Redemption and Rebirth
When I walk the paths of Mileth, or indeed, of any city in Temuair, I see a steady stream of bright, young faces. Unlike most of these Aislings, though, I was not new to this land when I was touched by Deochs flame. Indeed, the better, or at least longer, part of my life was spent as a Mundane soldier in the Loures Standing Army. And perhaps because I was well into my fourth decade before I became an Aisling, I remember most of my previous life. Of course, given some of the things Ive done, I sometimes wish I couldnt remember any of it.
I was born in Mileth proper, the son of a Loures Army captain and a local girl. Both are long since dead, both by my own doing, one intentionally and the other not. Their names arent important, and since there is no statute of limitations on murder, Id rather not mention them, lest a case be made against me using this very document. But I feel the need to purge myself of the facts of my Mundane life, since my life as an Aisling is so completely changed.
My parents relationship wasnt based on mutual love or affection, but rather on lust and power; my fathers lust for my mother, and her desire for the wealth and privilege his power as an officer could provide. Shortly after they began their tryst, my mother became pregnant with me. I am told by those who would have known that he was enraged by this fact, and beat her severely throughout her pregnancy.
Perhaps that was why I was born prematurely, and why my mother was so weakened by the birth. She died within minutes after I was born. When the midwife presented me, tiny and bawling, to my father, he expressed doubt that such a stripling could have been his son. He briefly expressed regret over my mothers death, told the midwife he would have nothing to do with me, gave her a finely crafted dirk for her trouble, and departed to take over a garrison in Undine.
The midwife took care of me for several years, but her husband, a simple farmer, didnt like the idea of having another mouth to feed, especially one that wasnt even his own. He expressed his displeasure with the situation to me almost nightly, using his fists and feet. By the time I was walking, he put me to work with the crops and livestock, from morning to well past sundown, often working me harder than he worked his oxen. I grew up thinking that this man was my father, but the midwife, my presumed mother, told me the story of my birth and parentage on what she told me was my tenth birthday. She also gave me the dirk my father had given to her. It had been tempered to near perfection, with a blade sharp enough to slice a hair lengthwise, and there was a ruby set into the hilt, where the handle met the blade. I pondered her story late into the night, fingering the blade as I contemplated my situation. Just before dawn, I fled the farm. Before I left, I slew the farmer and the midwife in their sleep, using my fathers dagger.
That dagger served me well over the next several years. For the most part, I lived on the streets of Mileth, begging or stealing food, and sleeping under the benches near the fountain, or under the stars in the crossroads of the East Woodlands. I often used the dagger to defend myself from my fellow beggars and thieves, and occasionally, I would catch a drunken merchant stumbling out of the tavern at a late hour; the dagger served me well on those occasions, too.
Working the farm from such a young age had made me strong, and living on the streets of Mileth had taught me to fight, and to kill without remorse. I was a natural for the Loures Army, and signed up when I was thirteen. It was an unusual act, at the time, since most soldiers were pressed into service, rather than volunteering. But I had a knack for the job, and quickly proved myself a valuable resource. If I do say so myself, I acquitted myself on the field of battle rather admirably, and by the time I was sixteen, I had been given a commission. My father, by that time, had been promoted to colonel, and was in charge of all troops stationed in Undine. I requested to be transferred to his unit, something that was considered lunacy, because of the unrest going on there, but because of my reputation, my request was approved.
My father had no idea that I was the son he had abandoned all those years ago, but I certainly knew who he was. I quickly worked to secure his trust, and was rather successful, especially after leading several daring raids in Astrid. Before long, I was one of his most trusted aides. And I quickly set a plan in motion to take advantage of that trust.
After returning from one of my many raids against the goblins and kobolds of that wretched valley, I requested a meeting with my father. My further urgent request that our meeting be held in private piqued his interest, and he granted me audience in his private apartment, despite the late hour. Fiosachd must have blessed my tongue that night, for I began to spin a tale of a treasure so great that it would not have been believed otherwise. The treasure was so valuable, I explained, that only he and I should go and retrieve it, as it would drive the men mad with avarice if they were to lay their eyes upon it. Furthermore, I flattered him, telling him that, of course, he and I were up to the job, despite the fact that years of directing battles, rather than participating in them, had made him fat and weak. He agreed to my plan, which was for the two of us to sneak into Astrid under the cover of darkness and retrieve the treasure the following night.
The hardest part of my plan proved to be getting him out of the base without alerting any of his subordinates. As difficult as it may be to sneak into an armed and alert military base, it is even more difficult for its commanding officer to leave without his men knowing about it. Still, we were successful, and we made our way into Astrid. I led him on a merry stroll through the secret paths and trails I had discovered during my raids, and for the most part we were undisturbed. Near dawn, though, we came across a small kobold patrol, and engaged them in battle. In truth, I engaged them in battle, while he did his best to defend himself against a single kobold pup. Still, I slaughtered the rest of the patrol before turning to aid him; I had hoped that the pup would do my job for me. Once I had killed that pup, though, he expressed concern, for the first time. How long was he expected to tramp around the valley, looking for this treasure? Was it really even worth it? What if we encountered more, and stronger, patrols? It gave me a not insignificant amount of pleasure to hear the fear in his voice.
Not to worry, I told him. The treasure was nearby, I told him. In fact, I said, I was holding it right now. I pulled out the ornate dagger he had used to pay the midwife for birthing me and showed it to him. He stared at it for several seconds before a look of recognition crossed over his face. "My son..." were the only words he got out of his mouth before I plunged the blade into his heart, silencing him.
There were amazingly few repercussions for my act. It was assumed that the commander had been kidnapped by goblins in the night, and after his armor was found near a goblin encampment several weeks later, this became the official pronouncement. A new commander was assigned to Undine, and that was the end of it.
My career flourished marvelously. I received promotion after promotion, eventually rising to full colonel myself. Unlike my father, though, I participated in the battles into which I led my men. I didnt want my rank to weaken me, as it had him, but beyond that, I enjoyed combat too much. The sound of blades clashing was music to my ears, and the feeling of my opponents warm blood splashing across me as I slew him was pure ecstasy. I believed strongly in the force of arms, that the strong must rule the weak, and that the ends justified the means. I slaughtered goblin, kobold, orc, and dubaimid without question. On many occasions, I even slaughtered uprising peasants, including children, without so much as a raised eyebrow. I was richly rewarded and well praised for my efforts on behalf of the empire.
But in recent years, I began to feel that I was not praised well enough. Especially after Aislings began performing their great deeds around Temuair. I seethed with envy as I saw them walking past me, usually ignoring me, hatred welling up inside me. Had I not served the gods as well as any Aisling? Certainly my works had served to glorify Ceannlaidir and Sgrios. My skills, then at their peak, should have attracted the attention of Fiosachd. The chaos I brought to Astrid and the Dubaimid Castle surely would have pleased Deoch. And my constant vigilance had allowed law and order to reign in Greater Temuair, which should have pleased Gramail. But here were these Aislings walking around... stories being written about them, songs being sung about them ... songs and stories that should have been mine. Had I had the ability, I would have killed any Aisling I came across, but the abilities of even the weakest Aisling surpass those of even the strongest Mundane.
I renounced my commission in order to return to the battlefield full time, and redoubled my efforts at attracting the attentions of the gods. Like all Mundanes, I wanted more than anything to be an Aisling, but unlike most others, I was willing to go to any lengths to prove my worthiness. I accepted any assignment, no matter how dangerous, and threw myself into battle with a fury I had not known in all my twenty-five years as a soldier.
The day came when a call to arms went up to slay a great draco that had emerged from the Kasmium Mine and made its way towards Mileth, a call that Mundane and Aisling alike answered. Nearly an entire battalion of Mundane soldiers fought the beast, most of them cut down by its fiery breath, and even most of the Aislings were falling before the beast. I myself and broken my blades against the creatures scales, and my armor had been battered beyond repair. Nothing could stop the beast, and even I was appalled by the destruction it wrought. In an attempt to save my colleagues, I screamed at them to flee, and flung myself at the dragon, but I soon found myself being trampled by the monster. As it passed over me, in one last desperate act, I took my last remaining weapon, my fathers bejeweled dagger, and thrust it under the dragons scales and into its heart, knowing that I would be crushed to death under the beasts weight, but that no others would be claimed by its rampage.
Only I wasnt. In a brilliant flash of light, I was transported to Mileth, and found myself standing before the legendary altar there. I was wearing only my ragged undershirt and breeches, and still clutching the bloody dirk. But I could tell at an instant I was changed. I could feel the power pulsing through my body, and although my thoughts were clouded with new insights, I knew one thing: I was an Aisling. Finally, I thought, I was being rewarded for my Mundane efforts ... and if my efforts had been glorious before, imagine what they would be now!
Standing before the altar, still clutching the dagger, I did something I had never done as a Mundane: I offered a sacrifice to the gods. I placed the dagger, my most prized possession, into the offertory basin. I wasnt expecting an answer, but had heard of others being touched by the god here. Surely, I thought, if any god were to answer me, it would Ceannlaidir or Sgrios, since I had served them the longest, and the best.
To my surprise though, my sight was filled by a figure of indescribable beauty and light. "Your last act was one of Compassion for your fellows," she told me, "and it was I that beseeched Deoch to touch you with his flame." Glioca gently stroked my cheek, and I felt myself filled to overflowing with something I had never felt directed at me before: love. I kneeled in the grass before the altar and wept openly, begging the goddess to forgive me all my actions as a Mundane. "Youve been reborn," she told me. "All acts from your previous life have already been forgiven." She then touched me on the top of my head. "But not forgotten," she added.
I have since devoted myself to Glioca. I followed the Warriors path, of course, because Ive known little else in my four decades. But I have vowed to use my newfound abilities only to aid my fellow man, and to fill my heart with compassion at all times. I will never again raise my sword against a human, Mundane or Aisling.