End of the Year Update! - Guest Update: The Final Three Warlocks
Wondering how the project is going? Wonder no further - I've got an update that covers the state of the project in exhaustive (some might say unnecessary) detail:
(A note about the Q&A section - I had to cut some questions because the video was just getting too damn long! I'll include them in the next update.)
Steve Barnes' RPG
I want to take a moment to direct your attention to a non-Frontiers project that I think you'll all appreciate. Steve's labor of love RPG - a live musical featuring some unique rear-projection VFX and a really fun soundtrack - should to be right up your video-game-loving alley, and I encourage you to check it out if you haven't yet:
(I can't speak for Steve but personally I'm rooting for Broadway. It's got to be better than that Spiderman play, right?)
Guest Update - The Final Three Warlock
Kilian Jornself’s Tale of Five Warlocks
Circa 60 AG
Razela of Rasling
(Author’s recent note: Following the burning of Rasling, Razela has joined the warlocks of Shai-Kanoa. I recommend that the readers do not try to seek her guidance).
For once my next point of contact was an easy person to track down. A midwife by the name of Razela who lived in Rasling. The chance for alliteration was too easy to pass up, but this was a no-nonsense woman. Thank the five gods she can’t read.
They say you could find her by asking children where their momma is, or matant, or you could just listen closely for the sound of crying babies and follow them. In any case, the moment I laid eyes upon her I knew she was a mother of many, and more than those she’d merely given birth to herself. She was a tall and dark skinned woman, with a baby suckling one of her exposed breasts and a young toddler clinging to a dress that squeezed wide hips. She was adorned from head to toe in tattoos, with her face painted white with a skull. I recognized this to be a sign she was in mourning and I bowed deeply to her and offered her my condolences.
She shrugged and turned to re-enter her home, her long, knee-length braided hair swinging with the whip of her head. I quickly scrambled after her, asking, “You are the matant Razela, yes?”
She whipped her head back and made a face that I assumed to be rolling her eyes (it’s so hard to tell with warlo-kai and their dark eyes!). “Not your matant, gami. Why did you come to me? Did you get someone pregnant?” her voice thick with a common wetlands accent.
I admit I blushed and waved my hands frantically, “No, no, m’lady. I am with the Pathfinders. We are re-establishing some of our old contacts and you were mentioned of special note. Could I come in and interview you?”
She smirked and adjusted the babe at her breasts, “Only if you can cook.”
I was a little flustered, but I followed the matron into her humble home. I braced myself for the strong smell of soiled babies and body odor but instead I was met with a mix of mint and something odd which only later in my life did I realize it was the smell of babies and toddlers themselves.
I probably looked quite silly back then. Awkwardly avoiding the children as if I could step on one, my hands drawn close to my chest as if I might accidentally poke their eyes with a pen. It wouldn’t be until a few years later that I returned solely to play with the children and introduce my own to ‘my matant’.
She led me to her kitchen, shooing out a few wandering nosey children, some I noted were settlers’ children. She must have noticed my quizzical look because she answered before I could even ask, “My sister married a Gami and he joined the clan.”
I nodded in understanding and asked her what was on the menu. She told me that I was going to be the one cooking for her, so that was up to me. I admit I blushed a little - back in Benneton I would have expected my female host to cook for me, not the other way around. But regardless I started going through cupboards and drawers and started to put together a list in my head. I knew a little bit of wetlands cuisine thanks to Doctor Brandtmann’s Dishes of every Crossroad. But I didn’t see very many fresh ingredients so I had to improvise. I settled for a simple Spider Gumbo recipe that I remembered could be used with dried and reconstituted ingredients and set to work.
She continued nursing the babe while I worked and I got a little caught up in my cooking before she snapped her fingers and caught my attention again. “You had questions?” She asked in that velvety accent.
I suddenly remembered my task, “How did you come to live here in Rasling instead of in a tribe?”
“I was born here. Rasling is thick with my people. How else would Gami know how to build root bridges?”
I nodded, “Yes but I mean… your tattoos - the last time I interviewed a city-warlock he wore a suit. You are so much more traditional.” She snorted, “I imagine I smell better than those in the woods, yes? In the wetlands we are not so much afraid of water spirits. If we were the swamps would’ve eaten us already. Just because we live in the city, does not mean we do not retain our pride. Many Warlo-kai in Rasling may help the settlers in their fields because without hard work we will all starve. But this is because we have begun to rely on your farms. Many would much rather slay the Gami and start over. But such are the times now. We must work together to make the world a saveni - a hiding place - for all of us.”
“And where do you stand Razela?”
She chuckled deeply, “I stand with children. There are gami orphans and warlo-kai orphans. They are not born belonging to one clan. I was born to a Warlo-kai family, but I live among the Gami.”
“But I assume from your tattoos you side more with the warlocks, surely.”
“I am proud to be a Warlo-kai. But I am also proud of what we have accomplished working together with the Gami. Perhaps one day we will all be one clan again and you won’t come to me asking which side I am on.” She snorted, no longer amused.
As the interview grew awkward I took a moment to soak in the atmosphere of her home. Over the smell of my cooking gumbo there was that faint minty smell mixed with the smell of children. I could see dark patterns on the ceiling where incense had left its marks. There were a few tapestries of beads and colored rope decorating the walls but I noticed there weren’t any skulls of ancestors or shrines that many warlock homes I’d visited had.
“Where do you keep your ancestors? I noticed you don’t have any… uh souls. Here.” I couldn’t help but fidget at the off-putting and potentially taboo question.
“Don’t skulls make Gami uncomfortable? I hung my parents in the trehald tree a long time ago. Rasling is mostly Gami isn’t it? I think someday Warlo-kai will stop carrying souls with us, and I’d like my children to hang mine in the tree as well. My sister’s children don’t like skulls because their father doesn’t. I want my home to be welcoming to Gami and Warlo-kai.”
I couldn’t resist, “But you have one painted on your face.”
She stared at me for what felt like an eternity before answering, “the loss of a child is an exception to that rule. Children need to see me working even when I am sad. That’s an important lesson, I think.”
I bowed my head apologetically and let the conversation be while I turned my attention back to dinner. The stew was nearing completion and I just needed to let the rice simmer in the broth for awhile. I let her know I was almost ready and she left to round up her family. By the time she was done shouting in the streets and looking through rooms, nearly 13 children were gathered around her. Skins of different colors, some with tattoos already, and one young woman with pale skin like us, but with traditional warlo-kai earrings.
I was introduced to all of them, only 3 were Razela’s own. A few belonged to her sister, and the rest she had either adopted or was caring for while their parents were busy or out of town. Before we ate, Razela said a prayer over the meal, blessing it in the names of her ancestors, the spirits in us all, and acknowledged the five gods of their contributions.
I found the stew quite delicious, but most of the children didn’t think it was spicy enough. I soon learned my lesson that Razela liked things hot, “Riverbog style”. I hadn’t realized until later that she wasn’t a Wolfhand Clanless as I had originally suspected, but actually came from a family of Nightdreamers. Her parents had travelled from Riverbog to the Wetlands some 40 years ago and she told me how her father had actually known some people who worked in The Citadel.
As the evening drew on, her initial coldness toward me wore off and she told me that I was welcome to stay the night if I wanted and promised to cook breakfast. I accepted graciously and that night she taught me a few traditional Warlo-kai songs, and showed me how to make cat-tail dolls and I am not ashamed to admit I could have some skill at that! She also told me the child who had passed away wasn’t her own, but the young girl had lived in her home for some time. I hadn’t realized it only happened two days ago, and yet this woman was carrying on with her duties. To the gami readers out there, there is no mother like a matant.
(For more details about traditional warlock culture, find your local copy of “Two Years With The Clan, by Kilian Jornself”. For more about Rasling and its people, I recommend the book “The Great Wet Famine, by Julia D’avereux)
A Zeni of ZenoniaI assure you the alliteration this time was purely chance. When I was traveling to meet Alanya I had no idea that she was considered a Zeni. As I was making my way back north I had two more contacts on my list and this one was in Riverbog. I had prolonged this one as long as I could because Riverbog has an infamously long history with Warlocks and you never know which side of history you’ll stumble across. The Citadel stands as a testament to a time when Warlocks and Settlers got along well. The fact that it stands abandoned is testament for a time that followed afterward.
The fact that many Warlo-Kai call Frodleik “The Gallows” is evidence that they’ll never forget that the warlock trials began there. The investigations into Warlock faith began there, and so did the first real scientific investigations into their magic use. Though there is a sizable warlock population Frodleik now, the history of the region suggests it could swing in the opposite direction at any time.
So the fact that the Pathfinders wanted me to track down a religious zealot in Riverbog was a little unsettling. The chapel to Zenonia was located far from Frodleik in a small village of mostly Zenonian monks. To call the town or the chapel bland and undecorated would be an understatement, and my stay there left me craving the spiced foods of Warlocks.
When I arrived at the chapel and requested Aranya, I was surprised to meet a very short woman with long matted black hair and a mouth filled with dark teeth. Though she had no tattoos and wore the plain muted yellow robes of a Zenonian priestess, the obvious feral body odor and skin color made it clear she was truly a Warlo-kai.
We sat and she offered me bread and water and we ate in silence until Aranya informed me that it was proper to ask her questions now.
“The most burning question on my mind is how a warlock comes to follow a settler’s faith? Wouldn’t that instantly brand you a heretic among your people?”
The corners of her lips tugged as she restrained a smile. “I believe that Zenonia is the sleeping god. My god is one which encourages personal strength and indifference, which is the same encouragement of the sleeping god. You might be surprised how many Warlo-kai openly acknowledge the similarities.”
“Are you surprised? How does your family treat you?” “Nothing surprises me. As the Warlo-kai faith teaches, we’re all the same sleeping spirit. The prophet of Zenonia suggests that time is an eternal and unchanging loop. You will always be here, and you will always be coming and leaving from here. I should not be surprised.”
“And your family?”
“My family lives in Frodleik. Before my coming of age celebration I had already determined to join the Zenonian chapel of everlasting. The last time I was surprised was when my family told me I could join, but should do so before I receive my first tattoo or piercing so I would fit in easier.”
“They were concerned you might be discriminated against?”
“Yes. But that is not my concern. I find that a transition from warlo-kai culture to Zenonian faith was easy. I do not care for my physical body. I aim to impress no one. All will pass to dust eventually, I see no reason to upkeep my body except for nourishment. Many Warlocks already do that merely through their own superstitions.”
“Does living in Riverbog affect you at all? Between Frodleik’s history, and The Citadel, surely living here impacts you a little. It’s a tense region for warlocks.”
“Indeed. Living in Riverbog is an excellent example of the flow of time. From enemies to allies, to enemies and allies again. Right now the warlocks of Riverbog and the settlers of Riverbog are allies. In time we will be enemies again, and then again become allies.”
“This doesn’t worry you? The thought of becoming enemies? What of you or your family’s safety?”
“I will die one day, and so will they. My worry cannot change time, so there is no reason to worry. Many of my people are passionate and this is where they diverge from the prophet’s teachings. They do not stand by idle if there is the remotest chance that they could be doing something indulgent. But I ask you where the warlo-kai kingdom is now? Where are our stone temples? They crumble to dust just as our kingdom did.”
“You have no hope that the Wetlands will rise again as a kingdom?”
“I have no hopes or desires at all. I am just an observer for Zenonia. That is my existence.”
“Should the Pathfinders accept warlocks again, could we rely on you to aid us in leadership?”
“I am a mountain. Changing only by the passing of time. You may rely on me, so long as the Pathfinders do not ask me to break my vows.”
My stay here was cut short as a meditation session was beginning. I remained in the town for another two days hoping that I could speak with her again, but she had apparently become busy, or perhaps she no longer wished to be bothered. My meeting with her was not the frightening interview with a zealot that I had expected, yet it left me feeling unnerved nonetheless. Her cold and calculating attitude certainly put a darker tone to an otherwise already unsettling culture. Thank the five gods Zenonians are not known to take action against others, for I fear whatever her mind is capable of.
(For more details about Zenonian faith, there is no better book than “Purpose Everlasting” which can give even the most astute Erasthai priest pause for reflection.)
Gazani the Recluse
Of all my assignments, I looked forward to this one the most. Not because of the man I was meeting but because I was in the lazy and comfortable country of Benneton. A nice hot soak in their warm springs and some delicately prepared food and I was well on my way to recovery. Gazani is an easy man to track down for he lives in a place where there are few if any warlocks, and inside a very tall tower. However, he’s unlikely to talk to you unless you have a job for him.
I had heard of his brewing skills and my bones were still aching from my travels so I came up with a work order for him to help settle my bones and numb some of the pain. I walked to his tower on foot and pounded on his door to no answer. When I shouted that I had a job for him a gruff voice shouted back to me, “And what the hell is it already?”
“I need something for my aching bones. Nothing else will work!”
A hacking cough was my reply followed by what I think may have been some spittle landing on me from above. After another hacking cough, the gruff voice responded, “You dragged your gods forsaken bones up to my fucking tower just fine, boy. Go back to that stink-hole Ovandr and drink some poppy tea.”
I made a few more vain pleading attempts but I couldn’t elicit even another wet cough. I returned to the city feeling set back and unsure how I could convince him of my plight. I had of course had much more difficult contacts, and looking back at my meeting with The Prince I couldn’t help but wonder if I gave up too easily.
I decided to approach him with honesty and marched my way back to his tower. I skipped the pleasantries of knocking this time since they were fruitless before. I shouted again, “Gazani! I am a Pathfinder. I need to speak with you to re-establish our contact with you. I’ve met with many other Warlo-kai this year, and we wish to begin a new era of communication.”
An exaggerated wet cough was my reply and I could tell that from somewhere up above he was gathering up a lot of spit in his mouth.
“Gazani, you’re the last man on my list, and I’ll be here every day until you let me in!”
“Bulldickery.” retorted the man and a few seconds later I heard clicking and unlatching from the heavy wooden door in front of me. At last I would meet the oldest and most well known warlock of them all.
I’m not sure what I had built up in my mind from the fairytales I’d heard of the man. Taller, for one. Maybe dark skinned like most other warlocks I’d come to know. This man was barely five feet tall, and pale skinned like a settler. But his endlessly deep wrinkles and fading blurry tattoos were enough to convince me he was yet a warlock indeed. He wore clothes like a Benneton would, but a little oversized and untidy. His bald dome was flecked with liver spots and his long sparse beard was tucked into his belt.
What stood out most of all though were his shockingly black eyes and his almost comically large ears. He looked almost like a blind rat standing there. White whiskered, pale, blinking through eyes that almost looked empty. He growled like an angry dog and startled me back to reality.
“Every bloody day?” He grumbled and bit at his lower lip.
“You’re the last on my list. Once I’m done here I get my vacation. I might as well take it here and enjoy the warm springs.”
“Soak up the piss water, Pathfinder. What do you want?” I didn’t react to the rude gesture he was making while pretending to scratch his cheek.
“Just an official conversation, Gazani. We’re trying to re-establish relations. Someday we’d like to help restore the Citadel even.” I tried to rock on my toes a bit to peer into his tower with little luck. I couldn’t even see a candle flickering.
“Shove the Citadel up your arse, Pathfinder. What are you trying to drive out of me? Little Wolfhand rats finally sticking it to you? Did the Clawrunner Upstart-King piss in some water wells?” He let out a cackle that revealed a mouth full of shockingly white teeth.
I shook my head and held up my hands innocently, “Nothing of the sort, Gazani. I come to you in the spirit of saveni, respectfully, honestly, and a blind eye. You can see the list of our contacts if you’d like. We are simply looking for supporters and future contacts of a diverse group should we seek to reintroduce the -” my sentence was cut off as phlegm hit my chest.
“Listen, gami-boy. My allegiances are to the royal Benneton snobs and their slug brained people. Pathfinders be damned I never shit and shook hands with a Pathfinder, I shook hands with that poor fat Francis and I’ll look after his inbreds until there isn’t another Benneton getting their arse wiped by a peasant left on this gods-forsaken world. Shove a log up your tight arse, Pathfinder.”
With that, the door was slammed in my face with a waft of smoky herbal air. I took a moment to regather my dignity and make sure my ears weren’t bleeding and then returned to Ovandr. I spent a few more nights enjoying the warm springs and good food of Ovandr while I recollected my notes and spoke with the locals.
I learned a few stories about Gazani. Urban legends, myths, or mystical truths I’ll leave up to the reader to decide. I had suspected originally that Gazani was a local name for a shaman - not a single old individual. The locals claim that he made such a strong oath to Francis that he’s not allowed to die until his oath is fulfilled. While others claim that he uses dark magic and arcane brewing arts to give himself long life.
He treats locals with kindness and is quick to provide herbal medicines and doctoral advice, but loathes any outsiders. From what I understand, the way I was treated was considered quite gentle and restrained. Had I not been a Pathfinder I understand I could have had a curse placed on me or a bedpan tossed in my face.
My verdict is this, Gazani. You are a grumpy and cruel old man perpetrating rumors about your own immortality thanks to your excellent education. Should you ever read this book I want you to know that I returned to Zuzel and learned of your history together. It wouldn’t surprise a single scholar of the Pathfinders if we discovered just how deep your web of lies go.
For more information about Gazani, I suggest you interview a pig.