The Lady Rowena and Urdric the Wild
The Errantry of Rowena
ed. note: The following dream is suppossed to be something like Rowena’s history, or grand thesis for her setting out into the world. If any enterprising Player Character (that’s you, btw) wanted to transcribe a version she thought was more in keeping with her vision of Rowena’s character, that would be totally cool.
Outside the ruins of Rivenroar Castle, after their first delving into its depths to rescue the citizens of Bristol, Rowena and Urdric set up camp, giving themselves a brief rest before venturing in again. As the stars glittered overhead, Rowena drifted into sleep, reflecting on the role those cold, mysterious points have played in her life…
The dwarven colony of GhostRock Keep (pictured) demands toughness from all of its citizens, and the nobility are no exception. Indeed, the stalwart miners and artisans of the Keep rely on their nobility for feats of both craft and bravery. They rely equally on the men, the women, and even the humans, adopted in infancy. The human child was found, days old and wailing, on a spring night during a meteor swarm in the courtyard of the Thane of GhostRock. Dwarves, particularly miners and colonists (particularly Dwarven colonial miners who derive great wealth from ore mined from meteors) are terribly superstitious. The miner-Thane of GhostRock Keep, and his cabal of priests, saw great portent in the meteor swarm on the night Rowena was found. Without any children of his own, the Thane adopted the screaming infant and raised her as his own. Rowena was tutored in the standard traditions of the GhostRock Thanes: combat, mining, diplomacy, smithing, nobility. As a woman, she was raised as a Shield-Maiden, taught to fight with her flail, shield and wits. These tools would serve her when she eventually left the Keep to wander the wide world, but they were not the cause. It took foreign heroes to lead her from her home.
There was no shortage of heroes to influence her throughout her formative years. Her pedagogue from the cradle until her apprenticeship had been Tifa Shatterspear. Tifa was a retired Adventurer, a fabled hero who wore ceremonial armor forged from the scales of the Red Dragon she slew single-handedly in defense of the small mining community which had been entrusted to her as a fiefdom. After her fiefdom was established, she settled in the GhostRock Keep, eventually being given the job of raising Rowena by the kindly Thane.
And one heroine-turned-mentor was far from the only influence on Rowena. GhostRock was a beautiful home and a prosperous mine, but a dangerous place. Rowena fought side-by-side with her countrymen during Goblin invasions, led the battle against the occasional extra-worldly horror that descended from the skies with the meteors, and turned back would-be bandits with the strength of her arm and the craft of her diplomacy. But despite the noble and heroic influences surrounding her in the Keep, it was a band of outlanders that finally inspired her to leave her borders.
It began in her 23rd year (an approximation of Dwarven coming-of-age years, 47 years too early for the actual Dwarven ceremony), when a band of Eladrin journeyed into the Keep. The Eladrin are residents of both the Material Plane and the Feywild, and rarely ventured into the mountainous Dwarven lands. The Fey folk prized the enchanted stones that were mined from GhostRock Keep, but usually traded in distant market towns, not in the Keep itself. The Eladrin were welcomed to the Keep with ceremonies and feasting, treated to the legendary courtesy of the Dwarves. They were apprehensive but polite at first, requesting a few hours to study the stars from the highest peaks of the Keep. After their secluded study, they consented to join in the feasts and games, lasting many days. The Eladrin participated in contests of poetry and song, bringing an otherworldy charm to the competition of Dwarven Master-Bards. They declined the contests of strength and martial prowess, but excelled in feats of magical craft.
The Eladrin visitors were Warlocks, practitioners of powerful magic learned from mastery of the astrologer’s art. Their magics were mighty, derived from the powers of the mysterious celestial bodies in the sky, which they studied by the enhanced Bright Beauty of the Feywild. They announced to the Thane that in their study of the stars, they have been able to predict some events that the stars foretold. Their current trip from their Feywild into the Material Plane was precipitated by portents of a Calamity falling with the meteor showers that commonly smash into the mountainous ranges around Ghostrock Keep.
The Thane thanked them, but laughed at their warning – the walls of the great hall had trophies of the meteor-borne monsters that descended from gods knew where. The Eladrin Warlocks became only more grim at the Thane’s assurances, and informed him that the product of the next meteor shower would be more foul than mere abberations, however valiantly they had battled in the past. They had foretold a terrible miasma, an abominable plague whose location they could divine no more specifically than somewhere in the domain of the GhostRock lands, and whose timing they only knew would be some time in the week following the feasting.
The Keep became a grim and expectant place for the next days, the Warlocks keeping their gazes turned to the stars all night, and instructing the Dwarven mages in the proper spells and rituals for containing and banishing the miasma. On the third night after the feasting and games ended, a meteor fall streaked through the sky from behind a full Moon, a meteor unpredicted by the Dwarven astrologers – this must be the dreaded expectation of the Eladrin. Its landfall was quickly located by the scouting patrols – an unpopulated area in one of the tracts of farmland. As soon as the mages and the Eladrin adventurers arrived, their terrible portents were confirmed. A black fog was seeping from the crater, instantly withering any crops they passed into dust, and the effected soil never bore life again. The warlocks, with the few mages they had instructed, were able to channel heavenly fire and burn back the fog, pushing it back towards the crater that belched it forth. The saviors of GhostRock encircled the crater, moving slowly together, tightening their control of the dread plague. At one point, a part of the perimeter controlled by Dwarven mages began to struggle, and an Eladrin Warlock stepped in to aid them. They managed to regain control and maintain the advance towards the crater, but the Warlock who helped them was overcome by the fog. At last the threat was quelled, the fog pushed back entirely to the stone that spewed it, the only casualties a few acres of crops, and one self-sacrificing Eladrin. The warlocks and Dwarf mages performed a ritual to banish the meteorite into the bottom of a poisoned sea in a barren stretch of the Shadowfell, where its deadly funk would be weighted down by the ambient funkiness of shadowy poison lakes.
GhostRock had been saved, and after the proper funeral rites and somewhat somber celebrations, the Eladrin departed the mountains, to return to the Feywild. Though entreated to remain longer at GhostRock, they wished to trespass no further on the Thane’s hospitality. They had travelled to battle the sky-bourne calamity that they alone could predict by their art, and sought no thanks or acclaim in doing so. Their departure sparked deep contemplation in Rowena…
The world was a wide, vulnerable place, with nobody to look out for each point of light in the vast wilderness. Only the gods could oversee the world entire, and it was beyond their immortal concern to meddle in the insignificant affairs of tiny mortal outposts. The gods did infuse mortals with a sense of honor and moral responsibility. Erathis gifted the world with Justice and Civilization, which were surely Divine capabilities. The mortals who cultivated these gifts, like the citizens of GhostRock Keep, were thoerefore not only capable of combatting lawlessness and cruel anarchy, but obligated to do so; there could be no higer purpose than rooting out wickedness with tools provided by the Divine. The Denizens of GhostRock Keep were blessed in their lawfullness and security, the Cog of Civilization turned smoothly there.
But, she realized that even the enclaved safety of GhostRock Keep was not permanent. Had the rest of the world been content to let GhostRock Keep, enviable bastion of light though it was, keep itself protected from all wickedness and uncertainty, they would have been unable to predict or protect themselves from the Lunar Miasma that beset the Keep. Had those bizarre yet virtuous Warlocks contented themselves with only protecting those stars which effected their own home, Ghostrock keep would surely have been doomed. Though they worshipped Melora Mistress of the Starry Sea, and not Erathis, they understood that the Mighty must protect the Weak from the Wicked.
GhostRock was too blessed, its Cog turned too smoothly, for a Shield Maiden as inspired and capable as young Rowena. Though the Keep was her home and the Dwarves were her people, she knew that her outlander origins were as portentious as her nearly-miraculous discovery during the meteor swarm. Through she had no direct warning from the heavens to guide her, she must be drawn away from GhostRock Keep. Her purpose would be to wander, to protect and to defend. Her fate was in Erathis’s hands, and her Destiny was written in the cryptic stars that heralded her adoption by the Dwarves and their rescue by the Eladrin.
Everyone knew that Corellon and Ioun were the master and mistress of fortune-telling and predictions, and their arts were practiced through such practical studies as tea leaves, I Ching sticks, palm nuts, and animal entrails. Not even astrologers, those curious mystics, widely believed that futures could be told by the stars, or even where stars came from, or resided. Why did they seem to have such an influence over Rowena’s life? Was it complete chance, a random twist of fancy? And what were these stars, anyway? Where did they live, what did they do, and why did they drop to the earth occasionally? Were their machinations pruposeful, and if so , what did they want with Rowena?