Monday, October 5, 2009

Pre-History of Noffel pt. III of V

by Sawith, Chief Scribe of Kaladar

Awra may well be the single most influential individual in all of Arandish history.  Yet little is known of the circumstances of her birth or childhood.  History does not reveal the names of her parents nor the name of the particular Noffellian tribe into which she was born.  The year of her birth is commonly thought to lie somewhere between 2180 and 2184, but given the unusual length of her life (over three hundred years) and the lack of available information concerning her early days, even this range is considered speculative.
Awra was the originator of most Arandish arcane magical arts, including spellcasting, rodian Illusion, summoning, and most of the so-called Dark Arts, which were later banned by Awra’s famous apprentice, Arlon.  It is said that there exist many long-forgotten styles of magic that Awra conceived and used in the height of her power, but this, like so many of the stories that surround this person, cannot be conclusively proven.
Awra’s rise to public prominence began in or around the year 2219, the last year of Tandar’s reign as king of Noffel.  This was a turbulent year in Noffellian politics.  Tandar had three children: two sons and one daughter.  All three were beyond adolescence and therefore eligible to rule, but Ormin, who from the earliest days had been a great advisor to the king, felt that the Noffellian people should be empowered to choose their own ruler through a process of election.  Many felt that this was a great idea; but many others adhered to the old tribal way of leadership passing down through family lines.  No historical record shows Tandar as having any particular view on this matter.  If he had, there might not have been so much confusion in the aftermath of his unexpected illness and sudden death in the fall of 2219.
Some historians contend that Ormin poisoned Tandar in order to clear the way for the formation of a Noffellian Senate, a vision that he actualized a little over a decade later. But Tandar was a much-beloved king, and acting as the agent of the popular monarch’s untimely demise would have been an extremely risky and uncharacteristic move for the deliberate, cerebral Ormin.  Far from wishing to further this (likely inconclusive) debate, I merely wish to set the stage for the entrance of our principal character.
Despite the long-passed King Tarandis’ hopes to the contrary, none of his own subjects had ever developed any unusual powers like those possessed by the departed Aldors—until Awra.  In the final days of 2219, the young woman came before the Noffellian council of elders and demonstrated that she could generate light spontaneously by speaking a few words aloud.  The members of the council were of course amazed, and took Awra to be an unknowing descendant of the Aldors (so their written record shows).  However, with Tandar’s recent demise and the question of the succession looming in their minds, the council asked Awra to return to them in a few months, at which time the nature and possible usefulness of her power could be discussed in fuller detail. 
Awra did not appear before the Noffellian tribal council ever again.
It is not for many decades that the name of Awra resurfaces in historical records, in the journal of one Yagbath of Scythmoor, a wise woman who lived a recluse’s life in a cave on the southeastern fringes of the Great Western Swamp.  She writes:

. . . and shortly after mye evening fast, lo! a WOMAN did slog thro the rushes and reeds and appeer at the entry to mye home.  A tall ladye, hare was brown and eyes peercing blue.  Coted with muck from hed to foote, so Iye did invite her to staye and wash hersself, and share mye nighly meal.  She did accept, and stayed with me all that night, and tolde me the most [illegible] . . . that she dwelt in the marshes, and had indeede donne so for many a yeer.  For what purpose, Iye asked she.  Said she, developping mye powers.  Which powers be these, Iye asked she.  And she did chant words, quite of quick, and of an instant Iye myeself did riyse up from the log where Iye sat and flewe through the trees.  Like a batt or other byrd, Iye sweres it so.  When Iye did return agin to the erth, this yung ladye did tell me she could move water also, or shape raw erth with hers minde, or make hersself flye as well.  Who be ye, Iye asked she, in wunderment.  Said she, mye name is Owra.

Though no recognizable dates are given in Yagbath’s journal, it can be determined from other textual references that this entry was probably written in the late summer or early fall of the year 2265.  Though many scholars and most elementalists maintain that this journal entry does not prove that Awra was an elementalist -- Yagbath does not report seeing Awra perform elementalist feats, only hearing her claim to be able to manipulate water and earth -- I am inclined to believe that she had at least begun work in this field, and was probably a master spellcaster by this date as well.  We certainly know that by the year 2284, when the Noffellian Senate became aware of Awra’s presence, she had fully developed the arts of spellcasting and enchantment, plus who knows how many other minor powers and abilities.
It is also certain that by 2284, Arlon was apprenticed to Awra and was living with her in the swamps.  Though Arlon would not begin his own journal until 2286, a report submitted to the Senate by scout captain Bandos, who led an expedition into the Great Western Swamp in 2284, tells us:

. . . we found a hermit calling himself Awra, living in a hovel at the south edge of the swamp.  With him were a few young women and men, all called him ‘master’ and behaved solemnly in his presence.  All of these persons—Awra included—appeared to be in good health (bodily and mentally), and living here of their own will.  After filling our water skins, we left them.

The gender of the pronouns used in Bandos’ writing is not ambiguous: the scout definitely believed that Awra was a man.  No historian that I know of has yet been able to offer an adequate explanation for this anomalous report—but the name he used is also unmistakable. 
I surmise that by this point Awra had begun to pass on her knowledge of the magical arts to this select group of young people.  I also believe that had not the Senate chosen to call her into their presence to explain her activities to them, she might have continued training people in seclusion for many years, and never have come into direct conflict with the government and people of Noffel.  But call her they did, and in early 2286, she appeared before the Senate and the king.  It is believed that Arlon was with her at this fateful meeting, though not Arel, the First One’s other famous disciple.
At this time the King of Noffel was Karldoc, a born warrior (and not to be confused with Prince Karldoc the Mad, of our own era).  Karldoc was renowned for his boldness in battle, his quick temper, and his deadly prowess with a sword.

[Continue to Part IV]

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