Hinterlands of Yore (part 2)

Steel Realms

After rediscovering an ancient monastery and defending it from those who would destroy it and the knowledge the monks have accumulated, the PC’s return to the frozen north and engage with the plots afoot to control the politics of the north.

>>> Dunstrand Rising Saga; After the monastery to the securing of the political situation in the Ox-Birch Cut.

Harahd’s Transformation into Holy Knight

[Source: From the Journal of Harahd copied later into the Annals of the Gallants]

Within this strange region between worlds we have found an unparalleled opportunity for knowledge. While the others are going wild i find myself uninterested and distracted. The return to the north, so close to my home, has stirred doubts in my mind.

When i was young i chose the path of the cloth, to be a priest and to seek peace before war. I did fight, and i did see war. It is impossible not to in the frozen north, yet i stood true in my faith and my belief in the way I’d chosen.

My powers were obvious, the hand of Merkaine blatant in my presence, and i have aided in good works in her name. Among the Gallants i have been recognized as an asset and a leader. Rightfully so… yet coming back… seeing all of this once again. It boils my Exilion blood. Have i truly become what my goddess has called me to be?

I have been show a power, ancient knowledge, that calls out to me. Upon delving into it I am taken back to my youth, the days when I chose to embrace the faith and the church, instead of joining my brethren as slayers of the undead horde. I did not, and do not regret this, yet i can see what i could have become. I am shown a stronger, deadlier me. I can see myself living a life of devoted purpose, my powers as an Exilion tapped to their fullest extent. The essence of Merkaine flows through us, and no more so than those who’s identity is lost in the cause against the undead.

Since coming north my powers have grown, I lay waste to my enemies with seemingly living fire that cannot be quenched. I now know that this is due to my proximity to my home, and the heartsones of Merkaine that I alone can hold within our group. I have been channeling the energy of Merkaines heart, her physical embodiment in our world. I am honored to have been blessed…. yet it has only served to awaken a part of me that i buried long ago.

I have always been a warrior, just fighting in a different manner than most. Seeing myself, as i would have been, as i could have been… perhaps as I SHOULD have been. I only see what is needed, a man, warrior and leader that can better serve the cause of my Faith. my home, and the Gallants. Perhaps that was not the path needed at the time, but it is the path now.

I reach out and embrace the buried part of me, and there is an immediate change. My life as a priest is now long behind me, i bear the knowledge and skill of what i would have been, and my priestly powers are replaced by a constant divine burning in my blood. I am Exilion. I am the foe of undead. I am the warrior of Merkaine i was born to be, what my people are ALL born to be.

I have my memories, the events that brought me here, yet I am different. My armor is more natural than it has ever been. The staff of Amgren in my hand feels less familiar that blade, mace or spear and I am filled with the righteous energy of Merkaine. At any point i can unleash life or destruction, protection or death. I will devote myself accordingly, upholding everything Merkaine stands for: Life. The burning devastating force of life. As we prepare to leave i look around at my comrades, who are the same and yet very different to me. I gauge them differently, i see what they are to me know in comparison to what i was before.

They are unaware of any change. My body remains the same, it is only my knowledge skill and powers that have changed. This will take getting used to, but it will serve us all better. They will see soon…. I am as i was born to be.

The Coming of Artul Dendrise

@ the Gallantine Academy in Dunstrand…

[Source: Inserted into the Gallantine Annals from the recollection of Mary, its Captain]

A fellow is presented to me at Dogwood Flats, the Gallantine Academy. A young male, approximately 13 years of age, common appearance for the region aside from his hair which has blonde lines along the sides of his head. He blatantly bears marks upon his left arm that are clearly of the green church. The tattoo across his entire arm bears an occasional green and brown shimmer. Any one with divine sense would be able to feel that it is a potent power tied into the markings. Inside of one of the empty circles in tattoo is a word in Feyloise that simply says “Heal”.

Upon reaching the Academy he simply requests to deliver a message to any officer or person of authority. To that person he hands a sealed letter and introduces himself as Porthias Dendrise. He gives no other information, simply waits patiently.

The letter reads as such: “Greetings from the Briar of Gorgewood. The child before you is a penitent of the Wyld Faith, a son of Gaia raised by the Druids. Due to his calling within the faith he has been sent on a pilgrimage to study his own lineage and origins. He is an orphan who’s mother died at childbirth within the church. His birth was made auspicious by a vision revealing his father to be a former servant of the faith who fell in the line of duty. Our prayers and meditation have revealed that the answers he seeks can be found within the leadership of your establishment.
– We humbly ask that you aid him in his quest. We recognize that we are distant from you (In the south eastern reaches of Gladnor) and as a show of good faith we have bestowed upon him the power to grant a boon to the leader of your establishment. This Child is diligent and self sacrificing, he will perform as you request until he has fulfilled his duty to the Faith.
– We thank you for any efforts you can give, and will answer an questions you have should you send a messenger.
– Signed: Maltes Venns Druid, Andren Smith High priest of the temple, and Felicia Willard Priestess of Gaia”

The boy revealed the following:
[Artul Dendrise] “I am the bastard of Artul Dendrise. The result of his many dalliances. It was revealed to me by the goddess who my father was, and I learned much of who he was and the calling of the Wyld that was bestowed upon him. He lacked knowledge of who his own father was, but did get to see many of the exploits and deeds done by his sire thanks be to his service to the faith, he took to the name ‘Petals’, Claiming that he was the pretty part of his father…. I am unsure what this means . When I was born I was granted knowledge of some of the preaching of a Porthias Gunther, thus i was named after him. The priests learned of who my father was and thus i was granted my surname. After these long years serving the Faith I was told of the pilgrimage i must undertake, and that I would find the answers of my past with the leader of the Gallantine academy as long as I sought out ‘the Flowers and it’s mentors.

I recognize that this is less than believable and that you have little reason to trust me but I am willing to prove myself by any means necessary. As a show of good faith, I have been granted a small power to use once. We learned that you were left wounded by a toxic ailment of some sort. Regardless of weather you can help me, I can rid you of this ailment if you will allow it. I do not seek to bribe you, only to prove that i am who i say and that i seek nothing but your goodwill in my journey.”

Mary reveals to him all she knows, but refuses his offer for healing. She is, how she is, and she does not trust this newcomer.

Mary’s Dream

A strange presence infuses Mary’s dreams each night for several nights. It says she should know that which she is aiding. It does not try and dissuade her, it only wlaks her through foggy memories, as if from the eyes of another. From these fitful sleeps Mary records what she remembers, and the young man’s past is slowly revealed.

The history of Root

It all starts with Petals. A bastard who’s mother sought the safety of the church after giving birth to the child of Artlow Dendrise (true identity unknown to her or her son.) The mother lived her life within the church and when her son was 12 he left, seeking something he was unsure of. Being Garland Bound like his father he eventually found his way back to the Wyld faith, as a follower of Rastur. He took the role of a holy warrior in the town of Gorgewood, a once prominent site of the Wyld faith, prior to the river that ran through it being diverted. Artul (Petals) served as a guardian of the temple and town, eventually becoming the leader of a small holy coalition. His efforts within the coalition were spent primarily against an invading force that was later identified as the army of a demon from another realm. In this 10 year battle he became a prominent icon of the faith, being known to abandon human form and to charge headlong into battle in the shape of a mountain lion. As he became focused on war, he was called back to his calling in the faith by a dream from Rastur. He was guided to a spring that was surrounded by the primordial archetypes of the Wyld faith. In awe he looked into the spring, where an aspect of Gaia reached out to him, and pulled him into the depths. Here he saw his father, a young man who abandoned his identity to become ‘Flowers’, a warrior of his cause and servant of the faith. Artul saw the many battles and horrors his sire went through, overcoming more than Artul himself had ever seen in his lifetime. He saw self sacrifice, wounds, holy power derived through pure conviction as opposed to holy gifts. He saw an absolute devotion to the goddess that superseded his need to train as a warrior, the lengths gone to to defend comrades and the humility that gave all glory to the faith. He saw the loss of a friend, mentor and leader, the overcoming of insanity and the rise of leadership. He saw the powers of the faith bolstering his father beyond normal humanity, journeys to fight demigods and the essence of Gaia being used to smite those who would destroy his fathers homeland. But Most of all, above everything else, he saw a man. A man who was scared, constantly worried for his allies, and on his knees before the goddess he’d pledged his life to. Artul saw something that changed his father from a hated non entity to the hero he had always wanted to be himself. He woke from the dream, and took on the name Petals. Being more attractive than his father he figured the only way he would ever outdo his father was do do better with the ladies. But other than that, he would strive every day to be a small part of what he had seen. He woke, readied his men, and led them to defeat the largest conglomerate of the demons army, calling down the essence of Rastur and Gaia, and refusing to take part in the battle himself in any way other than to empower his men. The army was destroyed, his coalition was alive, and they were poised to strike against the fortress of the Demon. Some 3 years later Petals was slain in a direct conflict against the Demon, but he left behind his story, and his bastard son he had never known existed. Unknown to him his son was born the day he devoted his entire life to the faith, passing his Garland Bound lineage to the child. Upon Artluls death 3 years later his son dreamed of his fathers fathers hero, Porthias Gunther, the 1st thing he remembers.

The boy was born within the confines of Gorgewood Temple, called so as a tradition at this point, it’s true temple status long lost. The priests knew of his oddities, and were pleased to see that nature molded itself around the child’s needs. They saw the potential for the boy to be a druid and sent him to train among them. The oddities continued and even the druids could not find an appropriate place for him. It seemed that every aspect of the faith wanted it’s claim on him. As he aged strange markings grew upon his back and left arm, looking like a henna tattoo of vines and leaves with empty circles. Within 2 large circles came the symbols of Gaia and Darupet. The child seemed to be youthful, vigorous, and resistant to the effects of physical stress and time. It became clear that his body would remain untouched by time and age for most of his life. Innocence and humility surrounded the boy, and he did not go unanswered by any primordial archetype or god of the wyld faith. The druids stopped limiting him to the confines of their teachings and encouraged him to seek the path the gods had set for him. He returned to gorgewood,where he spent most of his time with a young penitent of Darupet, who quickly became a mentor of sorts to the child. The young priest proved to be a moral compass and spiritual guide, and it was not long before the elders tasked them with gathering others to reform the coalition. The time was coming for the temple to rise again, and they saw this boy and his friend to be the heart of that effort. On Porthias’s 12th birthday he received several visions relating to a mission he must undergo. The elders of the Church prayed and meditated, clarifying some aspects of the visions. He would seek out the truth of his past in the Gallantine academy. Should he prove successful he would return to help guide the coalition, which would set out on the holy task of reviving Gorgewood and revitalizing the presence of the faith in the region.

After spending days in contemplation in the Shrine of Merkaine and the edges of swamp, the young man adopts the name Root – a name he feels is fitting after he learns of his lineage.

The Coming of Laren morningstar

@ The Monastery of Zermai, she is foisted onto the Gallant party as they are leaving…
The monks of the place had “frozen” her for untold ages, only now waking her up as the world of their monastery threatened to crumble around them. She was forced to go with a small band of Gallants back to the world her father had come from… perhaps a thousand years ago – who knew? She carries her weapon, given to her by her mother’s general “Attraxus” and the breastplate that was made for her.

The Death of Taelin

@ The Monastery of Zermai
They fight a defensive action to allow the monks and others that were their captives to escape. Taelin – weary and wasted at the ordeal decides that as the senior rank of their troupe he will stay behind to make sure others escape. He sacrifices himself to let the other Gallants escape; the death of Taelin makes the group lapse into silence.

Return to the Emerald Falls

Through a scintillating waterfall of light Lauren brings up the rear of a strange trains of a dozen figures. For a brief moment, they appear in a cave… and then the world is torn asunder and vertigo overcomes everyone. When the world rights itself, a few of their number are gone, but most remain. A city can be seen in the distance, it is very cold out. The sun is nearly gone, night is coming. Silently Lauren follows the bad of companions and Harahd – their leader – tells her about them. They are The Gallants – once a band of cut throat mercenaries but now a respectable band, in service to a lord liege. Harahd follows the goddess Merkaine – an elemental goddess of fire and great foe of the undead. They are taking the remains of their warband leader to remove the possession from her soul… and perhaps to try and restore her. Harahd convinces her that their path is righteous and just, and she has little else to fall back on. Harahd was once a simple priest, but the odd magics of the monastery have transformed him into a holy knight in service to the goddess. They enter the city of Marsden.

Chotla Leaves the Gallants

One of their band, Chotla once of the Pine Tribes, argues with Harahd and leaves before entering the city. There is great sadness in the air. Harahd says that almost no one has ever left the Gallants, but that while possessed, Jaq did unspeakable evil things, for which she should have been killed. It would have spared the death of innocents… and Harahd knows he is right. But he cannot come to simply give up on Jaq – there is too much history.

Gathering the Gallants in the Hinterlands

Harahd says they need to find someone who knows the pass and area well. The group seems to know their way around cities, and in soon order finds a place where reputable guides may be found. The innkeep is friendly, and the place is filled with dance, drink, and revelry. After so long, Lauren joins in and the weight of the death of her friends and her strange new circumstances is gone.

The Coming of Ingwen Wolf-Brother

Harahd finds a local tribesman, who bears a tattoo of some wolf-like creature on his chest, to take them safely back to wherever it is that they are supposed to be – not far, west by all reckonings. Apparently the Gallants have a reputation… the guide seems eager to convince Harahd to let him join the band. Like her, he becomes an unofficial Gallant. There is an oath, and an understanding that comes with the sacred charge of fraternity. Lauren feels in her heart that she has made a good choice, and that she will be able to do good in traveling with these folk.