Folkloric Fridays, Part XI: Creatures & Critters of Lore

Gyrizo.  According to late Dark Days folklore from the contemporary Hawksworth region, the gyrizo is a small, non-aggressive woodland creature of great intelligence.  Stories describe them as uncannily self-possessed—though most bits of lore agree that they lack the capacity for Human speech—and extraordinarily spry, with bushy brown hair and a humanoid visage resembling that of an old, stooped man; and even go so far as to assign to them the ability to turn invisible.  The people of the Dark Days believed that leaving gifts of acceptable quality within a small house-like structure of twigs, bark, moss, or other natural materials out in the deep woods would cause local gyrizos to grow friendly and leave gifts in return.  It is said that they can mimic the sounds of birdsong, and that a long and low whistle precedes the appearance of one of these creatures.  However, the gyrizo—if indeed it even exists—is so shy and elusive that many individuals today dismiss the tales as the quaint but untrue fancies of a group of brutally oppressed people looking for a small measure of comfort.  More likely the tales are inspired by the zabolie, a creature whose existence is proven and recorded, and which almost exactly matches the folkloric descriptions in its form.

Zabolie.  As mentioned above, the zabolie is commonly considered to be the real-life inspiration for the mythical gyrizo.  Like the latter creature, the former is described as having a facial structure resembling that of an elderly man with bushy black hair and a stooped form.  In behavior zabolies are extremely intelligent with a distinctly mischievous bent; they have been observed undertaking impressive displays of mimicry, responding to the calls other species or even echoing Human language that they have recently overheard.  To all appearances the creatures harbor a peculiar fascination for Human-made objects and often destroy or take apart such items, presumably to see how they work.  Although some people consider them nuisances because of this habit, others insist that “helpful” zabolies have repaired pieces of broken armor that were left unattended outside their homes.  The truth of these rumors have not been substantiated through first-hand observation; but it is known that zabolies are able to use basic tools.

Firebird.  Stories about the firebird go back to before written record; it is believed that they originated on the islands of Zikari before being transported to the mainland by ancient Serenite sailors.  Instantly recognizable by its glowing feathers and entrancing song, the firebird is much-revered throughout the world.  Wherever it lands it tends to shed a few feathers; finding these feathers is a good indication that a firebird is in the general area, as well as a stroke of luck, since the feathers are known to possess healing powers of some potency—functioning like a greater benediction when still-lit, feathers do gradually lose their power over time.  Generally speaking, firebirds are gentle but easily startled, and will often provide healing and other restorative magic to those they deem worthy.

Gruagach.  A gruesome and bloodthirsty creature from Stemman folklore, the gruagach is commonly invoked by frustrated parents attempting to scare their children into good behavior.  It is said that the gruagach stalks the night looking for disobedient children to snatch and gobble up; the darkest versions of this myth describe the way in which the gruagach dons the skin of its victims after it has finished sucking the marrow from their bones.  Described as vaguely humanoid in form, the creature is supposed to have long, sharp claws and a hunched, animalistic posture.

Psari.  The Psari are a “mysterious race” of people created by the collision of the White and Black Gods and rumored to inhabit the oceans and rivers of the Ephemeral Realm.  Stories surrounding this race describe their homes as beautiful underwater palaces carved of coral and pearl and lit by the glowing of tiny sea creatures.  Because the Psari are fashioned only of Body and Spirit, they are said to covet Human spouses, who will introduce innate magic into their bloodlines.  Instead of courting prospective spouses, however, they simply abduct young men and women by disguising themselves as fishermen, lovely black-haired performers, or healers who do not charge money for their services—to accept free healing from these individuals is considered an agreement to come along with them to the sea!  According to legend, they have a weakness for silver or things made of silver metal, and so one way to avoid abduction is to cast silver coins or objects away from yourself if you suspect that you are in danger.  Another rumor has it that giving a Psari a “treat”  of three drops of blood will cause the creature to gift you with an enchanting song for no further toll.  Methods of identification vary from tale to tale; some describe them as having shining green eyes, others say that they have very pale skin with green or golden hair, often perpetually wet.  Still others claim that they are dark-haired and inhumanly beautiful, or that they can be recognized by the wet hems of their clothing.  Whatever the case may be, each version of the legend agrees on one thing: the Psari cannot live long on dry land.

Sea ghosts.  Colloquially known as “sea ghosts,” these creatures represent the elemental incarnations of water.  Often found wandering aimlessly around still bodies of water in small groups, they are frail incorporeal beings who seem to take little notice of what is around them.  This is not to say that they are not sometimes dangerous, however; threatened sea ghosts have been known to induce magical sleep in victims, or to cause other mischief using the thaumaturgical abilities of the water element.

Living statues.  The elemental incarnations of metal, living statues are so-called because of their ability to phase between living motion and the still, un-breathing state of statues as they so desire.  Very little is known about the purpose or motivation of living statues, although records describe them as singularly focused and efficient, even to the point of brutality, in undertaking actions.  Scholars and followers of the Brown God tend to view them as particularly interesting mysteries and the locations in which they are found are usually noted as places of interest—for whatever reason—to the god responsible for their creation.

Sprights.  As their colloquial name—derived from “sprightly,” meaning “agile” or “energetic”—implies, the elemental incarnations of fire are playful and sometimes wayward creatures who greatly enjoy games.  Such games are usually innocuous, but because sprights are very easily angered, interactions can turn devastating or even deadly quite quickly.  Numerous stories and tales caution Human participants from winning such games, as one way to upset a spright is to beat it at its own game.  Bubbly and full of energy, sprights tend to move alarmingly quickly and hum loudly as they travel.

Sentinels.  Sentinels are the elemental incarnations of earth; due to their ability to speak in simple, broken sentences, they are considered the most intelligent and—by some—the Brown God’s “favored” incarnations, leading to speculation among scholars that the god might in some way prefer the element of earth to that of fire, water, metal, or wood.  Whatever the case may be, sentinels are most often found at sites of natural disasters with the apparent intention of maintaining calm and stability within the affected areas.  They are rumored to be quite kindly and slow to anger, although they are extremely formidable opponents indeed if pushed to violence.

Folkloric Fridays, Part IX: Dragons

Dragons are often referred to as the “most mysterious creatures on Éras.”  Their origin is uncertain, although their presence within the Human cultures of Éras dates back to the very beginnings of the Dark Days, in artwork, sculpture, songs, and tales.  Some people claim that dragons taught Humans to speak, but this theory is as yet unsubstantiated, and the dragons themselves are encountered so rarely that it seems scholars will never receive an irrefutable answer on the subject.

Sir Reginald Noxire of Blacknall was the first individual to provide a physical record of a dragon sighting, in the year 211.  According to the journal he kept while following a fabled golden-colored dragon into the depths of the Paranomos Mountains north of Blacknall, Sir Reginald appears to have slain the dragon with the help of Dragonreaver before dying of exposure.  Since that time, however, several people have claimed to have glimpsed a golden-colored dragon, and so the authenticity of the knight’s words have been called into question.  Some scholars have gone so far as to allege that Sir Reginald’s journal is a hoax, or the confused hallucinations of a dying man’s mind.  Today it is widely believed that the golden dragon still lives.

Within the different cultures of Éras, dragons have traditionally symbolized potent and auspicious powers, as well as strength, benevolence, and good luck.  They are most commonly associated with the gods, due to their coloration; white-, black-, violet-, golden-, and silver-colored dragons have all been reported over the centuries.  The noticeable lack of a brown-colored dragon, however, has puzzled those who focus their studies on dragon lore, and there is a somewhat large contingency of scholars who dismiss the color-based association as mere coincidence.  Whatever the case, dragons are revered as “old spirits” of great wisdom by peoples across Éras, and it is widely considered taboo to deface a depiction of a dragon.

Human and dragon interaction has been extremely limited over the years, but recorded encounters thus far have indicated harmless or even benevolent relations, with the dragons in question deigning to engage in conversation and possibly even granting a boon to the lucky mortals.  One historical recounting of such a meeting describes the white-colored dragon as a “graceful and gentle creature despite its enormous stature and intimidating visage.”

Dragons are said to be able to shape-shift, thus opening up the possibility for interbreeding between Humans and dragons.  Dragon-children, more commonly known as “dragon-blooded,” are rumored to exist, although very infrequently; only thirteen people have ever been officially confirmed as dragon-blooded, as the ritual required to prove such lineage is both expensive and complex.  Despite extensive study of the dragon-blooded, the scope of these individuals’ abilities has varied so much that scholars remain unable to describe them with any true accuracy.

Tuesday Tales, Part VIII: Sir Ryence Berdwell, the Truthful Knight

Sir Ryence Berdwell, the Truthful Knight.  After King Shayne had secured Blacknall, he sent Sir Ryence Berdwell into the area which now comprises Caxton, but then was a very troubled, conflict-ridden region between Braelin and Seren, with orders to check on rumors of large-scale Serenite activities aimed at his new territory.  Far from civilized lands or help, Sir Ryence was betrayed by a guide who was supposed to have been trustworthy; the guide led him right into the middle of a huge Serenite raiding party.  The pair were seized and dragged before the Serenites’ warlord, and the young guide explained rather gleefully exactly who Sir Ryence was, as well as his importance to “the usurper” King Shayne.

The warlord looked at Ryence and said, “Is this true, that you are Ryence Berdwell, knight of the usurper?”

Ryence could have denied it and called for the guide’s execution; he knew that the warlord would honor the word of a warrior over that of a young scamp.  Instead, he simply nodded and said, “I am he.”

The guide was well-rewarded for his trouble and Sir Ryence was taken as a prisoner of war, for the Serenites meant to ransom him back to King Shayne in exchange for money and land.  He was stripped of his weaponry and armor and, hands bound in front of him, tied to the saddle-horn of the warlord, so that he had to walk behind the horse whenever they traveled.  Usually, prisoners treated in this way quickly sank into despair, begging and pleading to be cut loose or allowed to ride, asking for water and food.  But Sir Ryence did none of these.  He kept up his good cheer, sometimes even making jokes, and never asked for more than what he was given.  When he was brought meals—usually just water and a bit of bread—he would thank the soldier who brought it and then abstain from eating until he had offered up a plea to the White God.  He often challenged people to duels in jest, although many of the Serenite soldiers had a running bet that he would have gone through with it had any of them accepted.

Sir Ryence’s attitude and behavior impressed them in spite of themselves, and before long he had made friends with many of the soldiers.  He was plain-spoken and honest, but gentle about the truth, and they found themselves captivated by his tales of valor and his descriptions of his king and his companions in Braelin—especially because the Serenites knew that he would never lie or exaggerate about them.  They began to confide in him that their warlord was extremely cruel, abusing them and conducting himself without honor.  Sir Ryence listened to their complaints, but stalwartly refused to take action although they begged him to help in a plot to assassinate the warlord.

“You speak to me of the importance you place on honor,” he told them, “but what you propose is neither honorable nor truthful.”

Finally, one of the guards he had been coaching and giving advice to challenged the warlord in one-on-one combat and, narrowly, bested him with the help of Sir Ryence’s training.  As thanks for Sir Ryence’s help and out of respect for this knight the Serenites had come to like so well, the new warlord returned his armor, weapons, and horse, and set him free; and then the raiding party rode away, back toward Seren.  Sir Ryence returned to court at last with the report that all was well in the contested area—at least for the time being.

Folkloric Fridays, Part VIII: Felícian Kólar, chosen of the White God

Felícian Kólar, chosen of the White God.  Felícian Kólar was a Serenite artisan and skilled apothecary who attended the thysia who fought in Belváros.  Once a day for many years, Kólar made a point to visit the shrine and offer up a plea to the White God to guide her in her work and to protect the young men and women she healed, whose lives were so fraught with danger.  She was a loyal and true follower of the god, though she never imagined herself to be important enough to garner its attention.

But one morning all of that changed, when Kólar awoke with the terrible reverberations of a fate echoing in her mind: You will walk into the arid lands beyond Belváros and wait there until instructed otherwise.  As swiftly as she could without sacrificing thoroughness, the apothecary gathered the belongings she would need for her journey and set off into the dry scrubland that presses up against the great city’s edges.  There she built a makeshift camp and settled in.

She waited for thirty-six days and thirty-six nights; where other Humans might have given up, or withered of thirst, or frozen during the long and cold nights, Kólar not only endured but thrived.  Her extensive herbal knowledge, combined with a hardiness of both body and spirit, was more than enough to keep her alive and well.  At dawn on the thirty-seventh day, a lovely young woman with hair as pale as hay appeared at her camp.  Kólar invited the woman to sit and cooked breakfast for both of them; and the pair sat in companionable silence as they ate.  When they had both finished the meal, the pale-haired woman looked at Kólar solemnly.

“Felícian Kólar,” she said, although Kólar had never mentioned her name to her guest, “you are a strong woman indeed.  I wonder if you might do me a great favor.”  And the pale-haired woman went on to explain that she was displeased with the Serenite empress, whose policies threatened “something of grave significance to me in this land.”  Kólar did not entirely understand the pale-haired woman’s words, but she did understand who her guest was, and what she believed she was to do: lead a rebellion against the empress.

Ever loyal, Kólar agreed to do what she could and, in the moons that followed, she gathered up allies and supplies as she had once gathered up her belongings—swiftly, but thoroughly.  When the rebellion finally broke out, Kólar commanded a sizeable force indeed, and after a brief but bloody struggle her faction emerged victorious.  The old empress was overthrown and a new emperor rose to take command of the country.  As his first act, the emperor declared a general pardon for all of the rebels—expect one: Kólar, the leader.  Instead of being pardoned, Kólar was branded a traitor for attacking the previous ruler of Seren in such a dishonorable manner.  She was seized by the emperor’s soldiers and tortured to death, once, in his dungeons before being branded and enslaved for the rest of her life.  Her spouse, too, was executed and then enslaved; and her three children were forced into service as thysia, a fate from which—it is said—only one escaped.

Folkloric Fridays, Part VII: Sir Brandeles la Hale, “the Merciful Knight”

Sir Brandeles la Hale, “the Merciful Knight.”  A member of the famed Circle of Five, Sir Brandeles traveled around Braelin challenging nobles and knights who were causing trouble for the King; he won nearly every bout he undertook, but spared each of his vanquished foes with the caveat that, one day, he might call upon them to remember the favor.  When a fleet of Serenite pirates seized Revma, then, Sir Brandeles summoned each and every noble or knight who owed him a favor; the resulting host was one of the largest, most impressive, and most varied in Braelinese history.  The ensuing battle was fierce, bringing Sir Brandeles face to face with the Serenite captain, a woman by the name of Mariska Nemes who was renowned for her swordsmanship and wild successes on the sea.  After a long bout, Sir Brandeles finally managed to best her; but instead of taking her prisoner or executing her, he spared Nemes’ life.  Filled with respect for both his skill and his mercy, Captain Nemes agreed to peace negotiations.  Throughout their lives, the two would meet again several times, often on friendly terms.

Tuesday Tales, Part VI: The Touchstones

“A very long, long time ago, before the memories of the Allos and the Humans and the Skōti and all of the creatures that walk or swim or fly had yet taken root, the Gold God called forth twelve points of light and gave them form.  These light-shards became known as the Touchstones, and their purpose was to weave and reweave the fabric of fate…”

 In the world of Éras there exist twelve god-forged items known collectively as “the Touchstones.”  Created by the Gold God, the Touchstones affect the warp and weft of fate throughout Éras.  They appear and vanish from Human history at the Gold God’s whim, who grants or withholds them to mortals as it sees fit, and they are as unpredictable as the god itself—appearing in any form, at any time, in any place.  Many mortals hold the Touchstones in high esteem, while others loathe them for the power of their affect on the affairs of the Ephemeral Realm; but no matter what any one individual’s outlook, stories abound of those who have held and used the items in the past.

Below is a list of the twelve Touchstones.

 

1.

Dicespinner, the Wind of Fate.  The Touchstone which changes luck.

Dicespinner, often called the “Wind of Fate,” is the most fickle of the Touchstones; as such, it is also one of the most commonly encountered.  There are numerous stories about individuals who have extreme runs of luck before suddenly overplaying their hands as their luck unexpectedly fails them.  The Touchstone is typically believed to be one of the Gold God’s favorites due to its two-sidedness, which mirrors its temperament.

            Stories:

– In 973, the Serenites sent an expedition to Caprina; the party of five hale soldiers was led by a young woman named Jolána Gál.  She had been gifted Dicespinner and felt that its presence was portentous, a sentiment shared by the emperor.  Exactly one week after their departure, Dicespinner returned, falling into a Serenite nobleman’s hands.  The expedition party, however, was never seen or heard from again.

– In the early second century, Dicespinner came into the possession of a Gavellese vintner, Baronet Nicholas Cheyne.  After making an unbelievably large profit on wine sales, Cheyne and his family quickly rose to prominence, and there was even talk that the Cheynes might be awarded a county.  Greedy with his success, Cheyne planted twice as many grapes for the following year—and promptly lost Dicespinner.  By the time harvest had rolled around, the entire vineyard’s worth of grapes had died of blight.  The Cheynes lost their entire fortune, business, and manor, and the family gradually fell into decline.

– In the mid-fifth century there was a knight of great skill but very small fortune named Sir Balin Stepney.  Dicespinner in hand, he gambled everything he owned in order to win a higher title and an estate—and won.  He ought to have stopped there, but he pushed his luck still further, hoping to win a particularly fine set of armor and a destrier on top of what he had already gained.  At the moment of truth, Dicespinner vanished, and Sir Balin’s luck gave out completely.  He lost everything in that instant—his money, his rouncey, even his armor.

 

2.

Truthgiver, the Ender of Lies.  The Touchstone which brings justice.

Truthgiver, also known as the “Ender of Lies,” was created to bring hidden thoughts to light.  It is often considered an equalizer, allowing the oppressed or weak to uncover the deceptions of the powerful and, in so doing, to bring about a reversal of fate.

             Stories:

– During Queen Jaden Ulsfeld’s reign, the members of the Bankers Guild were given an anonymous tip that the Guildmaster had been lying to them in order to make a profit for himself.  In a spectacular and well-recorded Guild meeting, the lowliest member of the Guild used Truthgiver to force the Guildmaster into admitting to his crimes.  The Guildmaster was banished in disgrace and the member who had wielded Truthgiver so effectively was promoted in his stead.

– Although it has never been officially confirmed by historical accounts, many people believe that Circle of Five knight Sir Ryence Berdwell once commanded Truthgiver.  Berdwell, of course, was known for his soft-spoken but unshakable candor in his dealings with others.

 

3.

 Dragonreaver, the Banisher of the Mighty.  The Touchstone which kills dragons.

Dragonreaver, also known as the “Banisher of the Mighty,” has proven to be the only implement able to strike down a dragon.  Because they are considered “old spirits” of great wisdom and often give out boons to the rare individual who manages to encounter them, dragons are usually treated with great reverence and respect by the denizens of Éras.  For this reason, Dragonreaver is one of the most hated of the Touchstones.  Followers or scholars of the Gold God have many different theories as to why it created Dragonreaver.

            Stories:

– The first person to wield Dragonreaver was a knight, Sir Reginald Noxire of Blacknall.  In the year 211, he awoke with the Touchstone in hand and a fate, terrible in its reverberations, echoing in his mind: You will find the golden dragon and slay it with this sword.  Driven by the force of the fate and his own burning curiosity, Sir Reginald trekked deeper and deeper into the Paranomos Mountains in pursuit of a great, golden dragon that was rumored to live there.  According to his personal memoirs—recovered much later, and only by chance—when finally he managed to find the dragon and attack it, it swallowed the sword and vanished.  No one knows what happened to the knight; nothing but his weather-worn journal and a few tattered remnants of his pack were found, several moons later.

 

4.

 Farslayer, the Knife in the Dark.  The Touchstone which destroys distant enemies.

Farslayer, often called the “Knife in the Dark,” is yet another commonly encountered Touchstone.  It is infamous throughout the world, for its nature is insidious: he who holds the Knife in the Dark may use it to strike down any enemy he so chooses—but his enemy, in turn, may strike down the original attacker.  Many people have passed on after initiating a deadly back-and-forth of this Touchstone; in extreme cases, entire families have ceased to exist, caught up in a terrible blood-feud.

             Stories:

– The most famous example of Farslayer’s influence occurred in the early 800s, and is known even to the smallest children throughout Braelin.  Two minor noble families in Blacknall—the Donnetts and the Underhills—lived on abutting properties separated by a thick forest.  Almost simultaneously, but on opposite sides of the wood, a member of each family realized that veins of tungsten and winegrain were hidden beneath the rocks in that forest.  Both the Donnetts and the Underhills started to dig out mines, thinking that they alone knew what lay therein; and so imagine their surprise when, in the course of hollowing out the earth, their mine shafts met.  A great and terrible enmity sprang up between the families, who each believed the mine belonged rightfully to their own.  It was a tragedy, but no great surprise, then, that Farslayer became involved.  No one knows which member of which family struck the first blow, but once the violence erupted it could not be contained.  When Baronetess Donnett passed on, her eldest son plucked the Touchstone from her corpse and flung it back at his mother’s murderer; when Baronet Underhill fell at last, his wife seized the dagger and used it.  Only one individual survived the bloodbath: Elizabeth Donnett, the youngest child in that family, who was only thirteen years old at the time.  It is said that not even she escaped unscathed, dying once to Farslayer before throwing it back a final time, ending her assailant’s life forever.  A band of Travelers discovered her wandering the forest between the two families’ manors, her shirt torn and bloodied.  She refused to speak a word to them but allowed them to take her in and give her food; but in the middle of the following night she disappeared.  Rumor has it that she struck out into the mountains to join the Beast-people.

 

5.

 Swordbreaker, the Tide of Battle.  The Touchstone which disarms opponents and resists attack.

Swordbreaker, often called the “Tide of Battle,” usually only appears in Éras during times of great unrest, but its reputation is legendary.  Whosoever wields the Touchstone becomes nigh untouchable on the field of battle, for it leaves a swathe of devastation in its wake while simultaneously making its holder seemingly impervious to damage.  In keeping with the Gold God’s tricky nature, however, it is well-known that those who possess Swordbreaker can do nothing about anyone who is unarmed.

             Stories:

– During her final campaign against the northern warlords, Queen Raelin Key is said to have appeared on the battlefield with Swordbreaker in hand.  While at the time the presence of the Touchstone was said to be yet further proof of Raelin’s divine right to rule, scholars in later times have pondered why the gods waited until her last battles, which were so relatively unimportant in the grander scheme of things, to grant the Touchstone to her.

– In Summerrise in the year 982, a Serenite pirate named Andor Stormrunner appeared in the harbor of Revma with a fleet of ships.  Accounts of that night report that Stormrunner—whose crew promptly set to besieging the port with blasts of magic—personally entered the city with a veritable army of pirates and mercenaries, Swordbreaker in his grasp.  A frightened dockhand later recounted that Stormrunner, stepping out of his boat and wading up onto shore, looked over the city with an awful gleam in his eye, grinned wide, and instructed his crew, “Don’t ye rest ‘til the whole of the city lies in pieces.”  The pirates did exactly as instructed, ransacking homes, capturing people to sell as slaves, hauling away goods and money, and burning buildings to the ground, sometimes with Braelinese citizens still trapped inside.  The crew absconded with the equivalent of roughly seven hundred gold in coin and goods, as well as upward of two hundred prisoners.  Now known as the “Sack of Revma,” the siege was by far the worst attack ever weathered on Braelinese soil.

 

6.

Sightchanger, the Blinder of Visions.  The Touchstone which changes perception.

Sightchanger, often called the “Blinder of Visions,” is a difficult Touchstone to describe.  As with the Twelfth Touchstone, Sightchanger has been referenced in song and story by the Goldentongues, but no one can say who has held it or what those wielders did with it.  All that is known is that Sightchanger somehow alters mortals’ ability to perceive.

 

7.

Soulrender, the Destroyer of Hope.  The Touchstone which induces despair.

Soulrender, often called the “Destroyer of Hope,” is another rare yet terrible Touchstone; its power is to eat away at hope—that of its wielder as well as that of the individuals who come into contact with it.  The story below represents perhaps the best illustration of its effect.

            Stories:

– Before Blacknall was conquered, there was a warlord named Amália Lévai who, for her ferocity and her ability to conquer huge swathes of land very swiftly, was feared and admired throughout the north.  One day Soulrender fell into her hands, and she used it mercilessly, in order to force more and more of the remaining free tribes to bend to her will.  For a time she was extraordinarily successful; but the Human spirit can endure only so much pain and joylessness before it becomes twisted and dark.  By the time King Shayne the Conqueror appeared to seize Blacknall for himself, Lévai had disappeared into a tall stone tower, where she lived alone, all of her subjects gathered at its base.  They offered no resistance to Shayne when he arrived; and when he scaled the tower he found Lévai hunkered down into one corner of her chamber, her eyes sunken and hollow and haunted, barely Human anymore.  Deeply disturbed by the scene, Shayne ordered his soldiers to bury the Touchstone at once, as far down into the earth as they could, before moving onward with his campaign.

 

8.

 Siegeender, the Hammer of Fear.  The Touchstone which breaks sieges.

Siegeender, often called the “Hammer of Fear,” is another Touchstone which appears in times of war; some followers or scholars of the Gold God have even gone so far as to posit that Siegeender is a twin to Swordbreaker.  Whatever the case, its powers are immense, allowing the wielder to disrupt an entire battlefield’s momentum or to destroy large-scale fortifications with little trouble.

            Stories:

– About twenty years in to the Serenite War, a group of four Serenite raiders appeared on the horizon just beyond the Caxton Wall.  The contingency of Braelinese knights and soldiers posted there laughed, wondering what four Serenites could possibly hope to do against the amassed Braelinese army.  During the middle of the night, however, an alarm was sounded; the soldiers roused just in time to make out the figures of the raiders huddled against the base of the Wall.  For a moment all was still, with the guards atop the Wall warning the Serenites to desist and move away.  But then pandemonium erupted as a ten-foot section of the Wall suddenly blew inward, flinging bits of stone everywhere and injuring or dazing an entire patrol unit.  It turned out that one of the raiders had carried Siegeender; and following the explosion, a Serenite army began to march on the Wall.  The Braelinese managed to hold fast and eventually repaired the damage, but at the cost of many, many lives.

– A particularly popular rumor has it that the Caprinans are in possession of Siegeender, and have been for countless centuries.  How else, it is said, could the island-nation have managed to hold out against the might of Seren and Braelin for so long?

 

9.

Townsaver, the Shield of the Weak.  The Touchstone which protects all others.

Townsaver, often called the “Shield of the Weak,” is usually hailed as one of the kindest of the Touchstones, although like all of the Gold God’s creations, it has its costs.  The Shield of the Weak allows its holder to protect all others from sustaining damage throughout the course of a battle—but only at the price of the wielder’s own life.

            Stories:

– Legends of the Circle of Five relate the following tale:  One night in late Springfall during King Shayne the Conqueror’s initial forays into what would become Hawksworth, the Circle of Five and the king had set up camp and were readying themselves for sleep.  Their explorations had been successful and everyone was in good spirits, when all of a sudden a large raiding party of Xiros set upon the campsite.  No one but the Lady Knight Esdeline Chernock was prepared for battle; foolishly, everyone else had shed their armor and put aside their weapons.  As Lady Knight Esdeline stood to face the raiders alone, a beautifully-crafted necklace appeared around her neck and she fell to her knees as a terrible voice reverberated in her mind:  You will use the Shield of the Weak to protect your companions from harm.  Recognizing what the necklace must be, she called to her fellow knights to leave their armor and take up their weapons.  Forming a circle around Lady Knight Esdeline and the king, the four other knights managed to defeat the entire Xiros force with Esdeline’s help, although the battle lasted for many hours.  When the struggle finally ended, Lady Knight Esdeline looked at King Shayne and murmured, “Long live the king,” before falling to the ground and dying.  She did not pass on at that time, but the Black God returned her to life with one less life stone, as is its duty.

 

10.

Pathfinder, the Guide of Souls.  The Touchstone which guides searchers.

Pathfinder, often called the “Guide of Souls,” is yet another of the so-called “kindly” Touchstones, for its nature appears to be relatively innocuous.  According to historical record, Pathfinder has been used to discover the location of items or people who might otherwise have remained hidden.  It has a catch, though—the paths it blazes are, without exception, only the most direct routes, with no regard for ease of travel or potential obstacles along the way.

            Stories:

– In the early-300s, after the Shankill Butchers had been terrorizing northern Stemma for five years, a distraught peasant-woman named Alanna Greene organized a search party to try and root out the hiding place of the Shankill siblings.  Her young son Barnaby had fallen prey to the Shankills not once, but twice, and Greene and her fellow villagers were sick at heart with the fact of their children’s deaths.  The day before the party was to set out, Greene discovered a small, unfamiliar map on the ground outside her home.  The map showed only the surrounding countryside, but was highly stylized; and yet, Greene took it as a good omen and went to sleep that night with the map tucked under her pillow.  When she woke up the next morning and inspected the map, a path had appeared which pointed the way to the bandits’ lair—a cave that the Shankill siblings had carved into a rock outcropping deep in the wilderness of southern Hawksworth.  The search party followed the map’s directions and sure enough, there was the cave; the bandits were taken by surprise and executed for their crimes.  The map disappeared as soon as Greene and her fellow searchers reached the outcropping.

 

11.

 Hearthealer, the Salve of the Broken.  The Touchstone which heals the wounded.

Hearthealer, often called the “Salve of the Broken,” is the only Touchstone that is popularly believed to be wholly good, for it grants its holder an amazing capacity to heal.  Despite its almost universally positive reception, however, there are some individuals who dread the sight of Hearthealer for its ability to disrupt their plans.  Generally speaking, the Salve of the Broken is an extremely rare Touchstone; and it is commonly assumed to be the most powerful of the Touchstones by followers and scholars of the Gold God.

            Stories:

– After the Traveler and god-chosen Sybell Allard inadvertently spread plague to all corners of Éras in the fifth century, a young Xiros shaman by name of Delanou Natillesri appeared in Esos.  He bore no specific item, but seemed rather to embody the essence of Hearthealer itself; whosoever he touched with his god-granted magic was healed of plague immediately.  He spent many years traveling from region to region, helping to rid the peoples of Éras of Allard’s illness, eventually eradicating it from the world altogether.

 

12.

The Twelfth Touchstone.

Also known as the “Unknown Touchstone,” the Twelfth Touchstone has been referenced by the Goldentongues, although never by name.  No mortal, not even the Goldentongues, know what its abilities are.

Tuesday Tales, Part IV: Sybell Allard, Chosen of the Brown God

Sybell Allard, chosen of the Brown God.  Sybell Allard was a particularly hearty and strong-willed Traveler living in Éras in the fifth century.  She grew extremely sickly for a time with a severe disease that no healer could identify; but her body and will proved strong and she recovered after two weeks of hovering dangerously between life and death.  A short time after her recovery, Allard was out collecting berries by herself.  She noticed a deer grazing about her for some time, but thought nothing of it—until it suddenly looked up and addressed her, “Dear mortal, no fear—I mean you no harm.  I am the one you call ‘the Brown God’ and you have been deemed worthy of my attention.  You would be a fine addition to my retinue of helpers, if you would accomplish a task I have in mind for you.”  Honored, Allard agreed and was asked to collect a stone from the well of six towns spread all across the known world.

Allard, excited to announce her status to the world, pushed her band to travel further and faster than normal despite the dangers, and she succeeded in collecting the stones.  In her wake, however, a strange and virulent plague—not unlike the disease she had originally contracted—caught, and thousands of people died, starting with her entire band.  It was only after she had finished her travels and completed her task that Allard stopped to rest and witness the devastation that she had wrought.  Overcome with grief and fearful of spreading the disease further, Allard disappeared into the Paranomos and was never heard from again.