Age: 28 years, approx.
|Aspen is a dedicated paladin of the Order of Gorethar. She left home at 13 to escape a marriage, and found her path to Gorethar several years later. She came to Elysia after hearing about the Order when passing through Deglos. She was accepted as adherent under the then High Paladin, Vichan Lyonsen, who also became her mentor. She was noted for excellent reporting, organization, and developing several innovative programs within the Order. She became the youngest person in the Order to ever achieve Ordained status. Her early history and her more recent activities can be read in her journal, Letters to Valorian . She has also become the first female High Paladin in the history of the Order of Gorethar. She's married to Rolan Fyne, formerly of Mikona, and a follower of Mikon. Recently, she disappeared while on a mission to Galdos, and is presumed dead.|
Excerpts from Aspen's Journal: Letters to Valorian -- The Tale of Markus
A tall, muscular woman, with glossy black hair pulled back in a pony-tail, stops a courier in Elysia. Her blue eyes looks curiously vulnerable, considering she is wearing the gold and silver plate mail and dark blue cloak of the Order of Gorethar. As she turns her head to dig into a bag for a letter, the scar that stretches from her forehead down her left cheek, past the corner of her mouth and on to her chin stands out whitely from a tanned face. She speaks quietly to the courier, and hands him a carefully written letter, sealed with the sigil of Gorethar in blue wax with gold flecks, and a sum of gold. The courier touches his forehead, and runs off toward the docks.
As you've requested, I'm sending you some information about me. I think it's probably going to take more than one letter, though. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me the other evening...
Well, Brother, I grew up in northern Osannia. My family raised oxen for the caravan and wool trade, and I had lots of brothers and sisters. As soon as it was possible, my father arranged a marriage for me, but I did not want to marry, and so ran away, when I could not get him to listen. I was all of thirteen, I think.. may have been a bit younger. I was tall and gangly, and passed myself off as a boy, and got work at the hiring faires during the summer, working as a herder, or in stables, and so forth. Toward the fall, though I grew some, and was having a harder and harder time passing myself off as a boy. It was the last harvest faire, and I was worried about the winter, when I got hired to work at an inn in southern Osannia called the Ox and Hound. They needed someone to work in the stables, and they would give me one set of clothes, 2 meals a day, one of them hot, and some silver each month. I could sleep in the stables, and I counted myself very fortunate.
Everything seemed fine. But I couldn't pass myself off as a boy anymore.. and the eldest son noticed. His name was Markus, and he was much older than I.. like 20, or so, I think. He was very handsome, but as you'll read, I had reason to start to hate and distrust the very sight of him. He started hanging around the barn, and watching me. That's all he did at first.. just watched me work. Then he started making comments.. about my work... and making it harder.. then started setting thing up so that I'd trip, or have to do things over.. like fouling the hay, or water, or tipping the wheelbarrow full of manure over... then blame me for not doing my work well. He called me clumsy, and started saying things to inn patrons, or those who came to the stable, that I wasn't quite.. bright, or right in the head. Then Markus started placing himself in my path, so I'd have to brush by him, to get my work done... it kept getting progressively worse. He started to.. whip me... and finally... he showed up, one night, in the loft.. with a knife... and held me down.. and cut my cheek.. and hurt me more, threatening me with worse, if I didn't do.. what he wanted.
The next day, he told the others that "Bumbletoes had fallen against a scythe and cut herself... " And no one questioned him, or thought anything more about it. I was only a hired hand, he was the eldest son of a well-respected innkeeper. By this time, winter was hard upon the village, and the snow knee-deep or worse in places.. and I had no where to go. That winter was the longest of my life.. and every day, the ropes and long leather straps in the barn, and the rafters overhead, began to look more and more like the only way I could escape Markus...
Then we had a sudden, early thaw, and a kompania of Romini rode into the village, and into the inn yard. They were noisy, and bright, and colorful.. and laughed. Brother... I had to go out to see, so I crept to the big stable door, and peeked out. The woman who seemed to be in charge of all of them, was an older woman, gnarled with age, and had a bright headscarf. She reminded me of my own grammy.. and she must have realized something was wrong.. She came to see me, and before I knew it, I had told her everything. She offered to get me away, and I agreed. Markus was kept too busy in the Inn to come to the stables. One of the Romini was a weatherwitch, and said there was a storm coming in. So I hid in one of the wagons.. and as the storm broke, they left, taking me with them. I didn't know it, but they also took many of the Inn's oxen, too.. (that's where the warrant came from, it named me as an accessory to the theft of livestock).
They kept me with them, for a very long time, always traveling south. I owe the Romini a lot, and have always checked on them, and with them, whenever I can. Finally, they judged me well enough, and far enough away, that I could go once more on my own.. and so I left them. I worked more, generally on farms, but always with a way to get away if I needed to, though at that time, I tended to also... drink, to forget. And I did manage to forget the whole thing, for a very long time.
How I came to Gorethar, is a story I will save for another letter, Brother. May He keep you well, and His light shine down on your paths, as you travel.
In faith and duty,
A carefully written letter, sealed with the sigil of Gorethar in blue wax with gold flecks is delivered via courier. Underneath the darkly written signature is a seal of a snarling cat crossed by a lightning bolt.
I've gotten some more time, so I thought I would write you about how I came to be one of Gorethar's holy warriors. Please, brother, tell me if I have gone beyond what you requested...
As I said at the end of my last letter, I was working at farms, during this time, rather aimlessly wandering south and east. And I was drinking, usually spending all my coin in local taverns getting drunk. A lot of this period is a blank to me, brother.
However, I had been working a number of months at a small farm to the north of a village on the border of Deglos and Brekon. It was owned by a small family with a little boy, who I remember reminded me of my youngest brother. His name was Owen, I think.... it's so long ago, now, or so it seems. We became close, in that we often played, when our chores were done-- he was such a fun boy-- full of mischief, and laughter. He had light brownish hair...
Anyway, I know that when I drank, I would get angry.. and often I'd fight, or attempt to... I don't remember much other than awaking with bruises and cuts many times. I lost work because of it... and I knew I should stop, but I also knew there was something I didn't want to remember. So I worked, traveled, drank, and got into trouble, which made me have to move on.
But... that farm. I had just gotten paid... and had walked into town, and went to the tavern. I'd had a few drinks, when someone ran by, yelling about fire and raiders... I ran outside, with an ale mug in my hand, and saw the smoke... and saw that it was coming from the north. I dropped the mug, and ran.... I don't know what I thought I'd do when I got there... but all I could think of was Owen. As I ran, the smoke got thicker, and I could hear yelling, screams, and this hoarse chanting. I came off the road, and ran through the trees toward the barn, and I could see it was in flames, the roof was outlined in flames, and the oxen were screaming. There was a lot of screaming, Brother.... I'm sure I was screaming, too, as I ran down the hill... I could see the farmyard was churned to mud... men from the village and orcs.. the raiders, were fighting. I looked about frantically, and off to one side, saw something that caught my eye... sprawled on the ground, trying to move. I ran, and slid in the mud, and ended up crawling over to it.. and it was Owen. I picked him up, into my lap... he was badly wounded brother... he'd been gutted by a spear, though I didn't recognize it at the time. He looked at me, Brother, and asked me, in a sweet, broken voice, where was I, when the orcs came .... and I had no answer for him. Owen died, as I held him....
After the funerals... I left, and traveled into Deglos... and railed at myself. I wandered, looking for answers. I felt a tugging, a need, for something, some direction, and some way... to stop others from being hurt so. I wanted to be able to fight, properly, and defend.. that was what drove me, in the end, to seek one of Gorethar's shrines. It was what caused me to stop, and pray... pray for guidance, and for a chance to prove myself worthy, of something... To make what happened before have meaning, and to give my life purpose.
I don't know how long I prayed, Brother.. but Gorethar answered, and accepted me as one of His warriors.
I'd heard in Deglos, about the Order, and made my way from there to Elysia, and wrote a note, and posted it about the taverns. Brother Aradan answered me, and set up a meeting.. and Brother Vichan welcomed me into the Order. Much of the rest of what happened from there on, until I was Ordained, is in my reports, Brother.
But things with Markus weren't over... but this letter is long enough, I think. I'll write more on that, another time.
I hope to hear from you soon, Brother. May Gorethar bless your work.
In faith and duty,
A sealed letter is delivered, the handwriting inscribing your name grown familiar. The seal at the end of the letter is that of a snarling cat crossed by a lightning bolt.
Thank you for your words of encouragement. I would like to think that Brother Vichan, whom I grew very close to, and thought of as almost a father, would be proud of what I have done. It was his guidance and support, and that of Brothers Aradan, Carek, and Zahn (who was my sponsor), that helped me through the most trying part of my experiences.
As I said Brother, I buried and forgot what happened to me, in that Inn in Spruce Run. It wasn't until I was sorely injured with broken ribs, and laid up in the Mikona Chaplet (I'd gotten stomped on by a number of minotaurs during a training session, and while I'd been mostly healed, a cracked rib snapped, and damaged something inside) that things began to resurface. Brother Carek heard the story first... and he recommended I speak to Brother Vichan, and Brother Aradan.. who were our advisors at the time. Both worked with me, and helped me... I was an initiate at the time.
I'd healed enough to come back to Elysia, and was speaking with someone out at Elf Gate, when a vaguely familiar man wearing an Elysian guard uniform came up to me, and before I knew what he was going to do, he ran a finger over the scar on my cheek. I was stunned... It was Markus, Brother. And before I could recover he sauntered off, claiming I'd see him again.
Well, I was angry, and scared, and so I spoke to Brother Vichan. He decided that Brother Zahn would follow up with the Elysian Guard to find out more about what Markus was doing. Markus dropped out of sight for a while, Brother, and I was promoted to Ordained, when I'd passed my Trials. Then.. Markus resurfaced.. and began actively trying to discredit me, since we were trying to find out Markus' records and activities. Several times, by using someone who claimed to need help, he lured me into areas to try and approach me. Then I was attacked by a group of bounty hunters out in the wilds, who said that there was a reward for me, in the Kurathene, and that they meant to collect. That's when I found out about the fine in Osannia, Brother. And even though I was young, and didn't know about what happened, I still had that charge against me. To prevent Markus from having that hold over me, I chose to pay the fine. (Thank you again, for helping me with that.. and I am glad I was able to pay you back).
Markus was getting bolder, and angrier, that I had not stopped trying to find out about him. He hinted, several times, that all I need to do, to make him stop... was to "kiss and make up." I knew, though, that if I did that, I'd never be rid of him. I also knew, that if I was to get the General or the Guard commander to believe me, I needed a witness from outside the Order. So I contacted the Speaker for the Hands, and asked for some help-- just as a witness, to verify what happened... and tried to set up a meeting with Markus. I wanted to make it appear that I was considering giving in... But it didnt' work out at all the way I'd planned, Brother.
I'd met and sent the person the Speaker sent for me, on ahead to the barn were I'd arranged to meet Markus. Then I went in, and waited... and a badger came in-- it turned out, that this was a changeling that Markus had been working with for years. And he wanted to do 'something different, something exciting'.. so I worked with him to have him expose Markus. I demanded some written proof, of what Markus had been doing, and he agreed, for the price of a magical flail. We arranged to meet at the Hostel....
I went back there, with my witness, and found Brother Carek, Brother Vastan, Sister Terra and Brother Baloth. The changeling showed up, in a little while.. and Brother-- he revealed that the "war commendations" that Markus had gotten, were faked... as what he had done, was with the help of the changeling. He'd supposedly rescued a fey girl from the shaahesk... and that shaahesk was the changeling. He'd also supposedly rescued the Guard Commander from the unseelie... but the Guard commander died (how, I'm not sure, but wouldn't be surprised if Markus had killed him) and the Commander we knew, was actually the changeling, and had been for years. He transformed before us, to prove it. The Hands witness saw it as well... that, and the written and signed statement he gave was what we needed... and Brother Carek demanded to know where Markus was... The changeling gave the address, and then left, and Carek and Baloth went there to apprehend Markus... but he'd fled, while we'd been speaking with the changeling-- the changeling had warned him.
So... both of them got out of the City. And while my name was cleared, and the Guard was restored... I was unsatisfied. I didn't feel like justice had been truly done. I notified the Hands, in T'Nanshi, and they agreed to watch out for Markus. There wasn't anything else I could do... I am no tracker, and Markus had had hours to make good his escape.
So. I went about my duties. Brother Carek followed up with the Elysian Guard to make sure all was well with them, and spoke to the General, I believe. However, things were not.. quite.. over.
I had stopped by Fanos' shop to sell a few odds and ends, and to buy bottles for the Hostel. We were chatting a bit, when the door opened, and closed.. I didn't pay much attention. I went to leave, and the door was locked. When I looked back at Fanos, he was being attacked... by Markus! Brother, I moved as swiftly as I could, but Markus had already skewered him. Attacking Fanos made Markus visible, and he apparently wanted me to be able to see and hear him.
He'd come back for me, Brother. He was furious that I'd ruined his plans, and said that if he couldn't have me, no one would.. and since he'd just killed Fanos, and attacked me-- I knew I was in the right of law to strike him down. So we fought.. Markus taunting me that Gorethar couldn't help me... but I called upon His power, and knocked Markus flat, and though he struggled and got up to fight more, I knocked him down again-- I was surprised to find out he was no match for me, so in the end, I slew him.
When I searched his body, I found the Guard cloak and emblems, which I had returned to them. I called over a local cleric, and they raised Fanos. I also found a ring, Brother... that belonged to the elderly Romini who helped me escape from Markus-- and the only way he could have gotten that from her was to kill her. I mourned her passing, and kept the ring as a remembrance. Gorethar's will and justice had been done, and many of my old fears died with Markus, there in the alchemist's shop.
Now, Brother.. I am slowing opening up to my brothers and sisters.. and to others, who offer me kindness. It's hard, and at times, I still feel awkward, and uncomfortable. I don't know how to deal with the ... attention, some men have paid to me. I am most comfortable at my work, for the Order...
And yet... I am beginning to wonder, if there are things that I am missing... or people that I've been afraid to know. I trust in Gorethar, to lead me down the path that is right, for many new ones have now opened before me.
I trust this letter finds you well, m'lord. May Gorethar shine His light on your travels.
In faith and duty,