The Coming of the Zioth

Guillaume

Tall and handsome, Gillaume son of Heliand is the image of the heroic warrior. His chin is broad and his smile broader. His face is carefully shaven, and his brown hair would fall in curls if it weren’t for the closely cropped, monastic haircut. His hands are calloused and strong, but his long fingers give them a kind of elegance. Gil’s voice is deep and his bearing is soldier straight. In his clear, blue eyes, one sees an odd humility and an unexpected kindness.

Biography

Appears in turns (none yet).

When Gil was young, old enough to butcher a hog properly, but no older, there came a day when his father took him away from the slaughterhouse and out of Haelbourg to go walking in the woods. On that bright autumn day, his father said many things to him. This was memorable because his father seldom spoke more than a handful of words together.

“Men got three differn' kinds of courage,” old Heliand had said.

“One kind just got no fear. That kind a man ain't right in the head an' he prob'y don' live too long. Prob'y got no sense 'bout what's right nor wrong, neither. The other kind, he push his fears down. He hide his fear, even from himself. That man looks brave, but he always have to keep runnin'. Not runnin' with his feet maybe, but runnin' with his heart. Always tryin' to keep the truth he want one step ahead of the truth what is. Most people, they runnin' like that, but they never know it.”

The leaves crunched beneath their feet. In a clearing across a stream, a pheasant took flight.

“You said three kinds, father, that was only–”

“I know it!”, his father cut in sharply. “I comin' to that.” He let out a long sigh. “Third kind a courage is the man who knows his fear, man who can hold his fear up and look right at it. Then he do what needs doin' anyhow. Keeps his heart soft. Lives where the truth lives. You got that third kind, boy. I seen it.”

He stopped walking and looked right at Gil. “Don't you give that up, boy. The truth is the hardest path, but it's the only path worth walking.”

This was dangerously close to blasphemy.

Gil protested. “I don't–”

“You will.”

There was another long silence. Neither father nor son moved.

“Fear ain't your enemy,” Gil's father finally continued. “Fear's just fear. An' it usually got somethin' to say that's worth hearin'. Sometimes, it's just sayin', 'Don't do that. That gonna hurt.' But sometimes it's sayin', 'Come over here. Look at this. This over here is the truth.'”

The golden sun of morning had abandoned them to an overcast afternoon. A chill wind slid through the trees like a boning knife.

“Don't walk towards fear, boy, but don't walk away from it neither. Just look for the truth it tells and let the truth be true. Truth'll tell you what needs doin'.”

A shorter pause.

“You know what happens when Farinon come?”

Gil stood perfectly erect. “I–”, he looked down, swallowing hard. Then he looked back up at his father. “The Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
. In Farinon I go to the House of Morenthplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
.”

“That is the truth,” his father muttered.

They walked back to the city. Nothing more was said.

All the younger boys bunked together and served or studied in whatever way they were told. Like Gil, these were mostly the firstborn sons of converts to the faith. Their fathers, for a variety of reasons, had undergone the difficult conversion required to join the faithful. Those men who could not also make a meaningful donation in coin or labor, offered the promise of their firstborn sons. It was no honor to come in to the Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
in this way.

One might imagine that a place with fifty boys living together would be a place where friendships could develop, a place where a noble sort of rough-and-tumble social order could emerge, a place where, for all its faults, some fond memories could be made. It was not so, at least not for Gil. The priests that watched over them were merciless and all seeing. Any boys that looked like allies, let alone friends, were separated promptly. If any boy was seen performing a kindness for another, both were beaten. At every turn the lesson was: You are all worthless and you all deserve misery. All beauty and happiness belong to Morenthplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big Morenth

Morenth's theology revolves around the simple idea that the entire universe belongs to him, and humanity is barely worthy to bask in his radiant presence. Those who refuse to acknowledge this simple, self-evident fact heretics, and deserve punishment or death. There is no repentance for heretics
.

For all of this, there was a certain sense of place instilled in most boys. “I may be worthless,” the feeling said, “but I am Morenthianplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big Morenth

Morenth's theology revolves around the simple idea that the entire universe belongs to him, and humanity is barely worthy to bask in his radiant presence. Those who refuse to acknowledge this simple, self-evident fact heretics, and deserve punishment or death. There is no repentance for heretics
. I may be worthless, but I am better those outside the Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
.” There was a right way and a wrong way to do things and it could be learned. There was a path laid before these boys and they were shown how to walk it. Gil walked the path. He tried to feel that it was his path, but the priests' eyes pierced him. Nothing was said, but somehow everyone knew. Gil didn't belong here.

They all learned the basic rituals: the cleansing, the low songs, the Sign of the Worthless, but it didn't take long before it was clear which ones would become upper priests and which would not. Some were made to read the manuscripts, taught how to anoint the snakes, initiated early into the secondary mysteries. These boys were taken away at the age of ten or eleven to become acolytes and climb the ladder of the upper priesthood.

It was well-known that any boy still in the bunkhouse at the age of twelve, and this was about half of them, was destined for the lower priesthood. These would live a life of menial labor within the Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
, priests in name only. Only the cleansed and sanctified could live in the Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
and enter it's innermost places. But someone still had to do the cooking and mending. Someone had to keep the dust from the relics and carry water for the baths.

At fourteen, Gil was the oldest boy in the bunkhouse. All his peers had been called away to serve in various ways at least a year ago. Finally, cruel old Master Gobhorn who ruled the bunkhouse with an iron fist called him aside.

“What do you hope for, Gil?”

The expected response was ritual, and Gil did not disappoint.

“I hope only for suffering, Master. I am worthy of nothing more.”

The old man sneered. “Very well, then, Guillaume. But none of the lower sects here are even willing to grant you suffering.”

Gil couldn't read the old man's expression. He had no idea what this might mean. No idea what to hope for.

“You are to join the Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
Guard.”

That was unexpected. Possibly it was a joke of some kind. The House of Morenthplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
did not have a guard. The townsmen of Haelbourg provided threescore men at arms to patrol the streets around the Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
, and no one in the city would dare to disrupt the place anyway.

The Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
Guard, Master?”

“In Maelbourgplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big Maelbourg

[This map is obviously missing a lot. There aren't huge open spaces in Maelbourg.]

Maelbourg is a walled town in the Barony of Huerten, with a population of approximately six thousand. Its primary exports are textiles, wool and coal, the last of which it acquires from deposits in the nearby hills. The land on which the town sits was added to maelbourg index
,” spit the old man. “You are to go to the Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
in Maelbourgplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big Maelbourg

[This map is obviously missing a lot. There aren't huge open spaces in Maelbourg.]

Maelbourg is a walled town in the Barony of Huerten, with a population of approximately six thousand. Its primary exports are textiles, wool and coal, the last of which it acquires from deposits in the nearby hills. The land on which the town sits was added to maelbourg index
. They muster their own guard there.”

It was clear that the old man thought this was a fate on the same order as eternal damnation. It didn't sound so bad to Gil.

The Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
Guard in Maelbourgplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big Maelbourg

[This map is obviously missing a lot. There aren't huge open spaces in Maelbourg.]

Maelbourg is a walled town in the Barony of Huerten, with a population of approximately six thousand. Its primary exports are textiles, wool and coal, the last of which it acquires from deposits in the nearby hills. The land on which the town sits was added to maelbourg index
did turn out to be somewhat better than the boy's dormitory in Haelbourg. The physical training was rigorous, but Gil soon excelled in that regard. The life was terribly boring, but the sense of camaraderie among the men was fostered rather than quashed. For the first time in many years, Gil had friends. He lived as one of the Guard for ten years and believed–almost–that he had found his calling.

The religious rituals were still a major part of each day and Gil still felt horribly out of place while performing them. It was necessary, though, for the Guard to remain properly cleansed so that they could stand watch at the innermost gates. In the name of readiness, they must even be prepared to pass within those gates to defend the upper priesthood and the rarest of the relics should some sort of emergency arise.

If the religion didn't suit Gil, the rest of the life did. The sense of duty. The loyalty to a cause. The constant, strenuous exercise. The competitive thrill of sparring in the yard. The respect, even admiration, of his peers. It was only the uneasy sense of being out of place that held satisfaction at bay.

Yes, life was good enough, if utterly predictable.

Until Balban's army showed up.

The uncertainty and violence in the town brought tension within the Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
, too. In an unprecedented move, units were even detached from the protection of the Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
itself to stand watch on the walls and to patrol the streets. The priesthood wanted to make a show of force. It also wanted loyal eyes reporting what was going on in the city.

Gil had been allowed outside the Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
grounds so rarely, that he hardly knew how to navigate the city. It was difficult to focus on duty during the day, when every sight and smell was a new experience.

At night, the new experiences brought new dreams. Ominous creatures stalked these dreams, and bizarre cruelties. But always, just before he awoke, the twisting dream streets led him to a an unremarkable man in dirty clothes who was surrounded by a halo of joyous light. For many days in a row, Gil awoke with this man's visage in his mind and with an unfamiliar sense that everything would be OK.

All his senses seemed heightened these days. He felt as though he could see directly into men's hearts. Here and there he thought that he could see evil written on men's faces as clearly as words in a book. He was always nervous. Always excited.

Finally, on the morning of eleven Saulturithagon, while marching from the Houseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
to the city walls, his attention fell on a man rolling a beer barrel through the streets. He was pale and overweight, beginning to go bald, and, though he lacked any halo in waking life, Gil knew him as the man from his dream.

“That man over there,” Gil hissed, nudging the man marching next to him, “do you know who he is?”

His comrade looked at him strangely, and then spat. “He's the Andrithanplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big Andrithanism

Based on original ideas from Karl Schinke (Ardith). Symbols for aspects other than the Mother, along with the artwork, were contributed by Myron Wyles (Halaren).

Andrithanism and its variants are the dominant religion in Rang and the surrounding kingdoms. Within the boundaries of
Priest. Haldon? Something like that.” He grinned and muttered under his breath, “Let's go take him down a peg!”

Gil's heart stopped. If it hadn't been for a sharp jab in the ribs from the man behind him, he would have fallen out of ranks. All the pieces dropped into place at the same time. Andrithaplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big Andrithanism

Based on original ideas from Karl Schinke (Ardith). Symbols for aspects other than the Mother, along with the artwork, were contributed by Myron Wyles (Halaren).

Andrithanism and its variants are the dominant religion in Rang and the surrounding kingdoms. Within the boundaries of
. His mother's goddess, whose name was spoken in his childhood home only in whispers. The lifetime of feeling out of place. The odd dreams. He was never meant to serve Morenthplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big Morenth

Morenth's theology revolves around the simple idea that the entire universe belongs to him, and humanity is barely worthy to bask in his radiant presence. Those who refuse to acknowledge this simple, self-evident fact heretics, and deserve punishment or death. There is no repentance for heretics
. He was born for a purpose and that purpose was to fight for the cause of Andrithaplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big Andrithanism

Based on original ideas from Karl Schinke (Ardith). Symbols for aspects other than the Mother, along with the artwork, were contributed by Myron Wyles (Halaren).

Andrithanism and its variants are the dominant religion in Rang and the surrounding kingdoms. Within the boundaries of
. Though he could not say how he knew this, he knew it more clearly than he had ever known anything before.

Somehow he had to leave the House of Morenthplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big The House of Morenth

As the primary place of worship for a population of six thousand, the House of Morenth is an enormous structure, perhaps five or six hundred feet across at the longest, but it's not just one big rectangular building. It looks like it's been added to many times over hundreds of years. Whether the building is bigger or smaller underground is impossible to tell. It is known that a library exists under the House, to which access is severely restricted. Expensive glass windows d…
. Somehow he had to go see that priest. Neither of those things was possible. Both ideas filled him with a rising terror.

He kept marching.