Memoir of Elias
A loud thud is audible in Whitemarsh Estate as a middle-aged man collapses on the floor of his bedroom, nowhere near his bed. He is shortly awoken by the sound of gears turning and a large bell softly clanging in the distance, the astrological clock atop the Eothan church signals it’s 3 in the morning. The man looks at his hands confused for a moment, almost surprised he still has hands, then to the open door of his room. No servant was awake to hear him fall. He quickly throws off the drowsiness and closing the door proceeds to the library, lantern in hand, with surprising fervor for someone who just collapsed or should be sleeping. He seemed to be driven by something that felt almost greater than himself. He quickly grabbed a couple of quills, parchment and inkwells and went back to his room, taking care that he doesn’t wake any of the residents of the estate. He sets the oil lamp on the side of his desk with the fire set to a low burn so it’s not visible from under the door. “I don’t have much time, what must be written should be bare-bones, I’m counting on imagination not working at its best today…”. He sits down, folds open the parchment and begins writing.
Esteemed reader, you are about to read a fragment of the memoirs of Lord Elias of Whitemarsh.
I have decided to share these scraps of thought and paper with you in order to clear the air, now and for future generations, about the acts committed by my brother Arwal at the battle of Goddamer Fields. Despite being part of the lower nobility, with the opinions of the common folk and slum-dwellers being of rare interest to me, I am utterly outraged at the tarnishing of my house’s fair name throughout the realm. Stories are that a massive barbarian horde from the eastlands ambushed the war-weary regiment, of which Arwal was part of, attracted probably by the overburdening of spoils of war. Now, seeing as not even a single miserable soul survived, accounts differ on what exactly happened there but there is a general consensus among both the nobility and the peasant folk that Arwal’s incompetence or unpreparedness led to the massacre there. It must be mentioned that it was impossible to even go back to Goddamer Fields and retrieve bodies or look for clues, not only out of fear of another barbarian incursion, but because the location itself after the battle resembled a used oven or a blacksmith’s burnt-out forge. The very air was blackened with soot, it was a charred graveyard with corpses turned to dust, as if the devil himself had subjected the regiment to his torments. Obviously a superstition, but that doesn’t dissuade the same people who badmouth my house from claiming that they can still hear souls howling at night from 3 villages away.
By this point you are probably asking how a man of reason and factual evidence shall recount the tale of my brother if there are no witnesses and neither I nor anyone articulate enough to provide the answers we seek are willing to go investigate the site itself. I have recently been convinced by my beloved daughter Lorraine to seek otherworldly help. I am not going to be a hypocrite and besmirch my own family in my writings, but what Lorraine lacks in pragmatism she makes up in the ability to persuade people(myself included) to at least bend an ear to her advice. My daughter advised me of the presence of some sort of travelling magician who, on occasion aids the villagers with tinctures and sage advice. I let people believe what they want, be it the teachings of the Monks of Eoth the Creator or advice from some magician, they’re both equally ridiculous in my eyes. Thanks to the current situation though for all the wisdom of Eoth’s clergy they do not possess any ability in divination, something this magician is supposed to have in such quantity that he’s giving it out for some eggs and a gallon of milk.
The visit was arranged in a subtle manner, so that the absence of the few people going wouldn’t be noticed. The group was comprised of myself, Lorraine, our caravan driver Florence and Ser Myndril of the Bent Blade. I have asked my companions to forego the gaudy clothing associated with meetings of the high-ranking, only Ser Myndril insisted to bring along at least some armor and his exotic weapon for which he got his title. Red light enveloped everyone as we stepped out of the estate, the sun was already kneeling on the horizon giving out its last rays for the day. The wind was howling something fierce as if a storm was brewing in the distance. With the days being so short this time of year and the weather, one could almost be forgiven for thinking about dark magic and howling souls and all that hogwash. We arrived at the unceremoniously named tavern “The Boar’s Bollocks” outside of which an eye-jarringly colored caravan was parked.
Swampwater greens mixed with washed out reds and yellows intertwined on the caravan’s walls, curved carvings on the side and roof with bells and strips of cloth hanging from them at random. In stark contrast to the haphazard paintjob and ornamentation the door was elaborately carved with various animal motifs - a cat standing on a bullfrog and an eyeless raven, wings spread, atop the cat’s head. The image almost seemed to be a mockery of the Eothan’s holy symbol(for the foreigners to the faith it can be described as a carved pillar with 3 outstretched arms holding diamonds skywards and horizontally) , but possibly placed there with the intent of inspiring some kind of reverence in the visitors. Ser Myndril entered first, followed by myself and Lorraine. An intense smell of herbs, a combination of burnt, dried and boiled was in the air. One could be thankful for that since there were various bits of animal bone, small splatters of blood and what looked like entrails thrown close to the door which surely would have had quite the unpleasant odor. Shelves and small pots lined the caravan walls with a small bed, an even smaller chair and a table being cramped up together in the back. For all the wisdom of this so-called soothsayer there wasn’t a single book on any of the shelves. The other random baubles that filled them weren’t of any particular interest to my person. Why anyone would keep such a large assortment of beads, animal skulls, fetishes, colorful yarns of wool and string in such a small home is beyond me. It’s as if this magician’s living quarters were designed to be the opposite of utilitarian. Laying on the bed in the back was a woman of an age that I could not place, physically she didn’t seem older than 40 or so winters but her lethargy in noticing us and her difficulty in movement more resembled a hag of 90 winters. Ser Myndril nearly lost his patience as the woman finally decided to open her mouth and speak to us. Her voice added to the mystery of her age as it was as spry and crystalline as a child’s who has never had a hardship in her life. She did not mind the intrusion, recognizing Lorraine as if they were old friends and welcoming us to her humble abode. My daughter took Ser Myndril by the arm and dragged him out of the caravan, all the while smiling back to the woman. It’s clear that she has been here numerous times, which could have caused quite a ruckus with the nobility worshipping Eoth, but I have to give her credit for her care and subtlety. Resolving her affairs without damaging the family’s name, something I was so desperately trying to redeem by embarking on this ridiculous quest. The witch stands up and presents herself as Ularaja, she claims to know why I am here - as all witches and soothsayers do. Standing as she was I managed to take a closer look at the curious being that I found myself alone in a room with.
- I shall make a disclaimer before I write further so as to dissuade the lust-drunken reader from wrongly interpreting what I am about to say. You may or may not know that my beautiful wife, the lady Dominica has died during the birth of Lorraine. One could easily interpret the following lines as the carnal desire of a widowed man for a witch, but by my honor I would not taint my heart with such foul stirrings. -
Ularaja was a woman that, despite her mysterious age, had a body that could put even the most expensive whores of Whitemarsh to shame, and she wasn’t trying to hide it one bit. Her garishly-colored gown being a poor veil (possibly so intended) to her voluptuous shapes as one could easily see most of the traits of womanhood beyond it. Most interestingly this entrancing and almost alluring physique was dotted by so many scars and stab wounds that you’d think she survived countless battles. She has somehow tried to mask them by carving further into her skin, the stab wounds being like stars in a spiralling constellation of scars. The sight was both grotesque and masterfully artistic, the scarified spirals and twists as if guiding your eyes from her neck to her breasts, to her long and shapely legs and nether regions. Going through this maze of hardened skin you could at times see needles of bone, as if it was holding her entire skin together as a dress for the soul. As much as a lesser man would be mesmerized by her shapes, her face was the crowning jewel to the oddity. Her hair looked like a magpie just nested in it, a tangled mess with bits and pieces of jewelry forgotten about it. Beyond the very meaty lips and chiseled nose were a pair of eyes that somehow worried me more than the scars on her body. One of them was an icy pale blue with a very small black dot in the middle that seemed to look through you instead of at you, the left eye was a hazelnut brown with a sort of joyful drunkenness about it. Had both eyes been the same one would assume she would propose all sorts of lewd and dishonorable activities for a man of my status.
In the time that I spent being simultaneously horrified and intrigued by her physical aspects, she took the time to claim to be horrified and intrigued by my visit. She told me something about the reawakening of old magic, avatars of fire and rage and the spirits of the dead. Without even allowing me to speak she insisted on us having a seance, the woman never once mentioned my brother nor allowed me to interject as she was almost caught up in a trance, the only eye never letting go of my figure was the icy orb in her right socket sending chills down my spine. As her ravings subsided Ularaja grabbed a pot and took it outside where we were met by Lorraine and Ser Myndril. The knight looked a bit out of breath, having prepared a circle of 4 stumps around a firepit outside as he was instructed by my daughter. I was starting to worry that she knew a bit too much about this little ritual she has brought me to. Our carriage driver was nowhere in sight, that lout Florence must be drinking himself silly inside the nearby tavern. Lorraine had already negotiated a price for the witch’s services, a basket of peaches from the estate’s orchard. I honestly wish she would have just taken some coins, those peaches were some of the juiciest the orchard has produced the last years, it was a shame to give them away. Although I did manage to understand her dislike for currency, given her looks she would probably be stoned or worse would she approach any civilized marketplace. The witch placed the pot over the now-burning fire pit and poured what looked to be water inside of it, she then went back into her home with Lorraine and the basket of peaches. Ser Myndril and I sat down on the stumps, the flickering fire before us piercing the fresh nightfall’s darkness with tones of yellow and orange. The wind started blowing something fierce again, but the fire didn’t seem to be affected. I was starting to get worried. Being autumn the leafless trees at the edge of the forest surrounding us looked menacing and we were a couple of good strides from the tavern if anything were to happen. The knight seemed uneasy as well, grasping the hilt of his double-bladed weapon that was now sitting between his legs. “My lord…” he said “what do you think can be gained out of this? This odd woman might be a barbarian herself from how she presents herself, and this circle at the edge of the woods is a perfect spot for cutthroats and brigands to leap out and rob us blind, or worse. If anyone makes a move my blade will find their throat”. I shared his worry, but silenced him, advising that if my daughter has survived supposed multiple visits to this woman we should have nothing to fear - especially with such a skilled warrior as yourself on our side. Confidence flowed strongly in my voice as I spoke those words, Ser Myndril was an absolute monster on the battlefield. He’s managed to best 3 other knights, at once no less, with that odd weapon of his at the tournament where I first met him. He grunted unimpressed by the compliment and reached for his philter of spirits, unfortunately for him it was completely dry. I’ve never seen anyone wielding something like that before, a blade shaped like two opposing crescent moons with a prolonged hilt in the middle, perfectly balanced - yet weighed in such a way that a strong strike could pierce armor and not bend or break the weapon...or at least no armor he’s faced managed to do so. The craftsmanship on it looked otherwordly, the sides of the crescent moons being decorated with metal filigree to the degree that it looks to be the work of someone who creates jewelry and ornaments instead of weapons made for combat.
The water was already boiling by the time Lorraine and Ularaja came out of the caravan. Both their faces were painted with some kind of colored dyes of blue and white. The witch handed a small bowl of white powder to myself and blue to Ser Myndril and told us to smother our faces with them so that we would be protected from the spirits during the ritual. As accepting as I am I was starting to be disappointed that my daughter would stoop to such base magicks that may not even work, I would need to have a serious talk to her about this once this ordeal was over. I was half-expecting palm-reading or looking into a magic ball or reading chicken liver or whatever these half-baked sorcerers usually conjure up for excuses for divination. After some protest I painted my face with the white powder, looking as if I had fallen into the granary. Ser Myndril on the other hand gruffed and barely applied some under his eyesockets as if to look even more menacing in the firelight. It is understandable that he didn’t want to dab his face in it, seeing him with a blue beard would have probably caused me and my daughter to laugh ourselves to death and then the seance would have been about us. Once this ridiculousness with the face painting was over the witch poured an unidentified liquid into the boiling pot of water, added a handful of ashes and some plants and mushrooms.
Steam quickly started to rise from the pot as the ingredients mixed with the water and the four of us, sitting on stumps were quickly enveloped by a damp mist. It took only moments for us to breathe it in that we were feeling boot drunk. Ser Myndril jumped to his feet alarmed, crescent moons in hand, but was unbalanced so hard by the drunkening mist that he fell ass first on the ground. The witch snapped at him and told him to sit down and listen, that the spirits would join us soon. My Lorraine wasn’t looking worried at all, as if the mist, the sensation of drunkenness, the potential dangers in the forest or of the witch were posing no threat to her at all. I don’t think I’ve even seen priestesses of Eoth being at such peace with themselves. It was a pleasure to see her like that, she somehow always felt so uncomfortable in the estate or in the temple...but she feels happy here in the wilderness? Part of me is saying that this is no way to act for a lady of the court, the daughter of a noble, one who at least makes lip-service to Eoth. I’ve never much thought about it before, but I do remember rumors that my dear Dominica - her mother, was found abandoned by the lord of the land on a hunting trip and adopted her because of her striking beauty. Could it be that there’s something in her blood to atune her to...barbarisms such as this? Are those emerald eyes and golden hair hiding a wild lineage? Of course not, it can’t be, she was raised at court since she was a child…
The pen trails off and it looks like the man is struggling with himself. “No, I said bare essentials! I don’t care about your wife, or your knight, or the witch or anyone at the seance! I want to hear about the beast! Focus you old fool!” The man falls off his chair with another loud thud, smashing an inkwell in the process. After writing on the floor for a couple of minutes he hears a knock on the door. “Master Elias? Are you all right? Do you need me to call a physician?”. After gritting his teeth and coming back as if from massive pain he answers “No, don’t worry, just had a bit too much rum last evening, you’ll need to work extra on my chamberpot in the morning though.” “Pardon for my inquiry master” the servant apologizes and footsteps can be heard going away from the door. Elias gets up and sits back on the stool, no longer fighting whatever inner demon had possessed him before. He completely disregards the fallen inkwell that was now soaking his carpet with dark fluid, just grabs the water pitcher next to his bed and takes a deep gulp before opening another parchment and getting back to writing. The clocktower can be heard again, it’s 4:45 but no dawn in sight. “I must hurry, this needs to be finished tonight, but these hands feel like they’re at the end of their strength.”
…And there we were, faces all dyed in various colors, sitting drunkenly around this large firepit. The witch Ularaja started chanting in a language completely unknown to me as she slowly stood up one hand raised to the sky and the other lowered against the pot on the fire. -The text trails off into scribbles of cuneiform runes and snaking symbols- As the ritual intensified we could all feel weighed down by something heavy, but it wasn’t the fog’s intoxicating effects setting in...it was a vision forming, one that we were all going to live together. I could feel the weight of a full-helm on my head and a half-plate with ringmail extensions on my chest. I clenched my fist as the shape of a spear held high started forming inside of it and a large red-painted shield tugged on my left arm, almost pulling me down as the straps were not tight enough. I could see Ser Myndril standing next to me in identical armor as well as the witch and Lorraine. An odd sight, I never thought I’d live the day to see women in battle garb, let alone my daughter. The laws of Whitemarsh strictly forbid women from entering military service. And then I saw him, my brother Arwal was riding past us on his chestnut mare, clad in some of the best plate our blacksmiths could forge and embellished with the symbols of our house, the wetlands willow. In one hand he held a large green flag with a white willow tree in the middle of it with visible roots sinking into the blue of the bottom of the flag, in his other hand he held a warhorn. He displayed our house’s symbol with pride, but passed us in some hurry and seemed to not recognize me. The rest of the vision materialized and it looked like we, and a large contingent of other soldiers were escorting wagons laden with everything you could think of - gold, wine, grains and something else...I took a closer look and there were barrel’s with the writing Eoth’s Fire on them. About 20 men behind us there were two peculiarly large covered wagons pulled by 6 oxen each instead of horses. My companions were following the line in silence, guided by the vision, but I couldn’t contain my curiosity. I didn’t know what Eoth’s Fire is or what was in those large wagons. The location, as much as the vision materialized of it, was unfamiliar to me, I didn’t know what to expect, what to do. Would we see Arwal’s actions from a distance? Or would we have to fight? Could we die in this vision? Or was this a trick to murder us and rob us as Ser Myndril theorized. I was gripped by panic but driven by curiosity. I broke rank and cracked open a barrel of Eoth’s Fire. I could hear shouting from the line, both from what looked to be a Sergeant and from Ularaja that I should get back in line, that I am endangering us all. I disregarded the phantasmal figure’s advice to stop and gazed upon the contents of the barrel. Inside I could only find what looked to me like ink, with an unusual smell and a rainbow sheen to it as the ghostly sun of the vision reflected on its surface.
A sharp sensation of physical pain filled my body the next instant as I could hear a thunderstorm of hooves and footsteps crashing down from the nearby hill, Arwal sounded his horn as loud as he could given the circumstance and dashed as fast as he could to the far back of the long line of wagons yelling “wake Garius and the Reverend, the barbarians are upon us!”. He completely disregarded the battle lines and left the sergeants to yell out the order for a shieldwall. Disgraceful! My brother would never do such a thing! And who is Garius and why would a sleeping man, of whatever statute be more important than the absolutely ridiculous amount of cargo we are protecting? I formed up with the rest of the ghostly gathering in a shieldwall and saw the barbarians yelling warcries and uttering profanity and blasphemy in a broken tongue. They held off the charge for a couple of seconds after seeing the wall of spears before them. My brother came back together with a small contingent of riders. He ordered the sergeants to hold the line, but not spread too thin. Keep 3 ranks of spears at all times, sacrifice wagons if needed but protect the covered ones at all cost. He then rode forward along the lines and entered the woods ahead which the vanguard of the caravan had already penetrated. It wasn’t long before the barbarian horde caught their breath, gathered courage and resumed their wild charge. They hit the first line with complete disregard to their own safety, trampling the dead bodies of their clansmen to strike at our spearmen while their cavalry charge completely smashed the battle line guarding the wine casks, thus separating the wall of spears. The Whitemarsh infantrymen drew their swords in response to the spears becoming useless at such close range and the backlines attempted a counter charge to relieve the near-dead first line and heavily pushed second line. You could see a similar tactic applied by the Thornwood, Rose Hill and Wolfrock troops with maces, flails, axes, whatever weapon the region was famed for. As the fighting intensified an old man in a robe scaled one of the wagons and raised up high a marble Eofix(the symbol of Eoth) staff and yelled at the top of his lungs “Eoth, creator of man, scourge the heretics with your divine might! Embolden our troops!”. Despite the numbers advantage of the barbarians my compatriots were suddenly emboldened, I could feel the strength of a hundred warriors course through my body, fear disappeared from the mind of my phantasmal avatar and I could almost feel that the sword would cut through solid stone if I would swing it now. What is this? Eoth’s teachings were written by mortal men, there is nothing divine about his texts as they only refer to civic and moral code, he can’t have such an effect on people, for if he would we should have conquered the land as far as the eye could see. This is just a perversion of reality, of course there would be magic in the visions of someone who considers herself a spellcaster. My awe was interrupted by the sounding of Arwal’s horn as him and his riders attempted to flank the barbarians from the side of the forest. A group of riders from the back of the caravan attempted to do the same, grinding them between two cavalry charges. The tide seemed to be turning in our favor when a volley of arrows skewered the Reverend with pinpoint accuracy. As his prayers turned to a gurgle of blood coming from his mouth everyone seemed to have lost their supernatural strength and the horror that was our fellow countrymen dying in droves around us returned. The pain of our wounds increased tenfold and the ranks started crumbling with despair and loss of morale. The sergeants were trying desperately to stop their soldiers from fleeing. The losses were too great on the frontlines. Arwal and his horsemen took out a chunk of the barbarian’s flank but their main line was slaughtering us like animals. When my brother returned to the lines I was hoping he would try to salvage some semblance of order or sound the retreat. Instead he did the unthinkable - he ordered the wagons with Eoth’s Fire to flee and the troops should defend them with their lives. It was an insane order given the situation, he was sending our countrymen to their deaths for some ink? The clanking of metal on metal was so loud that my senses were completely lost, I’ve lost sight of Ser Myndril, the witch and Lorraine. I feared for the worst and tried to retreat my spectral self. My legs were frozen in place just as my arms and my body were fighting by themselves up to this point. I’ve had little to no control over what I could do. I thought I could hear the rumbling of thunder from the two large covered carts, but it wasn’t thunder, no, it was living thunder. A massive set of armor, at least 3 men high smashed its way out of the cart, belching smoke from pipes on its back and wielding a large flaming mace. It looked impractical if not impossible to be worn by a man, what giant could wear such a thing? And the mace? How was it flaming without burning out? Time seemed to have slowed down as the massive armor slammed into the barbarians, throwing handfuls of them aside with each swing of its mace and fist. The men broke, even as the metal monstrosity was making easy work of the still blood-crazed savages. Another hail of arrows hit us as we started fleeing, one of them caught Arwal in the left eye - he looked to have died falling off his horse. As the armor was smashing at the barbarians it managed to wreck the carts of Eoth’s Fire. The black liquid spilled all over the battlefield and even those attempting to run got covered in it. As the flaming mace of the animated armor smashed its burning mace into the liquid-drenched ground everyone - barbarian and Eothan alike caught fire. Some managed to escape and were heading toward the wood for shelter. The last thing I saw was a great pillar of fire from the sky followed by the roar of a mighty beast. The pillar created a wall of flames to cut off any stragglers trying to run. The last thing I heard was a very loud hiss, as if a blacksmith was cooling something and a lot of steam was vented, followed by a deafening bang and indescribable pain across my entire body.
The next moment I was back in front of the witch’s home. Everyone was laid on their back on the ground next to the stumps as we were getting back to our senses. Ser Myndril jumped up and nearly sliced Ularaja in twain with his crescent moon-blades, but I ordered him to stand down. The witch was gasping for air, she was amazed at what she saw and bade us leave as quickly as she could since she has work to do for the rest of the evening. I couldn’t wait to leave the place and even Lorraine was in shock after the experience, this clearly was something she has never lived through before, despite visiting the witch numerous times. I would make sure to inform the Eothan Eclesiarch in Whitemarsh of this spiritual menace who taints the souls of men. I am no believer of Eoth, but I would sleep better at night knowing that there isn’t anyone practicing such foul sorcery so close to my estate. I got what I came for, my brother fought honorably, although the circumstances on his death raise questions that I would need to inquire about. Who is Garius and why is Eoth’s Fire so important all of a sudden? I need to ask my scribe to write all these down for me and send it to King Harold IX in the capital.
The quill trails off the paper as Elias faints one final time, this time remaining asleep. A gloved hand reaches out for the scrolls the man has just written and rolls them up. “It’s almost sunrise, I need to get out of here before the servants come and check on their master. I got lucky I got here before he notified the Eothans of his little trip. I forsee a bad ending for anyone who’s willing to talk about failed military technology endorsed by the leading faith. You’re supposed to be a pragmatic man Elias, use your head before you lose it to ravings about magic and machinery.”. The mysterious figure disappears with the scrolls into the ether.
Moments later the servants enter the room to check on their master’s health after tonight’s constant thumping. They’re surprised to see Elias of Whitemarsh still asleep on the desk, quill in hand.
-whispering- “ How could this be? The master doesn’t know how to write! Has he been taking lessons from the scribe during the night? Odd…”
-whispering- “Leave him there Ivan, he must have sleepwalked or dreamed funny, he doesn’t even have parchment. Best just forget about it, now let’s go tend to the lady Lorraine - she’s been sick for the past week ever since she came back with the master that night.”