by Cliona in Dark Ages
The complete known biography of Aonaran Barran, the first Wizard of Piet, up until the moment of his first discovery of the Path.
He had always been a quiet child, considered sickly by the others of the village. He was always coming down with terrible shakes, screaming in pain whenever someone tried to heal him, clutching his soft hair and shrieking in agony whenever they came near. He managed to keep well when he'd crawl to the fields, spending hours staring at the clouds, daydreaming and taking long naps, for in the evening, when it came time for him to be laid down in his bed, he would have his worst fits, his arms and legs shaking so hard that the tears would pour down his cheeks in rivers, crying out in fear and cold, it was like ice, he'd cry, like ice. Only in the fields did he find solace, taking pen to paper and drawing out fantasies, scripting long ballads and poems of stories long forgotten.
The village teachers always held him in high regard, even when he was too weak to lift himself to his feet, when his older sister, apprentice to the Light, had to carry him to her teachers, for her day was always too busy to care for this little boy and his mother became too weary with his fits to stay awake a moment longer. Still, no matter how much embarrassment this caused Aoife, her teachers never tired of the company of the little boy, with reactions ranging from playful cooing to rapt enchantment with his soft gray eyes and deeply dark red hair. They claimed he was a joy to watch, even in all their academic stoicism, that it was never a trouble to keep an eye on him while Aoife, his sister, tended to her hours of careful priestly study.
More often than not, during these times, too, Aonaran would drag himself into the fields, lay himself down in the grass and sleep, deeply, as if he were never afforded the opportunity before in his lifetime. He never threw fits when he was alone, never complained, never grew tense over the world as he did in the company of others. Some townswomen suggested the boy was simply spoiled, too carefully handled, and that he was trying to gain attention from his parents, to make his life more difficult, for, it was believed, children needed suffering, even craved it.
Later in his young life, when he began to come of age and all the other boys had begun to help their fathers with the sheep or crops, to play games of swords and quarter staffs, to hunt rabbits and wrestle each other to the ground in the efforts to impress the girls whom, they insisted, they still didn't like, Aonaran continued to lose himself in his own imaginings. For hours he would occupy himself with a lick of flame topping a thick beeswax candle or the patterns of the new, green, spring leaves. He grew dark with hours of sleeping in the sun, grew strong with swimming in the waters of the Crystal Rivers. He did not have the skills of fighting the other boys had, but he possessed an almost unbelievable strength for his slight build, and eyes which could at any moment be gentle and forgiving or cold and downright horrifying from such a beautiful, cherubic young face.
As he grew into a young man his fits subsided, but little is known about what entered into the boy's heart at this time. He withdrew from all others, even his eldest sister, Aoife, who had for so long been his favorite, the only member of the family to whom he could admit his love. The only way to learn about the boy, it seemed, was to read his words, no challenging task considering that with every penny the boy found or earned through gathering the honey of the bees which were his private vanity, he bought paper from the inns, even old blank books, which he filled with words almost as quickly as he could reach for another sheet or turn another page.
To the townsfolk, those ever-imploring neighbors, he was considered either a great leader or a great failure to his family. A mute, the boy never spoke a word, only soft humming noises of private pleasure or the low, guttural roar that other boys his age had learned to avoid, for no one eagerly challenged Aonaran's wrath. Those who did nursed black eyes and bruised ribs, while Aonaran himself was pulled home to bed by his dad.
Most often, Aonaran wrote in archaic terms, sometimes lapsing into languages never heard about the village, languages, which he could never before, have been exposed to. In his sorrowful tales he spoke in poetry, of the nature which he seemed so enamored of, of things his family could not begin to explain. Of situations their child, their brother, had never been in, had never seen or experienced. Making up stories. Daydreaming was one thing, but committing these lazy musings to paper was absolutely unheard of. Who would do such a thing but Aonaran?
Aoife would often sit before the fire at the end of the day, large with child, her husband sitting at the table in their large family's house sharpening his sword, reading her brother's musings and quaking with fear at the ideas which poured forth from his soul, the ache for understanding into himself, his heartfelt wishes that she, out of everyone, would understand him and come to help him. Help him from what? She was never truly sure. In the dark messages pouring from his hands she found herself questioning the lines of truth and reality, for all these dark words flowed with such grace, such elegance, that it all could have been truth or all fiction, but never did something so distinctly stand out that she came to wonder where it was coming from.
Often, while she read, Aonaran would come to her and sit between her knees, his ear pressed against her belly, listening to something which she herself could not hear. Her teachers of the priesthood told her that when one's belly swelled you could hear the heartbeat of the growing child, and, more often than not, Aonaran would fall asleep like this, the new intimacy of her pregnancy stilling his shivers and granting him respite. Aoife would often spend the entire night watching the steady rise and fall of his chest, one hand stroking his long, soft hair, the other laid upon her belly, feeling the baby stretch, languidly, as he slept.
When Aoife awoke her brother would be gone, run off somewhere, his books missing, the pen and inkwell gone from its place upon the mantle. Often, she would go searching for him, only to find him curled in his bed, asleep, still dressed in his boots and pants and an open, unlaced shirt. His face took on a serenity in sleep that could not be reproduced in his waking visage, an ethereal quality like a young god, peaceful and beautiful in every conceivable way. Aoife would watch him turn in his sleep, one delicate hand laid across his thin chest, rising and falling with every breath. Often, she'd pull off his boots, smiling at his height, his large feet hanging off of the end of his bed as he slept, then cover him with a soft blanket, hand-quilted by their wearied mother.
When Aonaran finally became a man, so overcome was he by fear that he ran in fear to his sister, sobbing, unable to control himself, almost every evening. He would sob and bury his face in his sister's breast, shaking heavily as he always did, begging for her help with those large gray eyes filled with tears, his beautiful young face splotched with tears and redness. Unfailingly, Aoife would wet a cool cloth and stroke it across his face, smoothing back his hair and coating it with wetness, letting him hold her for as long as he could stand, often for hours before fear and exhaustion would give out and he would slink shamefully to bed.
If this was at all possible, his writings became darker, more veiled in mystery, more personal, if less so. He would speak of strange things, forbidden items of lust and witchery, of boys seduced and tricked and having spells cast upon them, forcing them into acts no child had been faced with. He kept it all inside, speaking of trees and creatures and dark things, while, somewhere, Aoife knew he was telling the story of some inner torment so unspeakable not even words could explain it. But so eloquent was his storytelling that she was unable to, once again, draw lines between fantasy and reality, between truth and these strange written daydreams.
When Aoife went to her teachers with these words, carefully recopied and claimed as an obscure text, they grew horror-stricken, unable to read more than a few lines, paling at the implications, something which Aoife herself could not grasp, which only these learned teachers, and her youngest brother, seemed able to make sense out of.
Aonaran met his manhood with fear and loathing, unable to reconcile the changes, which had taken place without him with the remaining core within him. How could he, of all people, be this needing creature, that which has no name, only action, only pain and a fury he couldn't understand, the most horrible thing he could imagine, that which takes young women's beauty but at the same time creates life, the thing which was wholly responsible for the tiny being in his sister's womb, this blind, silent thing communicating with only a tiny movement or betraying his presence with nothing more than a heartbeat.
It could be enough to drive a young man mad, and this new hurt heaped upon her brother's already full plate troubled Aoife to an almost horrifying extreme. His writing took its darkest tumble, then, eventually, stopped altogether. He retreated to first the fields, then the cities, where he was notoriously uncomfortable, but now he took to the taverns and hard brandy, his head dropping onto wooden counters while his slender frame shook with sobs, the only sign of his misery visible to anyone else around him.
Aoife was sure that if not for her young son that Aonaran would have wandered off never to be seen again, to become a creature of the forests as he had so often dreamed of, his stories lengthy on this topic, and detailed to the richest descriptions of life and death, so much understanding for a child. Now Aonaran was a young man, shortly past his twentieth year, drowning his sorrows nightly only to come home in the morning bruised and staggering, curling up on his bed with a bottle of brandy and sobs buried in his pillow, his tears soaking his bedclothes until the small hours.
Most boys of this age were looking into forming their own households, seeking to own a farm or perhaps to raise animals, but it was rare in youth to start out a shepherd. Some, the privileged few, sought the priesthood, while others retreated to the forests to make a living on the creatures, the pelts they may give, and the jewels which may be crafted from things like teeth or bone, or amber to be mined from the distant mountains. Very few young men were in the position of Aonaran, living in the same manner as they had for their entire lives. He stayed during the day to care for young Parlan while Aoife left for her studies and Owen left for his hunting. Already Parlan questioned Aonaran, curious and frustrated by the young man's refusal to speak, some mornings crying for his mother not to leave, fearful and disturbed by the long hours of silence.
In his words, Aoife could feel Aonaran's horror, his loathing of himself, his hatred and agony, which even the burning fire of brandy could not cure. Perhaps only she, out of anyone, knew how desperately he cared for this boy, how he had for several years felt with this boy utter companionship until, finally, Parlan, too, abandoned him and his hours of unbroken solitude. It was generally held that Aonaran truly wanted no one around and this could not have been further from the truth. He craved the presence of others but for so long that had been such a source of pain for him, for as long as he shook and his skin burned with icy fire, he cried out when another entered in the room, his body screaming for the embracing comfort of their arms, but then he'd rocket into pain at the moment they came nearer. For so long it had been this way. Fear kept him shivering almost constantly except in the solitude of the fields and forests, fear that they would come close, that they would touch him with their hands and lips of icy burning flame.
In the summer when Parlan was a young boy of five and Aonaran stood a strapping young man of twenty-one, he was called to the tutelage of the greatest teachers of the land, those whom even Aoife was too weak to come to for guidance in her priesthood. The call came by messenger, a young boy perhaps half Aonaran's age, calling him to the houses of the greatest teachers of the land. Aonaran went dutifully, his memories of these teachers fond ones, memories of soft hands and quieted trembling, of being carried back from the fields and told secrets, being given sweets and gentle strokes of their hands, perfect love from the priests of Glioca.
Aonaran spent nearly a week in the uninterrupted company of these priests and teachers, armed with the books and writings of the Hy-Brasyl, scripture of the gods and their strongest students. It was said that Aonaran could wield the light in a way no one had ever seen before. Aonaran listened to their entreaties with curiosity, watching them with interest as they could heal others and pray in manners which only the gods could hear. They tried to teach him to wield something which he couldn't begin to understand, listening and trying all the tricks they were suggesting he use, only to find that nothing worked in seeking this state which they all insisted way just beyond his reach.
It wasn't until they released him into the forests that Aonaran understood what it was they were asking of him. They wanted the Light. Even in the depths of his greatest sorrow, Aonaran could not remember a time in his later years when the Light did not attempt to permeate his misery. Never was there undisturbed darkness in his soul, always was it permeated by the thin shaft of this cool white light. Once, in the height of a private passion, Aonaran had drawn from this light, seeking to find out where it came from, only to find his body filled, humming, sensitive to every sight and sound in a way which he had never been aware existed. He found that he could heal a cut while filling himself with this light, and that he had been able to avoid trouble with it. He had never known that this was not something every person could do.
Aonaran dropped into a sit, the thick black velvet and red silk robes wrapped about his legs, the silver cross of Danaan hanging about his neck. Aonaran drew upon the light, feeling his body hum and harden to its touch. He placed out a hand and began to concentrate on forming the light into a ball in his mind, concentrating only on this and nothing else. With a start, his eyes popped open and his hand became cold, for above it hovered a ball of cool white light, spinning lazily and covered with faint azure and emerald designs unlike anything he'd ever seen. Such beauty! Aonaran lost his thoughts and stared in shock at his own bare palm, trying to comprehend what he'd just done. He shook his head, sure he'd never quite understand it, but realizing that he truly didn't mind it at all. He laid on his back and laughed at the sky, sharp green leaves whispering above him.
Compiled from ~
Darkness and Light – Aonaran Barran
Tales of the Hy-Brasyl – Matrim Faileas
A Detailed History of Wizardry – Ollamh Balgair
~ Cliona Malkier