5: Ostentili the Forgotten

Profile

Ostentili is a kahlnissá female, a wilderness survivalist and stalker who stands 5′ tall and weighs 110 lbs. She is a keen tracker and hunter, and when not navigating a trail she usually prefers high vantage points in treetops and on mountain clearings. She emerged from the riverlands of east Hinn and west Wendajii seemingly from thin air, with no family ties or connections to speak of and a quiet, cautious social awareness. Her skin shows the obvious blotching and bumps from years of weathering and exposure to the elements. She seems to speak Delonian and Bwantaal, though rarely says more than a handful of words at one time. Few know the deeper origins of Ostentili and the collapse of the noble township of her youth. But most who speak Bwantaal know that her name is an obscure word meaning “the forgotten.”

Background

The River Deloni is the lifeblood of the province of Hinn, but it is also a dangerous place over the past several decades due to the growing tensions between the Empire and the Ommultic dissidents. Many noble houses along the northern Deloni fall in the midst of these skirmishes. This was the fate of the Ishterian family fifteen years ago in the events that followed the Massacre of Koloch. Sovereign Aeiwa Ishterian, the Lady of the Delonian Traes, ruled over a strategic settlement along the southern stretch of the river. A stable township for nearly one hundred years, she had negotiated a treaty protecting her lands, one that ensured tributes of food and resources from her farmers and laborers would be made available to traveling armies on both sides, as long as they agreed to cease hostilities within her borders. The peace lasted for eight years, until Peacekeepers raided an Ommultic supply train just north of the settlement. The Sovereign’s guard tried to hold back the fighting, but were caught in the middle of both the Ommultic soldiers and the Peacekeeper infantrymen. Nearly all the fighters were killed, and those who retreated returned to their commanders. The Ommultic dissidents blamed the Sovereign for siding with the Peacekeepers, and they retaliated by sacking her noble compound, just to send a haunting message to the Empire. The Peacekeepers believed the Sovereign had sided with the dissidents, and so they sent no aid to the settlement under attack out of spite–at least not until it was too late. Within two days, the soldiers had burned nearly the entire township, destroying every structure, displacing thousands of citizens, and killing the Sovereign along with her entire council, her two husbands, and all of her children. The tragedy ended the noble Ishterian family, and with no line of succession, the survivors gathered what they could and formed several disparate hamlets and villages further south along the river.

Unknown to anyone who struggled, suffered, and died during the massacre, a talented young kahlnissá remained hidden during the chaos and slaughter. Her mother had given her a bag of royal jewels and a waterskin, telling her to hide in the stable hand’s tack chest and imploring her not to come out for anyone–not until she knew it was safe. So, the young girl remained in the chest while she heard people screaming and fighting; she stayed still and quiet while the building crackled and burned around her. She said nothing when gruff men joked about how her entire family were burned in their own hall, laughing that none had survived. Only when she could hear nothing but silence for two full days did she emerge, but even then she would have stayed if not for the pain of thirst and hunger and the discomfort of being bound in her own refuse for such a long time.

The township of Koloch was smoking and empty, its roads torn and muddy, its buildings turned to cinder. There was no one there to see the forgotten girl run quietly to the forest above the eastern ridge of the township so she could get a better vantage point. The view from the trees she used to play in as a child offered a hauntingly different view that day. She was the only one left hearing the Yberre birds sing their autumn song. With a last look, she disappeared into the forest headed east into Wendajii.

The girl wandered as far east as the grasslands before deciding to turn south. In that sparsely wooded savanna she met an old man with thick, dark gray hair sitting by a fire, roasting nuts and washing berries. He smiled invitingly and gestured to the fire, but did not speak. For weeks of silence the young survivor shadowed the old man, watching him hunt, fish, stalk, forage, and climb all around the tall woods. Finally, he spoke. “Is time give you name,” he said in broken Delonian. “First tell Nymaal why you here.”

The girl thought for a moment, and then told Nymaal her story, recounting it as if it had happened to someone else. Nymaal waited in contemplation until finally he smiled. “Ostentili,” he said. It was a Bwantaal word that she did not know. “Ostentili,” Nymaal repeated, pointing at her. Her name was Ostentili. For over a decade Ostentili and Nymaal traveled together around the forests, mountains, and grasslands of Wendajii, until he grew too old to travel. She learned to live off the land, build clothing and protective gear from the bark and branches of trees, and be resourceful with what nature provides.

They stayed clear of civilization, clinging to the expansive wilds of the province; but when Nymaal knew he was to make his journey to the next world, he asked Ostentili to return and reclaim her birthright in Hinn. She refused, claiming that she could never live the life of a noble, especially after what had happened to her family. She added that none could claim to be the heir of Ishterian after what had happened and during all this time. Nymaal pointed to two stars next to the Rakwantu cluster, telling Ostentili to follow the path and accept where it leads. “There is more of this world that you must see,” he said to her in the Bwantaal language they had shared for so many years. “Go, read the signs, listen to the trees, and embrace what nature tells you.”

Ostentili entombed Nymaal beneath the roots of an acacia tree, said her goodbyes, and followed the path in the stars until she discovered a bizarre ruin nearly reclaimed by the vines and moss of the forests of Hinn. She felt drawn toward the ruin’s entrance, where she encountered a flat, disc-like shard of pale green radiant stone. Ostentili felt that she had to grasp the disc. It was resting in a depression, fixed to the entrance by a stone post that fit through a hole at the top of the disc. As soon as Ostentili grabbed the pale green stone, she felt connected to it. Nymaal’s words echoed in her mind: “…read the signs…” Her mind whisked away into oblivion; she began to see strange, underground caves and vast networks of tunnels. She floated through the corridors like mist until a great geode-like cavern opened before her, in the center of which rested a bright light.

A sound from above interrupted her pensive inspection of the stone, and her vision returned to the ruins before her. She looked above the entrance and saw a human thin as a skeleton. He chattered something in a foreign language that frightened Ostentili, and when the man left the alcove and disappeared, she wasted no time and rushed into the forest to escape. Later, she peeled the inner bark from a dogwood sapling and braided a cord to turn her pale green shard into a pendant.

Now she has returned to the west to see the Deloni. She appears as something of a literal definition of forest folk; her clothing and armor resembles a Joza shrub with its twisting branches and leaves. She speaks softly, often in cryptic poem-like phrases. She often speaks to Nymaal as if the pendant is an ear for him to listen.

005-Ostentili

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Fractalform is the gaming handle of Bret Woods--ethnomediologist, author, and lead developer of Augur's Lore RPGs. Bret is Thing 1 at http://descrypt-studios.com.

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