off put by him because she was talking about him... In a language he didn't know, no less. Now he was a bit off put, but he tried not to be dismayed by the affair. She could be saying anything to Usha really, and he would just have to wait.
After a few moments, Usha merely pointed at him. The plain girl frowned very slightly, nodded, and rose. She left the room much quieter then she had entered it, and Agniprava found he had some trouble hearing her foot falls, which made him curious as to why she was trying harder to not be heard on her way out.
"You will be at Sunsgate tomorrow at sunrise," Usha pronounced.
He blinked at her, desperate to know what a Sunsgate was, and how he was to get there. He thought maybe it was a town, but wasn't sure. It sounded like a town. In truth it sounded like a few things. Maybe it was actually a gate, although he couldn't remember if this town had gates. The Temple had a gate - perhaps it was the temple's gate? He racked his brain a moment longer before he conceded to the slap no doubt headed his way.
"Where, master, is Sunsgate, and how might I get there?"
A crack resounded through the small room. Usha withdrew her hand from Agniprava's cheek, leaving a perfect, hand-shaped welt there. "Walk east until you find a gate," she replied with equanimity in the space of stillness after she had manually cleared his head.
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
Friday, 1st July, 2011, 08:30 PM #4
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
@Soramain - actually, I hadn't heard of R. Scott Bakker. So now that I've checked him out on wiki, it looks like I may have a new reading project. So, it's coincidental. And considering the choice of themes, eerily coincidental.
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
Friday, 1st July, 2011, 08:36 PM #5
It's a great series, although it can feel a little heavy at times. I noticed this particularly in the first half of the first book, where RSB has to do a lot of exposition through internal monologue and it drags on.
The scenes where sorcerers battle are some of the best I remember reading in any series, and the development of Kellhus, one of the main characters, reads to me like a subversion of the hero's journey. Good stuff.
Saturday, 9th July, 2011, 02:32 PM #6
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Introducing our incredibly laconic ranger:
Belsea had made another reluctant journey into civilization--granted, the very least edge of it--in order to get the goods she couldn't provide for herself. While the pony was out being shoed, she was in the general store closest to the path she wanted to take leaving. The air was redolent with the stink of tanneries, unwashed people living close together, food frying at various stalls, and a heady dose of cinnamon.
She could stand the smell of food –some of it at least, other parts made her stomach churn. The gratitude for being able to shoe her horse kept her from objecting to the smell of the smithy. The possible need to have her armor patched forced her to forgive the tanner’s scents. The city life needed most the others, though the stench of civilization had many other odors that Belsea could easily do without.
The most bothersome part immediately after the assault on her sense of smell was the one on her sense of hearing. Metal on metal, a large number of people talking, eating, shouting, and running about to do any number of things. At least there weren’t as many here as further into the city. Belsea rubbed her nose as she entered the shop and paused to concentrate on not sneezing.
At least the weather had turned fair after just shy of a tenday of rain; the roads were becoming less mucky and the game had come out of hiding after the foul turn of spring weather. The worst it had done to town was tamp down the dust and dampen the foulest of the vapors on the outskirts.
The shop was dark and packed with musty-smelling goods. The old woman behind the counter, Izira, looked about as excited as Belsea was to be there. She idly pushed something across the counter when the ranger ventured nearer. "One-uh th' gents axed me t' pass this on to ya." The item was a rolled up scroll, somewhat tattered, tied with a ribbon, and stained with something that looked and smelled suspiciously of curry.
When the sneeze passed she went further into the store and looked at the roll of paper waiting for her. No idea who it was, but it was, and work was work. Her mouth twitched slightly before Belsea claimed, untied and unraveled the scroll to read it.
The parchment's interior was much cleaner, though it had obviously been scraped blank of some older message before it had been addressed to her. The painstakingly written characters spelled out a message in crabbed but otherwise legible form.
"Belsea of Astra Forest,
The Order of the Silver Horn respectfully requests your services for a tenday patrol to the Village of Cane for the Weaving of Most Excellent Mats. The expedition is led by Houshang al'Pacem, First Path Warrior, in command of four swordsmen."
That last bit was more or less one word, as it was all the name for that type of cane. The message went on.
"The Order desires an experienced woodsman to assist in wayfinding and scouting for the patrol, and in assessing changes wrought by floods following the First Thaw. The contract is for two tendays, with payment of eight staters a day as well as a hazard bonus of up to ten minae-part and a performance bonus of up to five minae-part. To be paid half upon acceptance and half upon return. Incidental expenses will be covered by the Order. You are entitled to 15 per cent share of the value of any valuables found along the way, which you may take in coin or in the items, barring any consecrated or accursed items. Mineral rights are retained by the Throne.
"Included in the contract is a writ of marque from the Throne permitting hunting and trapping for the next four seasons."
The close of the message exhorted her to meet the warrior and his cohorts at Sungate at sunup two days from now.
It looked as though her timing was ideal. This would give her enough time to truly gather up the necessary objects for this trip, not a short visit to the city and then back to the insulating protection of nature. Belsea’s mind started shifting through the necessities as she rerolled and tied the scroll. They were very polite and included the leader’s title, giving her a rough idea of how self-assured the gentleman would be.
Pay was pay, however, and Belsea did not get future jobs by ditching them in favor of more solitude. Perhaps it would do Sage good to get a longer trip outside.
“Thank you for the missive.” Belsea stated before spending a few minutes collecting items to replenish her traveling pack; soap, two days’ worth of rations for herself. It seemed as though her usual pick up of necessary dried goods would have to wait. There was no point in getting flour or rice if it was simply going to sit and become moldy in her home. Her small collection she wordlessly placed on the counter, “I will get my usual supplies at a later date. If you see the gentleman before two days from now, I found the arrangement agreeable.”
The price was rung up, and the coins went from Belsea’s hands to the shop keeper. Once her items were wrapped, she placed them carefully into her pack and thanked the lady and wished her a good day. There was still time before Sage was expected to be over, but Belsea headed in that direction anyways. Living light did mean having little to do, and she hadn’t brought in any barter goods this time so not it was that alone.
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
Saturday, 9th July, 2011, 04:08 PM #7
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Since the previous was rather short, here is an introduction to our paladin.
This long, cluttered room in the Order's headquarters had once been a smokeroom and still smelled faintly of hams. The swarthy, hawk-nosed man tapped softly on the podium as he watched his dozing students. The heat rolling from the hearth in had made some novices doze off during his lecture on relativism, which he had carefully considered decades ago and updated infrequently to avoid heresies. None of the cretins in the room had the slightest appreciation for his work in law and ethics. Amin al'Farhad cleared his throat, waking one of the youngest, whose slit eyes opened wide. The kobold stammered a sibilant apology, which the paladin did not acknowledge.
"Redemption is that process by which each of us atones for our transgressions and allows the Light to resist our innate sinfulness. Through transcending our natures, we become closer to the will of the Benevolent Orders, blessed be their names. There is one path to Light, and that is the Law. Those among us who are most strictly held to the Law do so for the reward of being better able to serve their Benevolence.
"All mortals are capable of redeeming themselves--and the greatest deed any paladin can achieve is to accomplish a fellow man's rebirth into Light. However, among us walk those who will, time and again, turn from the Light and walk shadowed lands. The antinomian heretics must not be suffered. There are those among us who are dedicated to the ways of the damned," he made a sign to avert the Watcher's gaze, "and even among us fiends whose very essence is that of evil, and to whom the divine love of the Benevolent Orders, blessings upon them, is direst poison."
He admitted, privately of course, that this collection of would-be paladins was probably the most eclectic group he'd seen. Several were not even committed to a deity, yet had blessings, which was uncommon--and several of either stripe didn't even utilize heavy armor. The senior paladin, who was originally from the capital, had come to realize that this far from any civilized center, the people tended to wear more leather and hides. Thankfully, most of Ceteran was too well-settled for the smellier habits of many of the tribal humanoids. Among these rural greenhorns were, gods forbid, women; there was even a winged kobold in plate, somewhere on the grounds. Al'Farhad had recently reconciled himself to the oddities of the rural posting--he had resisted, for some time, the less civil ways of the country, yet over time he'd come to accept the charms. The women paladins weren't so bad; at least none were noble ladies, so he didn't have to worry about being challenged to a duel for hitting any of them during sparring, or for seeing them in revealing states of dishabille.
"To the ends of redemption and justice, a paladin of the Order of the Silver Horn should strive always to capture his mortal foes where possible. To slay a great foe of Light is honorable and good, but to evoke a change of heart through justice is great and mighty. To the criminal, to the blackguard, give quarter; show mercy. Through the power of the good you do to others, you further open the door of their souls to the Light." He spoke further, delving into the relationship between redemption and sacrifice.
Closer to the hearth, sandwiched between bookshelves, a trio of more senior members of the order quietly studied. The presence of acolytes and full members of the order in lessons was not unusual. Part of the Order's ethos was that to revisit these simple lessons was a way to incorporate them more fully into one's moral health, improving the well-being of one's soul through the lessons the Benevolent Orders had passed to mortalkind and a way of warding one's soul and hardening it against the whispers of the Forbidden. Among them was a local lordling from the Hel-Halmar clan. The boy was amiable enough, a third son with no place in his father's household but to find an acceptable status elsewhere in society and reflect honor to his small clan. He was the only one in the family with a martial leaning--the rest of them were not much more than glorified merchants of horseflesh--barely more than commoners. Still, the gleam of nobility seemed to be searching for a window in Mikaelus. In Amin's opinion, this acolyte was one to watch.
He was, however, not yet pledged to a sect--though with his name, it was a foregone conclusion that he would follow the Lord of War. "Mikaelus. In this vein of sacrifice, why don't you briefly tell us of how our tithing system works?"
Mikealus tried to smile at Amin, his green eyes glinting in recognition. He vividly remembered his first bout with this lecture, how good men and women had fallen before the merciless barrage of virtue and enlightened speech. It had been a slaughter. Al'Farahad's request for an answer had, sadly, been the closest thing to a joke that was ever produced in this pork-scented tomb, and the horseman was of the opinion that students needed to encourage this in the speaker as vigorously as possible. Moral relativism was not a joking matter, of course, but when drowning you did not care what you were holding onto so long as it kept you above water.
Besides, the only other way to break up these lectures was through inappropriate questions that flirted with heresy. Mikealus had even opined, in those first days, that it sounded like wisdom to fall from grace, as the act of willful redemption would necessarily bring you more in harmony with the Light than you were already. Playing the system, as it were. There had been many careful whispers and ethical discourses after that comment. He had learned to keep such fanciful impulses to himself, where they banged around in his chest until smoothed out, and given a proper space in his heart. Or something like that.
Turning in his chair loudly enough to rouse a few of the dozers - not that he turned away from Amin, but enough so he could look over his shoulder and speak to everyone if he needed to, Mikealus decided to return to the straight, dry, and narrow. But with purpose! He was not so experienced as Amin... but who doesn't think they can out-speak a speaker when they're bored to tears?
"By way of tithing, not only do we follow the letter of the law, in serving the Throne of Thorns, but also the spirit. Giving freely from the whole of our possessions necessitates temperance, enhances our appreciation of that which remains, and makes sure that our every action can - potentially - do good, as our labors are returned to the Order, and the people." Maybe. Hopefully. More than once, Mikealus had quipped that the Silver Horn's tithes all went to the wine cellars and the hearthfires, assuring that the young stayed drunk and the old stayed comfortable. An uncharitable thought created in a fit of pique after lessons much like this one, but really, a reasonable assumption, that one's good was being squandered by another's lack of virtue. A healthy concern.
"Practically, though, those who have our compensation accounted by books and bookkeepers are simply required to present a tithe to our lord or quartermaster. Land-owners and lords, in turn, must sum up their crops and possessions, and make an equal donation. The poor are taxed in accordance with the law, and a share of what they pay is held separate, as tithe."
Well there. He'd crossed the whole of Ceteran off somewhere in there. Everyone in this room had watched their mother or father pay one of those, before, cursing under his breath at how small the crop had been, or how sparse the meals were going to be from now on. He'd tried to get everyone's attention for Al'Farhad: he could do nothing else but hope that the 'jokes' would keep coming. From here on, the hard part would be keeping himself awake. He would remain faithful to his usual strategy of pretending the lecturer was staring at him, and him alone, which meant he had to listen to every nuance of the speech, and react to everything. Made him look a bit like a spasmodic troubadour unless his head was down, but it kept him awake.
"Indeed. And for the upkeep of the Temples, which is the upkeep of the Soul." Amin nodded slightly to the youth. "As he says; practically. In the spirit of returning part of one's bounty to the people, so too does what we tithe flow into the Temple to provide that which man needs to do more than merely survive. In this we do more than charity--the contribution of each man goes to the salvation of souls, elevating the status of the giver. Since the end of blood sacrifice in the fiftieth year of the Empire, at the order of Naraanbatar the Merciful, blessed be his name..."
Amin droned on a time, knowing that his students' wills would be challenged. Still, those with the mettle to aspire to greater things would absorb this knowledge one way or the other. He offered the easy way to gain virtue--memorization. The rest... Peace be upon them that they never learn virtue through suffering or bloodshed. Behind the podium, where none could see, the made the sign to ward off the gentle hand of the mother of death and the wandering eye of the great darkness.
Several students had nodded off again when a knock came at the doorframe. The converted inn was not so busy a place that Amin hadn't heard the man's approach, but truthfully the paladin had not expected interruption. A grey-haired warrior dressed in dark tunic and breeches stepped in; Barad'durh. The old paladin nodded at Amin in silent greeting and folded his arms to wait out this section of Amin's lecture.
In due time, Amin returned the nod. Barad'durh ibn Jibril strode swiftly to the back of the room and touched Mikealus lightly on the shoulder. He leaned in to briefly whisper something to the boy, and gestured for Mikealus to follow him from the room. Amin did not bat an eye. As soon as the two departed, he continued his discourse, this time targeting the flagging heart of a young half-orc.
"Come with me."
To his credit the young paladin had given only a slight start at the knock, which he passed off as a more exuberant nod than necessary. It helped him pretend he was still fully awake and aware, made the blood move a little bit more around his bones. The pork-stink was half-imagined, he was sure, but absolutely cloying... and the fire was only getting warmer. The words of Amin-ji would only grow heavier and sleepier to Mikealus' ear as time went on. He'd tried his best to rouse the crowd, which was already falling prey to sleep again. He did not want to be their hero - to loudly awaken them by volunteering the next paragraph of this speech time and time again... they'd learn nothing, and he would have attention rather unbecoming of his station.
...Not that being called out to speak with and elder did not place some notice upon him, but at least it was not intentional on his own part. He pulled himself out of his place gracefully enough, and took the time to crane his head respectfully towards Amin from the back of the room. He did not wait for a response, as his intention was not to draw attention away from the speaker - he'd done enough of that today. Rather, as he escaped the self-imposed enlightenment he'd very nearly made it out of in one piece, he turned his focus towards the dark-clothed man whom had summoned him.
The air outside was fresh and quick to rouse tired eyes. Mikealus fought the urge to address the older man until it had been made clear he had something to say in return. He smiled at his good fortune to require the paladin's attention, and made sure to speak to him with respect, not merely the genuine relief of being called away. "Barad'durh-ji?" Mikealus' back straightened. "How may I be of assistance?"
"Well--let us move somewhere away from prying students first," Barad'durh replied amiably. The elder man led the way to a room on the second floor which served as a rather cramped office for himself and Septimus ibn Rashid, a middle aged officer of the order who had been consigned to desk duty after an unfortunate accident lamed him. Septimus was known for his sharply bitter tongue, and luckily the office seemed to be, for the moment, well clear of his presence. Barad'durh waved Mikealus to an old wooden chair on the opposite side of the desk and sank slowly into his own. Its padding was his main concession to the demands of age and comfort, aside from a smokeless brazier currently collecting dust beneath the open window.
"Sit, sit, please. The novice today isn't quick on his feet so I'm afraid I have no coffee for you--or me, for that matter." It was clear that Barad'durh was more amused than annoyed by whoever had been assigned as gopher for the Old Men's Platoon for today. "Hospitality aside. . . A good word has been put in for you--you are being called to join a patrol to the Village of Cane for Weaving Most Excellent Mats. I'm sure you know of it; it's a tenday's ride from your father's lands. If you perform well, you will be doing more than town patrols from henceforth. I predict that your future will be quite busy.
"You will be under the command of Houshang al'Pacem, along with a company of 3 initiates. The patrol departs in two days, at dawn, from Sungate; make ready, and be certain to requisition appropriate rations and. . . It's my understanding that you already have a mount," he winked, "So you know what remains. As well, inform your mother." Barad'durh coughed. The rather formidable woman was sometimes referred to as the shadow ruler of the town, local lord notwithstanding. Doubtless no one in the Order wanted to have to face down her wrath if she found out that her son had left without performing his due diligence in regards to filial piety.
Ah yes. Mom. Carina Graveth had not always been the unmovable juggernaut of internal politics, family favors, and draconian judgments she was now. According to Muna and Sallah, it was not until Mikealus had been born - his name positively demanded in its entirety, with a forcefulness the family had never seen before - that she had changed. Before her youngest baby was born, she had merely been a practical, no-nonsense Lady who's upbringing was well-grounded enough to keep her head out of the clouds. She had been smart, efficient, and unimpressed by rank or status, except when it was necessary to pay due diligence to an inflated ego. Her little boy, who had his grandfather's eyes and chin, somehow sparked a fire she had kept cool and quiet since marrying Janaab Sayyid. From then it looked as though she barely aged a day throughout his raising - she plied him with bedtime stories she'd never even whispered to the other children, seemed to be shaping him for... something.
Mother had cried tears of joy when she learned that she was the first Mikealus spoke to about joining the Silver Horn. He was not an ignorant boy - he was quite aware of his mother's overbearing nature, the claws she had lovingly sunk so deep into him - and knew that she had claimed him as her own, and that his father had surrendered the child to her willingly. While towering over him, Carina worked tirelessly to change Ceteran for inscrutable reasons. Mikealus had done the only thing he could do - respectfully and humbly accepted his lot, paid gratitude and love to both his father and mother, and struggled to live for himself. It was, in fact, his self-surprise - that he could reconcile the difficult decision of loyalty to himself and to his family - which gave him that confidence to test himself against the Will of Thrones.
After handling the Dragon of House Graveth his whole life, even the gods could challenge him with little greater.
From the plain wooden chair, in the unassuming little room, Mikealus' smile beamed up at Barad'durh. He had always appreciated the man's ease, his beneficence... and was rather glad that he, of all people, had been the one to grant him these orders. Never mind that something as basic as a patrol was handed down to him as a rare jewel of advancement - he was grateful for it, and fully intended to prove himself by it. Never mind that the village had one of the most foolish names that he could not stand to mouth - he would follow the four tenants, and do the best he could.
"Yes, sir. I will begin making my preparations immediately." It would take little enough to speak with the quartermaster and collect his things. If it went quickly - and he had little doubt it would - he'd mount Harrow after, and return home for supper, and to inform his mother. Was she responsible for pulling these strings, he wondered? It was a shameful thought, and one he hoped was false. She knew he wanted little more than to reach glory under his own power, as hard as that was to do as a mere Greenhorn. "I will meet Houshang-ji at Sungate in two days... if not sooner. Thank you, Barad'durh-ji, for this opportunity. I will not shame the Order."
That would be pretty hard to do. Any act of heroism or greatness would probably be so stunningly unexpected that it would be talked about for years. ...it was all Mikealus could hope for, really. He'd take it.
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
Monday, 18th July, 2011, 04:29 AM #8
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Whew, coming in late with this one. This entry marks the end of our opening RPs. I conducted each individually over pbp, and they were, I thought, a pretty fun way of getting into the swing of things. Next we get to deal with the dratted GM NPCs in the party. (I'm still surprised that, so far, no one has decided to ditch the patrol and strike out for glory.)
The ride back to his family's manor was a quiet affair; Mikealus passed a few farmers on their way to Ceteran, and a one traveling lmerchant on his way further east. The latter spared Mikealus no time, and the two former merely greeted him with silent bows, steering their foot-wagons to the side of the road to let him pass. The rice paddies were full, and birds sang. The very freshest of green had come to the land after winter's passing. The roads east of Ceteran were only partly paved; a day out, they were muck.
By midday on the second day, he was passing the fields where his family's good fortunes grazed. A youth in the field, working a mare, didn't notice the paladin's passing. Ahead was the old stone manor, its wooden shutters thrown open to sunlight. The air was heavy with the scent of wet grass and stables.
It was good to be home. Even Harrow seemed to be glad to be back, if only temporarily. It would be nice for both to see the rooms (or stables) they'd slept in and been raised in - to be around the familiar smells and places. The rains from the last tenday had undoubtedly kept father indoors. Hopefully there would be enough sun that Mikealus could go for a walk with him before heading back to Ceteran. He had little time to tarry, sad to say. At least all was fresh and green. The young paladin did not even have to stop at the gates - Lawson, whose family had kept Hel-Halmar in good order since it was only Halmar, recognized him by miles, and had them flung wide open. Harrow was quickly taken, and Mikealus spoke pleasantly with the older man as they walked towards the manor.
No doubt Sayyid was in the fields. He would at least have mother and father waiting for him.
The manor was a touch stuffy; the shutters had been flung open, the doors as well, to let the spring air sweep away the bad humors and malevolent spirits cloistered inside all winter. Just inside, as expected, waited Mikealus's mother, along with a lady in waiting--in reality, just a village girl of no relation. His mother smiled warmly and reached to embrace him.
"Mikealus! One of the boys told me you'd come--your father's in the field, but he should be back soon. Will you be here for dinner?" In other words, how long?
Father was in the field?! Well! It looked like the warmer weather was agreeing with him after all! The news was cheering. "Yes, Mother. I'll be here for dinner, but I must not stay much later." He smiled up at the woman, knowing that even now, she saw her little boy, hopefully venturing out for approval. ...that was something he'd never be able to change in her eyes... so he'd best just ignore it. It was exciting, though: A real commission from the Order. He'd tell them all about it when Father came... but she probably knew already.
"You're looking well. How have you been?"
"Well enough." She whisked her son indoors and toward a small reading room he knew quite well--it was from here that his mother arranged the affairs of the house, while the boys, as she called them, took care of the business. "Your father is feeling restless; the spring, you know--the rains always make him a little," she whisked her hand in the air by her head. "The villagers have begun planting now that the Thaw has passed. We had to prune back some of the cinnamon grove--the last freeze was very hard on them. The druids assure us that that means we will have an extra large harvest this year. I look forward to bushels of bushels of apricots, in that case--and given last year's harvest, we should certainly have a bumper crop of limes. Your brothers are also tying up a deal with the Ymir clan for breeding rights for the season... They're working on a line of rose-colored walking horses. They'll likely be a hit among the ladies at court. I wouldn't be surprised if the Imperial capital makes an order."
There was a plain table with four chairs around, and a couple extra to either side of a pair of bookshelves which held a wealth of knowledge--most of the books were quite old, practically treasures in and of themselves. Carina had read many of these books to him as a child--all of those dealing with myths, legends, faith, and the arts of war. Scrolls and ledgers also had their place, and were far less dusty than the tomes Carina had put aside when Mikealus came of age.
The room was otherwise quite spotless; sunlight danced in a wayward dust mote. Here, too, the shutters were open on the eastern window. A cup of coffee had been left to turn cold; a closed ledger of accounts waited beside it, along with quill and inkwell. As she directed him to take a seat, a servant entered with a board with sliced cheese and cold sausage, along with crusty bread. "I'm sure you're hungry! It's quite a ride." Carina beamed at Mikealus. "So, what brings you home, son?"
"Well I thought it proper to visit, that's all." The man returned, glad to see both much-welcomed food and his mother's ebullience. "I've been given a commission by the Order of the Silver Horn. Not mere page work like before. I'll be part of a patrol with Houshang al'Pacem and some initiates. I'm effectively second-in-command, I think - and was promised this might be the beginning of something greater."
Mikealus could imagine the conflict in his mother's heart. Concern for his well-being... but still, a certain twisted excitement - whether she knew it or not, she had bred him for this. He felt a thrill in his heart that she had first planted there. It was a bond forged between them he thanked her for deeply, and never wanted her to regret having put there in the first place. He entertained the sausage, chewing thoughtfully. "The Order thought it right I have time to inform you before I left. I could not agree more." he said, finally, his eyes still bright upon the woman.
Carina's eyes gleamed. "I'm glad--I admit, I'm relieved, even." She put the ledger in its place on the shelf. "Ina," she said to the girl, "Coffee, please."
She drew Mikealus out on the details of the assignment as they waited on his father. Ina returned with two hot mugs and a carafe on a carved tray and left it between them, disappearing shortly after. Carina was visibly proud of her boy, practically glowing as she beamed at him. In the background, Mikealus could hear his father's heavy footsteps coming near and then fading. A while after, his mother still pleasantly chattering, Halmar stepped in.
"Hm! I see our warrior has returned." He smiled slightly, sitting heavily in the seat across from Carina.
She lifted her chin. "He's staying the evening, so the cook is preparing."
"Well--good." The elder Halmar regarded the younger. "Your brothers are out today; it's unlikely you'll see them. So, tell me what brings you? Feels like it's been an age, boy."
"It has nearly been two months," Mikealus agreed. He'd last been here for The Equinox, deep in the death throes of the Frost - the horses blanketed, fires roaring, and his oldest brother already griping, over wine, how the Ymir would try to gouge him come Thaw. "I'm bound for the Village of Reeds for Weaving Most Excellent Mats with the Order - second under Houshang al'Pacem - and hopefully to something greater than that after."
Carina glowed as Mikealus described his newest commission. She seemed more excited than she had when his father had declared that her youngest was officially of age. Mikealus's father seemed pleased as well, but was more reserved in his praise, as was his habit. Still, he sat a bit more upright. As they passed the time with talk, the shadows slowly stretched longer, fleeing as the sun moved in its eternal campaign against the moon.
Mikealus had privately bemoaned his lack of direction to his family before. He was honest enough with himself to know that no God had called to him - none required his service, and so he had little choice but to privately serve them all as best he could. Without direction or inspiration, he knew, he stood little chance of progressing beyond the Silver Horn as quickly as he wanted to. Direct intervention could not come from himself without seeming impetuous, and willful: the young paladin knew that patience and humility were required, but perhaps the time for such virtues was now over.
He sized up his father, then. The intense labor he'd performed in his youth, and the high breeding of the man had combined quite nobly with the burden of age. He was every inch the wearying patrician, his skin beginning to wrinkle and sag, yes, but fighting hard before backpedaling every step. It was not that his gut was overlarge, merely that his bones were weary - he sat too heavily to appear brittle, but moved to slowly to seem spry, these days. To exert great effort would be a magnificent sight: fading strength guided by great experience - but would take a definite toll, as well. Mother's cool determination served Father well, now, as she and brother Sayyid ran a bit more of the household each year. "Any word from my sisters? I've not seen Muna in town these past months. Nor had a single letter from Naddiya."
The former was more surprising than the latter, actually. Muna had always been good about keeping in touch, but because they both lived in Ceteran, communication needed no formality. Naddiya's vile husband made it seem more like she lived a prison sentence. Mikealus was almost regretting asking for her at all.
His mother smiled a little and fluttered her hands. "Muna is well. She's gone with her husband and his entourage off to the coast--I imagine they're not yet halfway there. Naddiya..." She shook her head.
His father cleared his throat. "Mmm... Yes, Naddiya. Well, the roads are poor this time of year. We have received no letters, either." He shifted in his seat and looked out the window beyond Mikealus.
The awkward silence was banished by the appearance of the manor's cook. "Dinner is prepared; I've sent for the others." The Hal-Helmars were not so high that they ate separately from their servants, who after their long service to the families were practically family themselves.
At that, his parents rose and he trailed them to the old high dining room, a drafty affair draped in faded tapestries. Dinner was a simple but hearty affair. Afterwards, the elder Halmar disappeared for a time, leaving Mikealus and his mother and staff to their small talk. He returned with a long, wrapped burden in his arms and set it in the cleared space on the table before his son.
"But in truth, the novice was just-"
"You should have this," Halmar interrupted.
Mikealus stopped. He would have to tell Jans the rest of the joke later... this had some gravity to it. His eyes considered the long bundle, and his father's expression. "...Father?" The length of the object, the weight it must have had, considering the ease that came to his father's shoulders when he lowered it. That could only be one thing. It was instantly a treasure... and to have his father offer it to him was...
He lifted the oilcloth which served as a last layer, and a familiar metallic scent approached. He did not unwrap the weapon in its entirety. He kept his eyes on the small bit he'd unearthed from the cloths, cradled the weapon underneath his hands, lifted it slightly, to accept the weight.
"I. Father..." Mikealus looked between his parents, over at the servant, and back, with near befuddlement. Here, sitting down with the scents of dinner on his breath and the world perfectly at ease, he was suddenly given something like this? "A sword..." Was this weapon a part of his office? Of his land, his title? He knew his father to not be a man of war - trained in the art a bit, perhaps, but no solider. "...is this yours?" But still he asked those three words reverently - there could be no greater honor than to carry his father's blade to glory.
The sheathed sword was easily the length of any practice blade Mikealus had ever wielded. The clothes which wrapped it were dusty, and the indigo embroidered silk covering the scabbard, faded. One of the cloths appeared to be a tattered standard--that of the Halmar clan. The sword was quite long and slightly curved, with an end weighted more heavily. In some ways, it resembled a cavalry sword. Unsheathing it slightly revealed that it had a single edge.
"This was passed to me," his father admitted. "It has not seen light, let alone use, in decades; not since this place was well-settled, and our holdings much greater than now. The name no longer is in our records." But the hand-guard, an intricately formed iron disk, revealed that it was a sword of honor. The design was a spiraling bird, perhaps a phoenix or crane. "It is water-steel; it will never rust, though it perhaps needs sharpened. At the time it was forged, it was, I believe, worth a prince's ransom."
"I... I will do it honor." Mikealus assured him. The metal was not dull, but instead suspiciously dim. It seemed to his fancy that it almost glowed, some energy hidden beneath layers of well-folded metal. Water-steel indeed - it would fit well in his hand, and would flow where he willed it to. He hoped.
The young paladin's thumb ran along the corner of a silhouetted horse - just an edge of the Halmar standard. "....thank you Father." He nodded with deep gratitude, his eyes still shining a bit with the electric joy of his new possession. "And... if... if I may be bold enough..." a momentary hesitation, "I would ask for a steed worthy enough to ride upon, while such a weapon hangs at my side." The warhorses of Hel-Halmar were still known throughout the land, and there was no doubt Mikealus would both be proud to serve - and do his family a great deal of glory - to be a true warrior of Hel-Halmar.
His eyes wandered along the design again. What was this blade's name, he wondered - what was that bird, once, when it was first born of the forge?
"Indeed," his father exhaled. "You should have a solid mount. You may leave your hunter here; take Khongordsol." It meant thistle in the old tongue. The horse could not calve, yet her form and temperament had charmed the Halmar men, and she had not been culled. Carina clasped her hands together over the table, as if to hold in some burst of joy. The contrast between the two was stark; the resigned father, the mother in glory.
What more could a son ask but a sword--the ancient symbol of independence and fealty, of power and submission? A grand steed--the blessing of his father--and, one hoped, accolades to be won.
What more indeed?
It weighed on Mikealus' heart that he could not revel with his parents all through the night, to be granted such honors. He knew that his resolve had been redoubled by their generosity, and their presence would ride with him into battle, that it would give him support and comfort.
All the Thrones seemed to smile upon him today. As he prepared for the long ride back, he knew it would be a good thing: the long silence atop Khongordsol would cool his blood, and help him to reflect on the reality of the situation. This was not some wild war he was riding into. It was a mission for the Silver Horn - no amazing deeds, not yet. But also it was the first sign of his parents' absolute faith in his path, the time when they'd given him these tools, and shown they too wished for him to complete great deeds. That, in truth, was more valuable than either the objects themselves, or the fantasies he could weave for himself of what honor he'd gain, and good he would do.
Still, Mikealus had lingered as long as he'd dared, to do right by Sayyid and Carina Hel-Halmar. They spoke until the hours seemed to grow shorter, and the young Paladin had to acknowledge his schedule. The time he would need to rest, to travel, to prepare. They parted with few enough tears, and a smile on the young initiate's lips, as he proudly rode off to whatever the Gods deemed right.
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
Monday, 18th July, 2011, 07:26 PM #9
Novice (Lvl 1)
Wonderful writing and great, very in-depth characterization of the PCs.
Looking forward to your next entry!
Saturday, 23rd July, 2011, 12:43 AM #10
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
I was pretty busy this week, so I didn't get the session recaps done that I wanted! So I will post up some setting information. This entry is what I provided to players first to start building their characters. I'll save the gods and some other things for the next time I'm not as well prepared as I'd like.
As time goes on, I'm refining the world and occasionally ret-conning names that the PCs really have no reason to interact with. There's some naming inconsistencies that I need to deal with: either changing the names or coming up with a decent enough reason for the variance.
The world's name is Arcturus. It is a world much like our own, circling one yellow sun and in turn circled by one small moon. The year in which your campaign begins is A.F. (After Founding) 399. The era before Founding is known as "The Time of Exile."
On the lonely world Arcturus, in the old empire of Ruber, many a strange thing has been known to happen. Perhaps these mysterious occurrences are the works of old gods gone mad from solitude and the vastness between stars. Perhaps the events are the results of old wars between the blessed and the fallen. Perhaps the titans on the earth have become so separated from their mortality in their scheming that they no long resemble the beings they once were.
The campaign takes place in the continent-spanning empire of Ruber. The empire was formed by a massive band of tribal horsemen who slowly but cunningly and strategically overwhelmed the many smaller kingdoms which had divided the continent of Oester. During this massive campaign, the clans which comprised the conquering force slowly became more "civilized" and gained an appreciation for the specialization of the kingdoms' forces and bureaucracies, and gradually began implementing improvements to the infrastructures of their new lands. As these projects' efficacy was proven, the Rubai clans themselves became more hierarchical and arrayed themselves behind the leadership of the man who would become the first emperor, Ideshir Al'Rubai. The last small kingdoms were conquered 399 years ago. This series of campaigns is now known as "the Second Conquest." No one knows what the first conquest was, but obviously it didn't stick.
Many of the noble families from the minor kingdoms still survive as bureaucrats and hereditary landowners.
The Ruber Kingdom currently fields 4 major noble houses (aka Thrones) for its throne, namely the 'Iron Seat', purportedly made of the weapons of all its conquered enemies. Lamina Throne currently rules; Sanguis Throne is second in power; then come the Potestas and Spina Thrones. Ruberian nobles are well known for their bloodthirsty temperament and elaborate, formal courtesy.
Ruber's pure-blood descendants are of dark hair and skin, and usually have brown to black eyes. They are tall and strong, and fiercely beautiful. They are adapted to harsh climates and have outstanding stamina.
Its capital city, Ruberia, is the second largest city. The city of Virtus and Sanguis's old capital are nearby. The country's eastern coast, which borders the Galac Ocean, has many safe, natural ports and thus many large cities, the whole strand of which is known as the Sea Jewels. Much of the west coast is unnavigable by ship; its northern border is protected by a sharp, craggy volcanic mountains, the Phyrrus Range. Half of its southern coast is mountainous, protecting the Kushiite Commune located around a group of springs. Virtus is located on the southeastern coast, where the Adamant River, which flows past Ruberia into the Urisual Forest at the foot of the Phyrrus, meets the sea. Ruber also includes the Island of the Sun, which holds a huge volcano which hosts the Phyrreth temple. Ruber's major exports are weapons, both novelty and explosive.
Most of the so-called savage races have either been assimilated into the Ruber culture or destroyed. The same is true for most of the monsterous species you find in the Monster Manual--those creatures are rare. For the most part, when adventurers go out, they fight marauding gangs of outlaws, explore, and subjugate the few goblinoid tribes not brought into the overarching system. There are some tribes of orcs and goblinoids who have semi-autonomous status for assisting in the original conquest of the continent and those treaties have been honored. They include keeping slaves and their descendents in bondage. There is legal slavery in Ruber--mainly hereditary slaves (those captured by warbands) or criminals and debtors who were enslaved for specific terms to pay off their "debt." Indentured servitude is not uncommon.
While this is a high magic world, everything you'd find in the monster manual is widely unknown and those creatures are almost never seen outside of very specific areas. This includes undead, since most have been destroyed and necromancy is illegal (thanks to Mikhael's church).
The "World" map shows the world that the more educated among you would know. Ruber is an enormous empire--it literally covers the entire continent of Oester. Aurum is quite large in and of itself.
The Warring Kingdoms are traded with but Ruber has no political alliance or real contact with any of them. Their numbers and names change often. Idrias is somewhat hermitic, perhaps out of fear that Ruber will attempt to annex their small continent. There may be more than one country on that land. The Savage Lands are places where no political organization other than perhaps tribes was found by Ruberian explorers.
The Conquered Territories
- Argentum: Rumored to be the lost floating kingdom of the gods; the civilization disappeared hundreds of years before the Rubai conquered the territory, which was actually a magically shielded series of islands populated by semi-feral elves. Some claim to have found the ruins of Argentum. The kingdom was rumored to have extremely advanced magical artifacts.
- Sanguis: An even more warlike country of barbarians. They were assimilated into the Ruberian culture. Sanguian descendants are likely to have dark skin, reddish hair, and hazel, brown, or green eyes, and of quick temper.
- Visus: This was a mystically-inclined kingdom composed mainly of mages, summoners, healers, and elementals. Visean descendants are of fair skin and hair and have light eyes; they are most likely to be mages. They are scattered around the world and tend to be unaware of their heritage. They are said to be the original mortal mages.
- The Seven Sisters: A set of seven territories ruled by female liches who may or may not have been related while alive. Though generally at least somewhat terrified, the inhabitants of those lands were always relatively prosperous and healthy, and though the Sisters in-fought, they had been known as tough and wary generals. They caused perhaps the most damage to the Rubai forces during the Second Conquest.
- The City-States: Eight city-states had held most of the western coastal territory as well as much of the southern lands. Though they had dubbed themselves city-states, these lands were nearly as large as the kingdoms. They were (from north to south) Fleur, Haute de Terre, Sacre Terre, Sang-mar, Soleil, Rue de la Mer, Stella, and Pax Grise.
This town is located on the crossroad of the major east-west route (the Highroad) and a minor north-south route (the Apprentice Road). The inner portion of the town is walled and has a barracks. The town is overseen by the Mayor, who is elected yearly by enfranchised men and women (business owners, landowners, minor nobility). There is one minor mage school in Ceteran, run by a female wizard named Gaiea Torvus, who specializes in Abjuration. Most of the town is human, though there are some elven families and fewer of other races. Caravans travel through on occasion, so the place is familiar with more exotic people and items than many towns and villages. The local lord is Count Rood Al'Khaber.
Within Ceteran is a chapterhouse of the Silverhorn Order, the only sponsors of fresh paladins who have not already seen service. While sometimes mocked by other orders and martial organizations, they are generally well-regarded by the common man for their hard work in keeping the roads safe and providing security for less wealthy towns and villages.
Ceteran is also host to a large temple composed of a few distinct followings. Those followings include Mikhael, Sapential, Asarael, Gabriel, and Cammael. Each has a head priest. The abbot is the priest of Cammael for this year; the office of abbot changes hands each year on a rotating basis. There are of course shrines in the town and in outlying areas. Many people from those areas come to the Temple of Five to worship, and during festivals, even the most distant farmers come to Ceteran to celebrate and tithe.
Aurum has 6 major noble houses in contention for the Absolum Throne. The Sapientia House currently rules; Virtus and Fulgor Houses contend; Pulcher and Nobilis Houses feud; Corvus House plots for the Absolum in the background, from the House Seat.
Aurumanians are known as fierce bargainers and traders. Pacatus Fortuna is its capital. Much of Aurum, which covers the northern half of the western continent Miel, is actually coastal.
This nation has only recently become a household name on the eastern continent. Much of the rest of the world is of little concern to cityfolk and nobles in Ruber.
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”