Backstory (as told by Nofret)
I grew up in the Empire, in a tiny village called Lodbrod. Lodbrod, despite the fact that it is only one hundred miles south of the capital of Tamzyrr, has no tradition of hating nonhumans and has a long tradition of self-government and independent thought. The Empire, with its tradition of slavery and prejudice, is not loved in Lodbrod. The people of the village pay their taxes. That is all.
My life, as the daughter of Thannan Hrist, schoolmaster , and Julien Hrist, brewer and co-owner of The Sleeping Dragon Tavern, was peaceful and uneventful--at least, as peaceful as possible for the baby in a family of five children. But eventually, my brother wed and bought the mill in town; my eldest sister married a Solhaven wool merchant; my second oldest sister left home to be an empath in Pinefar; and my third eldest sister went into partnership with Mother, becoming--as women in our family often do--a brewer and a tavern-keeper.
From the time I was very small, I knew that I was destined to be a bard. However, my parents feared for me, feeling that life on the road was too harsh and too perilous for a girl. Therefore, when I was young, a marriage was arranged for me with Tavis Iller, the son of my father's best friend.
Tavis and I never fell in love, but we fell in like. We very probably would have married and had a not particularly passionate but very friendly marriage had not Tavis, who longed to be a cleric and who was a devout follower of Lumnis, had not become obsessed with the idea of finding a lost shrine of hers in Danjirland. After much persuasion, he convinced his family to let him go.
It was a disaster. Tavis--or someone using his face and form and voice--returned a year later, his eyes wild, glittering, and insane. His features, which had been handsome, were now never still. He spoke, but his words were no more than unintelligible syllables. He alternately attacked and cowered from his family, shrieking as he did so. After four days of this, he died, babbling of a man with a jackal's head who visited him in dreams.
Of course, as Lodbrod is not a particularly religious village (one in which the pantheon of Liabo is only given lip service and the one from Lornon is ignored completely), no one knew of whom Tavis spoke. It was eventually decided that he had died from some previously unknown disease that drove him mad.
However, I knew that I could remain in Lodbrod no longer, now that Tavis and our betrothal no longer bound me here. To the consternation of my parents, I left, taking up with an irascible wandering gleeman named Gath Witchlight. He taught me the rudiments of performing, for which I shall always be grateful. However, he proved reluctant to leave Imperial territory, which I longed to do, as the Empress refused permission for us to perform many songs, stories and plays that might be construed as 'rebellious'. I wanted the freedom to say and do and think as I pleased. So, after three years of apprenticeship to Witchlight, I bade him farewell, and headed for the Landing. Once there, I settled down to the normal life of an adventurer, swiftly being taken under the wing of Lord Jhernish and his fiancee. Yes, everything seemed quite normal, until the Incident of the Coastal Cliffs.
It was the Day of the Huntress, the 28th day of Eoantos, 5099, when the incident occurred. (I suppose, as the time was 1:00 a.m. elven that it was actually Feastday, but we'll let that go.) I had been hunting sea nymphs on the Coastal Cliffs for about a half-hour, and I had an appalling headache.
Fearing that the headache would be distracting should I meet up with any more nymphs--not to mention leapers and carrion worms, which also inhabit the cliffs--I headed for the North Gate of Wehnimer's Landing. But once I arrived there, I was confronted with a swirling vortex.
Now, all who live in the lands know of the Vortex, the terrible rip in time and space that snatches up adventurers and monsters alike, and then drops them elsewhere.
I had heard terrible stories about the Vortex: how one young man of five trainings had been sucked into it and had been deposited in the Rift, an extraordinarily dangerous hunting ground so perilous that only one with twice the training of a legend has the barest chance of survival. How a youth of but four trainings had been transported from the outside of Wehnimer's Landing to the area beneath the crypt, which is populated by arch wights, creatures so strong that he would have needed five times the trainings he possessed in order to slay them. One poor girl walked out the North Gate to slay kobolds and roltons and found herself in the Sheruvian Monastery, a place of great hazard even to the most experienced, and populated with insane undead. Another young adventurer was in the catacombs when he was transported to Danjirland--which richly deserves its name. Most of these youngsters had been killed at least once upon arriving at their "destination," some often enough to exhaust all of Lorminstra's favor. Others were lost in the Vortex for hours, unseen and unheard by any potential rescuers.
At the time, I had recently completed two trainings. I did not have a crystal amulet with which to call for help, nor did I have a gold ring, which would teleport me to a safer place, if I removed it. Nor was my longsword blessed, so if a swarm of high-level attacked me undead, I would not be able to fight back. I knew what it was like to perish at their hands, too; when I was still in my first training, an arch wight killed me near House Argent Aspis. If I were to be caught in the Vortex, I would very likely die.
All this flew through my mind in two seconds. Then I fled west-northwest along the old merchant road, going back the way I had come.
I had just left the road and headed west when I chanced to hear an unseen someone speaking, though I could not hear the words. Thinking it might be a rogue I stopped. If I had been robbed, or was about to be, I wanted to know who the guilty party was.
But I heard no snickering, and no such advice that a master rogue might give to a young apprentice. Instead I heard a voice say in an icicle voice, "The Chosen One is near. There is not much time left for us."
I was still thinking that the "Chosen One" was an exceptionally rich adventurer who had been targeted as a potential victim of grand larceny. So I was shocked when I heard a second voice reply in a hate-filled hiss, "Strike we shall silently, when they least expect it, silently and lethally. They do not believe in us any more. They account us a myth."
The words, "No one hunts for a myth," floated through my mind.
As if in response to the second one's words, the world grew cold--colder than Icemule Trace or Pinefar ever dreamed of being. Sound leached out of the world, even the natural noises of the birds and the animals of the forest. Within seconds, the world was oppressively still.
Suddenly the air was slashed by ruthless, inhuman laughter--at least, it sounded like laughter. But there was no joy or humor in it, however twisted. It froze the marrow of my soul. Panicking, not caring if they noticed me or not, I fled west.
I had only gone west twice, however, when I entered a quiet area of the cliffs and saw a woman. Now, this being the Coastal Cliffs, it was not unusual to see strange women standing about. Sea nymphs are common in those parts, and you ignore them at your peril, for they are very aggressive and will attack even those who are not attacking them. Moreover, they are often wealthy, which gives most adventurers--me included--a good reason for hunting them.
This woman, however, did not look like a sea nymph, though I honestly couldn't see what else she could be. She was the queenliest woman I ever saw. She was tall and slim, with hair like winter sunlight, and with pale skin the shade of moonlight on snow. Her eyes...well, you could stare into those gray eyes forever and never fathom the depths of the mysteries they concealed. She was dressed in a gown of misty white, with a cloak of deepest black over it. Sometimes the colors almost seemed to mingle; other times, they were totally separate. She bore in her hand a white, almost crystalline staff. Her expression was grave, like that of a mother who sees her child playing too near the edge of a cliff, but who dares not rush to save him because he might panic and run the wrong way. She stood watching me, not speaking.
I had no idea who the woman was. At a guess, I thought she might be queen of the sea nymphs. She certainly was no adventurer--I generally sense my fellow adventurers' names–and ordinary monsters tend to attack first, not to stand waiting to be attacked. Whoever she was, she was a Personage, and not to be trifled with.
Out of some dim sense of propriety, I sheathed my sword and put up my shield, then curtsied to the Lady. "May I help you, my Lady?" I said.
She began to speak cryptic words. "Your salvation lies in sleep and dreams; without it you cannot prevail. Only this will save you when danger comes from the sky. Go. Tell your people."
My heart was stammering ten thousand questions, but as soon as she had finished, she melted away into air.
I went all the way to the edge of the Coastal Cliffs, but no one else had seen a supremely beautiful woman anywhere on the Cliffs. In fact, a few people insisted that they had just come up the merchant road heading west, and not only had they not seen the Lady, they hadn't seen me, either. That gave me chills. If they hadn't seen me, where had I been? And who was this woman?
I wandered about for days, seeking answers to what had happened to me. After pestering many lords and ladies (on the grounds that, since they were older than I, they might know a bit more history), a consensus was handed down. The lady was no less than Lorminstra, the Goddess of Death and Rebirth. The voices, more problematic, were decreed to be alternately the Vvrael, evil spirits, or dark assassins.
None of this meant anything to me at the time. (One of the problems of growing up in a secular village.) Lady Avira and Lady Darcena advised me to speak to Lord Truekillr, who had met the Vvrael in battle before.
I did contact Lord Truekillr, who taught me a bit about the Vvrael, and whose praise of Lorminstra was unparalleled.
Still, I hesitate to call the woman whom I beheld Lorminstra--it sounds too much like bragging. Consequently, I never refer to her as Lorminstra, and will say quite openly that I do not know who the Lady is...only that she is good, and spoke the truth, though I still do not understand what her words meant. I do believe her to have been Lorminstra, however, if only because of the impact she had on my life.
After her appearance, I found myself longing to do things that would please her. Consequently, I made a great number of sacrifices at the Temple in the Landing. But after a time, that no longer seemed to be enough. I heard many of the Mentors at Silverwood Manor speaking of Voln, and I asked them if they thought that my Lady would be pleased if I joined. The answer--a resounding "Yes!" from all I asked--persuaded me to go to Voln and ask the Volners of their Order. Lord Strendor (may he be blessed) took the time to speak to a young and confused bard about the history, philosophy, and responsibilities of the Order. He effectively converted me that night. I joined the Order that night, and have rejoiced in that decision ever since.
Shortly thereafter, I traveled to Icemule with Arimantis and remained there for six weeks because I was convinced that I would die, should I attempt to leave without an escort. While there, I had many run-ins with storytellers, legends and Luukosians. It was at that time that I formed some critical friendships and became utterly and completely opposed to Luukos. Prior to this, my chiefest thought had been to avoid Luukos and his power if I could. Now I learned more of him and his followers, and I learned to face my fears and myself.
Later, after I left Icemule, I began to explore the lands extensively. I also participated in many storytelling contests, eventually attracting the attention of Dagor, the manager of the Traveling Minstrel Troupe. I was inducted into the Troupe after nine trainings, making me the youngest member with the least trainings. I have performed at the Silvergate Inn gala (that was my debut performance, when I had trained but three times) , House Argent Aspis, House Jakarta [N.B. now Clan Jakarta], Twilight Hall (a performance in which I played some pieces by Dreamweaver, and where no other Traveling Minstrel performed that night) and at the Bazaar on Teras Isle.
Recently, during the past two trainings or so, I read a scroll by Arimantis about his concern for two friends of his who were being tormented by Luukos. Although I did not know these women, I nevertheless trekked up the glacier to offer my help and my support to Arimantis, who had always tried to aid me in bad situations, and whom I consider to be one of my closest friends. I couldn't bear to think of a friend being so troubled without trying to alleviate his pain, somehow. Through him, I met Dapplecloud, Ilvane, Fremie, and later Kadesha, as well as becoming better acquainted with Jipzy and Iscikella. Although I believed that the crisis would be of short duration, that crisis, and those that followed, were not. We learned to fight, and to fight together, against those who were eager to find that relic (supposedly, the petrified black heart of Amasalen) in order to gain power and invoke it against all souls, living and dead, in Icemule. Many of our number have been cursed or tormented by Luukos, Sheru, Amasalen, and their followers, and we have found ways to thrust back the evil forces and ease the pain--physical, mental or spiritual--of our number, and of those whom they would strike at. (As the youngest of this group, I am often bitterly conscious of my own physical weakness, though I can usually fight the followers of evil in a spiritual argument.) I regret that we have not yet defeated these evil forces, but I have every hope that the Lady will guide us through to victory.
I wish I could end this properly, but I cannot. There is no proper ending. This is only my life, so far. I hope there will be far nobler deeds for me to do in the future.
(Thanks to House Daingneach Onoir for preserving this.)
- Loresong for Chortel's Orb from the Thurfel Quest
- Loresong for a mummified dog's head (gives first-hand account of Shadowguard and Maelshyve)
- Odd Occurrences Around Icemule Trace, the Elanthian Times, Volume Two, Issue 1, March 2000 (provides more detail about the events mentioned in the last paragraph above)
- The Legend of the Goat Festival by Nofret Hrist
- The Legend of the Snow Fort by Nofret Hrist
- The Legend of the Waterfall by Nofret Hrist
- The Stone Teardrop Loresong from the Meyno Quest
- The Two Sisters by Nofret Hrist