11: Worbyr the Guardian of Wildfolk

Profile

The Savage Guardian of the Wildfolk is a brutal scrapper known among the Kimenians of the Northern Wilds as Worbyr Gray. Worbyr is a fiercely strong ais’lun warrior who stands 4′ 1″ tall and weighs 120 lbs. His muscular frame and gray, patterned skin has few of the signature bumps typical of most ais’lun, and those who stand close to him usually notice that he has an extra finger on each hand. Years of living as a warrior protector over his home town has left him with a keen sense of his surroundings and the fear and respect of others, but his status, ancestry, and even his appearance have contributed to a lonely life. Worbyr wears a thick, translucent shard of pale stone pierced through his nasal bridge and two smaller crystal shards that serve as plugs for each of his ears. His chin is bare and displays a scarred symbol denoting the sign of his birth; his bluish-black hair is kept shaved above the ears and is braided to the top and back of his head. Secretly he yearns for a normal life, to be treated as any other person from the free lands. When his tribe traveled into the northern Weyell forests, Worbyr found a strange stone in a body of water and was drawn toward its power. Shortly later he was brought to a wizard named Raelek, the first person ever to treat Worbyr as a normal man. After the two parted ways, Worbyr left behind the life of a wildfolk scrapper to wander the Empire on his own.

Background

The nomadic Moon’s Shadow tribe in the northern wilds are a group of Kimenian hunters who circle the landscape with the seasons just as the humans of old had done. They are a capable group of humans, but for nearly a century the Moon’s Shadow tribe has been pushed outside of their ancestral hunting grounds by warring neighbors who value power and resource over spirituality. The past five generations, especially, have brought troubling raids into the central wilds, where whole clans have been wiped out in the name of domination and control, their songs and stories lost forever. The Moon’s Shadow tribal elders were resourceful leaders, but they had no way to fight the aggressive attacks and maintain control of their hunting grounds, and so their only recourse was to move their people north to avoid the coming danger. And thus for three generations, the Moon’s Shadow tribe has lived in the spruce-bound wilds east of Ro’enrak, a small town far in the north near the descending hills of the Barren Wastes.

While out hunting mountain elk further west during the early snows, four young Moon’s Shadow archers found a small baby in the rocky hills. The child was alone and helpless, and so the archers took the babe back to the Moon’s Shadow to ask the elders what they should do. The tribal elders thought the foundling was a sign, and gathered all the Moon’s Shadow around the communal fire. There, wise Elder Yarbella shared a story of prophecy through the dancing flames. The story told of a belief long held by the first Moon’s Shadow who were forced to leave behind their ancestral hunting grounds. It was said that the Moon’s Shadow fled north toward the edge of the brush in order to escape defeat, but that the gods promised them they would one day return. The elders of the day began a ritual of remembrance thanking the gods for their survival, and believed that every member of the tribe knew of the stories, songs, and landscapes of their ancestors, that after four generations the gods would grant them a warrior to lead them south and protect them from raiders. Elder Yarbella took the infant under her care and raised the boy among the Moon’s Shadow.

Worbyr was well provided for among the Moon’s Shadow, but truthfully he was always treated as an outsider of sorts; other children were kept at a distance from him, adults feared him, elders coddled him, and common citizens held him on a pedestal. His ais’lun form was clearly not human, which certainly set him apart in appearance. And his hands and feet each had an extra digit, which the elders interpreted as a sign that he was the progeny of the gods sent to protect Moon’s Shadow. It was a strange childhood for anyone to endure, but as Worbyr grew his strength, agility, command of presence, and aptitude for fighting only bolstered the beliefs that he was the chosen guardian to lead the Moon’s Shadow back into their ancestral home. Even though it was a lonely place to hold among the Moon’s Shadow, Worbyr always knew he had a true purpose among his people.

When Worbyr was thirty years old, the elders gathered the Moon’s Shadow and decided that they would leave during the coming of the cold winds. But there were many young Moon’s Shadow who had come to embrace the north as their home. The tribe voted, and they decided that without a sign from the gods, they would stay in the north. They did not want to uproot their new home to travel into dangerous lands. Only a handful of the Moon’s Shadow remembered first hand what their ancestral home was like, and so they felt safer staying where they were. Worbyr was conflicted. He wanted to fulfill his destiny, but the elders needed to decide that all the Moon’s Shadow were leaving and it was clearly not a popular decision. The elders decided that Worbyr should allow the gods to guide them, and convinced the young ais’lun fighter to travel north into the Wastes on a solo hunt. If Worbyr could slay a great mastodon on his own, the tribe agreed that he was strong enough to keep all the Moon’s Shadow safe when they traveled south.

Worbyr traveled north of Ro’enrak in the direction of two great white mastodon, excited and scared. The larger of the two had brilliant, white fur, while the smaller’s fur was brown and black and white speckled. The smaller mastodon also had only one tusk; the other appeared to have been broken and in the process of growing back. Worbyr took this as a sign and decided that the gods wanted him to take the smaller of the beasts. This was more than a test for the Moon’s Shadow, this was Worbyr’s personal test. He was asking the gods if they truly granted him the power of a warrior with a grand destiny. He wanted to know why he had spent his whole life different. Why did the gods leave him in the rocks for the Moon’s Shadow to find? The great hunt was deeply personal and spiritual for Worbyr. After tracking the great snow beasts for a time, he followed them into a valley at Brush End. There fashioned a great spear of dogwood and hardened the stone tip with tree pitch. As the great beasts grazed in the snow willows, Worbyr jumped from the ridge onto the giant back of the smaller mastodon–still larger than any creature he had ever seen up close. The back of the lumbering, furry monster was larger than the floor of his lodge back home among the Moon’s Shadow. Just as he had been taught to slaughter a boar, Worbyr drove the spear head into the base of the mastodon’s skull. The creature roared in pain and began to run, as did its partner, further into the frozen dogwood trees. It took Worbyr three more tries until the giant hulk crumbled into the snows and breathed its last breaths.

The victorious hunter immediately built a fire and began to work on the great beast. Even fallen to its side the giant rose taller than a lodge and longer than the communal fire back at Moon’s Shadow. Worbyr had to build a small shelter and spend days butchering the creature and preparing the meat for preservation. The Moon’s Shadow had a technique for cold preserving meats by wrapping them in fatty flesh and salting the outside. Worbyr built a sled out of the mastodon’s rib cage, filling it with meat. He traded half the meat to settlers in Brush End for a team of dogs who could pull the remainder of his hunt back home to Moon’s Shadow. Two weeks after leaving Worbyr had returned with enough supplies for a trip south. Tribal members finally agreed that Worbyr Gray was a true gift of the gods and the one to protect them. After a ceremony of celebration and renewal, Worbyr took the tusk of the mastodon skull as a trophy. It is a dense, fibrous material far stronger than stone or bronze that the tribal makers shaved and tempered into a weapon for Worbyr. He named the weapon “Savage Tooth.”

The Moon’s Shadow traveled south, and in a year’s time they were back in the coniferous forests of their ancestral homeland. The people rejoiced, and there were years of plenty as the Moon’s Shadow could see the lands described only in song and story since their youth. It truly felt like a return, but soon became a contentious one as nearby territorial tribes began to fight the Moon’s Shadow for entering “their” lands. And so Worbyr lived up to what the prophecy decreed of him. He was a savage warrior, fast and unrivaled, and he wielded Savage Tooth fearfully. Over the two decades Worbyr became a powerfully respected and feared warrior. The Moon’s Shadow hailed themselves as the “first tribe,” but they became better known as “death’s shadow,” dangerous, ruthless, a people to be feared, and the worshipers of death. The southlands did not know the stories of the Moon’s Shadow, so the people of the conifers saw Worbyr’s tribe as violent invaders. The elders of the old prophecy had passed on, and the Moon’s Shadow had become the very thing that had driven them north in the wilds so many generations ago. Worbyr longed to leave behind his life as a savage guardian of the wildfolk, but he did not want to abandon his people out of a sense of responsibility.

All of Worbyr’s obligations changed one day during the late summer when Worbyr and several warriors were chasing the firefolk south into the Pelmoran forestlands. The firefolk had attacked a Moon’s Shadow settlement beyond the Northern Pass, and so Worbyr dispatched with his warriors to teach them what happens to those who attack the first tribe. The Moon’s Shadow warriors slaughtered the firefolk, sending two warriors back to their tribe to tell the story. As Worbyr cleaned his sword in a serene pond near some leafy trees, he saw a stone in the water. He was drawn to it, but his warriors told him it was a cursed stone, that it was evil. But Worbyr was much older and more perceptive than the superstitious Moon’s Shadow, and so he retrieved the stone. It immediately fragmented into six shards–one for each of the fingers on his hand–and made a screeching sound that caused his warriors scatter. As he went looking for them, he found himself alone and became captured by the local authority.

Worbyr had never spent much time near the civilized peoples of this “Empire” south of the Pass, and so he did not know what to expect when he was greeted by several Pelmoran Knights on horseback. One of the men barked in broken Kimenian that Worbyr needed to “stop all walk” and “never attack savage.” Worbyr got the sense that they were ordering him to stand still or they would attack. Clearly outnumbered, and tired from his earlier fighting, Worbyr nonchalantly followed their orders. The Knights took the guardian to a nearby keep. They had been under the orders of a wizard named Raelek, who commanded them to bring him anyone holding a glowing crystal of any kind.

Raelek was like no one Worbyr had ever met. The wizard treated him just like any regular person, asking him questions about his life, his hopes, dreams, thoughts. Admittedly, Worbyr Gray was no thoughtful man and not too bright, but he always had a good sense of his surroundings and Raelek seemed to respect that about him. Worbyr decided that he wanted to remain with Raelek and see what else the man had to say. The two spent nearly every day together over the next year. Worbyr learned more during that year then he believed he ever had in his life. He was inspired to make a new name for himself outside the Moon’s Shadow. He wanted to explore more of what the Empire had to offer.

The wizard purchased three of Worbyr’s six pale stone crystals and helped the savage purchase supplies he might need to travel the world. Worbyr Gray thanked Raelek for their time together, telling the old man that he was the first true friend he had ever known in all his years. After over three decades as the guardian of the tribe that had raised him to fulfill their prophecy, Worbyr was now free to pursue his own path.

011-Worbyr

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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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