"Tydlig av syn, "Clarity of vision,
Adel av uppsat, Nobility of purpose,
Matta av ande" Temperance of spirit".
--Luathas Prayer, Suomi Village.
Usually when a man chooses to write of himself, especially at what could be considered the height of his life span, it is not only an act of great pompousness and self-indulgence, but also an act of futility and pointlessness. To honestly expect others to be deeply interested in your doings or lack thereof is a brash assumption and to hope to teach others something through relating your own life experience is a na´ve one, because humanity as a whole has always repeated its errors and will forever continue to repeat its errors.
Nevertheless, I have written this autobiography that serves to convey a taste of what my life--the life of a 26-year-old Aisling, a Rogue of Suomi, a follower of Luathas, god of Gnosis--has been like and is like today, in hopes of not only honing my own writing skills and providing myself with amusement, but (and this is perhaps an overly grand fancy on my part) in hopes that someday this document will be found somewhere and will prove to be of some historical or at least literary interest. Surely the Loures Library will stand long enough for some of its current tomes to gain ancient status.
I have also in the making a copy of this work in the Suomian language. For those interested in seeing such a text, whether out of curiosity or out of desire to preserve their knowledge of the language under the modern-day pervasiveness of the Common Tongue of Temuair, have only to ask me and I will be happy to provide you with what you seek. This comparatively obscure culture must never be allowed do die out, and everything I ever plan to publish will have an alternative copy written in my native tongue.
With those things said, I proceed with my story.
Birth and Childhood
I was born in the Fall of the year of Danaan 3274, 26 years ago as of the writing of this tome, in Suomi Village, located as we all know in the western part of Temuair. My parents were named Petra Marckusdotter and August Romson, and that is all I know about them, because shortly after I turned five, my mother fell ill from drinking infected well-water and my father grew despondent, then drunk, and eventually disappeared mysteriously. At the age of six, I was adopted by an old mundane named Fisk, the Lorekeeper of Suomi Village, even up until this very day. He gave me the surname "Swanberg," substituting the one I had before that. In Suomian, this means "Swan Mountain." Being newly dubbed Arne Gustaf Swanberg, Fisk raised me as his own son and set me to work as his apprentice as soon as I learned to read and write (in three languages).
As you know, villages that are not developed enough to have libraries have Lorekeepers, individuals responsible for gathering all the pertinent knowledge that could be found on every subject ranging from philosophy to history to combat training. Fisk was just such a Lorekeeper, and the storehouse of knowledge he has kept up for countless years has served to me both as a haven in which afternoons could be spent reading an adventure book and as an imposing vault of forbidden esoterica so dangerously exotic in scope that it was put under lock and key and I was never to so much as gaze upon it. As Fisk's apprentice, I was taught where and how to look for knowledge, for information, and how to extract it once it was found, for example, what sorts of people would know what sorts of things, and how to get these people to converse freely about these things in an easily recorded fashion. I was taught to love both raw facts and intuitive wisdom. Such is the apprenticeship of a Lorekeeper that its purpose is to change one's perspective, and my perspective was changed in such a direction that would eventually lead me to become a rogue, independent, striving for knowledge and sophistication through combating ignorance.
There were long months, sometimes, when I did not get out into the open. I still meet people that tell me they lived in Suomi at the same time period as I, and I never knew them and do not remember seeing them. I was so engaged in the perusal and contemplation of all that was available for me to peruse and contemplate in Fisk's dusty, moth-eaten playland that I did little else for whole seasons.
One day, in the spring of Danaan 3288, when I was 14, I discovered a chest, which was not to be opened by me and was in fact locked shut. It was labeled "Forbidden," in runes. When Fisk was not in, I could not resist the urge to open the chest. I climbed up into the loft where it was stored and began to try to get it open. I tried for many hours, but it seemed to have been sealed magically.
Then, I saw something jutting out of the side of the box and made it out to be a panel that was not fully closed. As I pulled it out, a set of lockpicks tumbled onto the floor planks, and I swept them up, jamming them into the chest's lock. I trembled with glee and expectation and slowly opened the chest, but as I did so, something gleamed and shot out of it, lodging into my wrist. I felt horrible, like vomiting, and, seeing spots and suddenly lacking breath, passed out upon the floor.
When Fisk returned, he revived me and may have been angry, but I do not remember. It is a safe assumption to make, I suppose. But, that is how I learned of the rogue art of Unlocking.
And inside the chest was more knowledge, which Fisk decided to show me since I had survived the chest's poison. It was a book, bound in dark green leather, entitled "Skalm"--the Suomi word for "Rogue." It had been written in Danaan 2230, from the date on the first page, over a millenium old. I remember being drawn to the book, consumed by it. It spoke of philosophies I could not understand, regarding tyranny and upheaval, ignorance and truth, economic trends. It was almost a sociological text, and I was fascinated by the many secrets it spoke of, from invisible traps one could lay on any surface to the ability to become invisible oneself through unbroken concentration and meditation upon the concepts in the book. There were even myths and fables, featuring a main hero that the book made clear was the embodiment of all its teachings, an ancient exiled Aosda named Fiosachd.
That day, I ceased to be a lorekeeper-in-training and became a rogue-in-training, an art Fisk had apparently mastered, but had kept from me. I learned many things, a few of which ravage my mind to this day. I do not wish to speak of them.
Fall Of Danaan, Choosing, Emigration
I was 18 when the Goddess of Light Danaan sacrificed herself in 3292. There was terrible rioting in the streets such as I had never seen, and I stayed inside mostly, reading the latest texts regarding the reasons for Danaan's sacrifice and the plans of Deoch. It was a terrible time, especially considering that Suomi is filled with zealous Deoch followers, who gathered to have tempestuous public bacchanalias in support of Deoch and his sorrow over Danaan's death. Perhaps it was because of the support of all these worshippers that the first Aisling would appear but a year later, but nevertheless, the chaos resulted in the burning of Fisk's teaching establishment by an orthodox Deoch branch who believed the path to ultimate happiness was through renunciation of knowledge.
I was disgusted by these crazed lunatics and their love of debauchery, drinking, running rampant with flaming objects, and most of all, their embracing of ignorance and living-in-the-moment hysteria. The streets of Suomi were congealed with their tumbling, yelling, whooping cries for months, all through the harvest, and as the wheel of seasons turned onto winter, it was only the oncoming frigid cold that stopped them from descending further into the maelstrom of pandemonium which they so savored, in support of Deoch as he burned and mourned Danaan's death.
The one day that I did go outside, at Fisk's command, as part of a training exercise in stealth and reconnaissance, a High Priest of Rapture stood on a dais in the town square, surrounded by gyrating mobs of wild, disorganized worshippers who held effigies of an old man in blue robes carrying a wooden staff. The priest screamed a word into the air, which I did not know or care to know and the effigies burst into flames. A wild ululation and the window-shattering trilling of Deoch's many names followed, and the rest of that night was lit by fanatical self-incineration and exploded with the sound of beating drums and cackling bonfire-dancers.
I asked Fisk the next day who the old man in the blue robes was that they were burning. He was reluctant to tell me, but he did eventually--it was Luathas, a god from a land as far away from Suomi as it was possible to be without entering uncharted territory. I had heard of Luathas briefly before, as the church of Deoch deeply despised him, but did not know what he looked like and had only a vague conception of what he stood for. Naturally, as was my habit when excited by a new concept or discovery, I began to find all the information I could about the wizened sage that had gripped my curiosity ever since the height of the Deoch worshippers' throes of devotion.
I found out practically everything there was to know. He was the patron god of Wizards (who practically did not exist in Suomi altogether), he represented Gnosis, Divine Knowledge, and he was an Aosda who was a dedicated sage and deeply religious, so much so that he was called upon by Danaan herself to the pantheon of gods. I suppose only Luathas could have known what crazed connections the Deoch followers could have fabricated based on his ties with Danaan.
I became so entranced that I spoke of it to Fisk. I asked permission to end my apprenticeship and meant to convince him that I was ready to set out on my own. Too many things had come together in too short a time for me to remain sedentary: my discovery and by then considerably furthered study of Skalm, my level of erudition which had reached limits that could only be oppressed by the dark alcoves of books in Fisk's (newly reconstructed) headquarters, and this spiritual discovery I had finally become old enough to realize: Deoch, patron god of Suomi, was the way of chaos, and Luathas, his sworn enemy, was the man I could become. Perhaps some would consider this a sacrilegious thought to have, but those are the same people who mumble their prayers while cowering in awe like maggots.
Fisk was delighted, but sad at my parting. A bittersweet moment of farewell followed, which I do not wish to speak of, and I went on my way to Rucesion, city of wizards, city of the first shining streetlamps, city of enlightenment.
Rucesion, Visions, Subtle Transformation, Emigration
My first few weeks in Rucesion were spent in a partially muddled state under an all-encompassing shroud of awe. In fact, I am quite sure there was nothing in Rucesion I had actually seen before.
Rucesion swarmed with wizards, much in the same way that an anthill swarms with ants. An undisturbed anthill will look to be abandoned, but should you step on it, legions, multitudes of ants come running out. Samewise, Rucesion was entirely quiet during all times of the day and night, except for the sound of musical bells from the Shrine of Luathas to the north, pouring over the distant hills. Nothing stirred, except for an occasional breeze, and the winking of the stars in the sky, always clear as crystal. But, sometimes, a sort of underhum would permeate every cobblestone and alley, as if something stirred within the buildings and coursed through the very streets. It was the wizards, toiling, toiling in distant abodes, in towers, under the stars. I could feel it and I had never seen a wizard before in my life and had never experienced actual magic within myself. It was as if in Rucesion, all things somehow came together. What you saw was often not what you felt. It is difficult to explain. But, the one time the city unfurled at the seams, as it were, was at dawn, when all the inhabitants rushed out from each and every one of the buildings and bustled in an unstoppable wave to the north, to the Shrine of Luathas, for the daily prayer and supplication to their patron god.
That, itself, was a sight to behold. The shrine, at that time located on an elevated cliff that was led up to by a long trodden path, was imposing, made entirely of stone covered with arcane runic carvings of intricate weaving lines the meaning of which I could not begin to ponder. And yet, I could see that all those who entered the shrine, their heads bowed, their eyes shut, somehow absorbed the meaning of the carvings as they passed through the shrine's doorway into the sanctum within. Another thing was strange--although the bells that were the only sound that could be heard in Rucesion emanated from this shrine and sounded over the hills, now that I was there with the shrine shooting up into the dawn sky in front of me, the bells had not gotten any louder.
I was allowed to watch the wizards and priests at their worshipping and prayer. I soon found out that this was a church that welcomed converts, the more eccentric the better. As the High Priest himself had told me, smiling and trying to hide it by turning his face down coyly: "Eccentricity is a sign of enlightenment."
Inside, there was an altar in the form of a statue of a tall, strong-looking robed man, who I correctly assumed was Luathas at a young age. The statue was covered with flowers, and the walls themselves had woven baskets of flora mounted onto them at regular intervals. The interior was just like the rest of Rucesion--tranquil and yet too tranquil, as if arcane mysteries lurked somewhere within the cosmic depths of the very fabric of everything, mysteries welcoming and at the same time foreboding, like the rising sun of dawn ascending into the unpredictable brightness of day. A priestess stood next to the altar, looking somehow vacuous and docile. She had no pupils in her eyes, a state I deciphered as being either complete emptiness or supreme concentration.
The worshippers, having filed in, arranged themselves roughly to the sides and in front of the priestess and the altar. Clearly higher-ranking members of the community and the head priests stood closer to the front of the statue. The next thing I observed was the prayer itself, and I will never forget the experience. The High Priest of the order, a heavily-robed native of Rucesion, as his dark skin revealed, moved to the front of the crowd, with his back to them as he turned to the statue. He moved with a tantalizing fluidity, as if there were no feet under his robes and he was simply a feather floating on the chill draft within the stone walls of the shrine. The priest shot out his right arm into the air, the arm which according to common theological beliefs is the one that receives energy, while the left projects it. He spoke a single soft word, that somehow flittered around the room and radiated from the stones, permeating the crowd, and then bowed his head, silent for an eternal moment.
The room was completely still, and somewhere within my mind, there wailed a fierce wind between the peaks of snowy mountains.
The priest sharply turned around to face the crowd while lowering his right arm to his side, and shot out his left arm toward the crowd like an orating dictator. For a moment, infinitely brief, I felt a gale-force gust of wind thrash itself against my body. But, as I looked around, I noticed that no one else showed any indication of shock or surprise. The wizards stood solemnly, their heads bowed and their arms in front of them. Suddenly, as if something fell over them, each of the members of the crowd began muttering under their breaths incantations, prayers, entreaties, each person saying different things that somehow harmonized with what each of his brothers was saying. Some were fevered, some were solemn and deeply reverent, some were rumbled in voices like an earthquake, and some called out loudly, but when all were combined, they achieved a temperance and synthesis with each other. I could feel also then the breath of each of the worshippers flowing outward, radiating something that made me feel like a flying mote of dust in a vertigo world that was larger than both time and the universe. The priest stood in front of the crowd, a swaying stalk of grass, his left arm now as limp as his right. He seemed to be taking in the power of the prayers and serving as a conduit to channel them into some place, some other Place.
Then it was over. The crowd dispersed into the now fully flaring afternoon sun.
Exactly seven years from that night, I heard the same wind blowing in my dreams, into a limitless space, waiting to be filled. Realizing it was the wind blowing across the ocean, I decided to leave Rucesion for Mileth upon waking up, without a specific reason. Something called me there, and something had changed. But what?
Mileth, Aislingdom, Settling
In Rucesion, I had studied the ways of magic and wizardry for years, but I did not learn much. I could not grasp anything even as simple as a candle-lighting spell. And, what's more, I did not fit in and could not walk the streets without feeling like something was missing and I belonged elsewhere. Rucesion was a magical town, meaning it carried all the darkness and mystery that came with that, and it frightened me.
I left for Mileth in the Fall of Deoch 5, and the ocean voyage, which I was surprised to find myself enjoying, took a full double-moon. The trip between Rucesion and Mileth is the longest single trip in Temuair that you can take. Our ship passed the Isle of Dawn along its eastern shore, and sailed north for a long period of time, and then turned sharply to the west, where we shortly docked at Abel Port. A long walk through the port city and out of its gates took me into the woodlands, where a straight, heavily trodden path stretched out to the rustic Mileth Village, which lay directly west of the port. I met a number of people along that trail who spoke in a brogue which I could not begin to understand; not that I was entirely unused to culture shock.
The one major inn in the village belonged to a woman by the name of Riona, and I was able, with great difficulty, to obtain permanent lodging there at a price of 3,500 gold coins per week. The season was by then turning to Winter, and the inn was entirely reserved save one room. A phenomenon unheard of in the East Lands was occurring for unknown reasons--huge crowds of people were migrating to Mileth from all over Temuair, and it was filling up quickly with visitors and those who had come to stay. Many of these individuals were highly unsavory types, heretics, and so Riona was more than eager to lend her last room to yours truly after I managed to push through the crowds.
My first night in Mileth, a frigidly cold, snowy night, I had this dream: I was sitting in a wooden rocking-chair behind an isolated log cabin, with a pile of ancient-looking parchments in my lap, covered from top to bottom with exquisite calligraphy such as I had never seen. I looked up to the evening sky, and there was a star directly above me shining twice more brightly than any of the others. Then, the star slowly drifted out of the sky, seeming light as a feather, and landed into my palm, feeling warm but weighing nothing. Just before I woke, I was looking down at my hand as it folded around the blue light. In the morning, the only aspect of the dream that remained with me was the nagging sensation that it had something to do with the crowds entering Mileth.
After that night, I spoke to all of the shop-owners and scholars that dwelled in the village and learned all they could teach me, most of which I already knew, if not all. I listened to them regardless, because they interested me and I must have interested them, since each one always took protracted periods of time to speak with me. After a short while, I began to feel at home with the generous, deeply spiritual and high-spirited citizenry of the village, and realized I knew where everything was. I applied for citizenship myself, and received it quickly, to my ultimate contentment.
Then, I began having the previously described dream every night, regularly, until one night I felt a very odd sensation: as if the dream never ended. At the point where I had been used to waking up and opening my eyes to see the wooden planks of the ceiling above me, I instead saw the rest of the dream. As my hand closed around the blue light that had drifted into it, the calligraphy on the parchments on my lap began to run off the paper and crawl onto my skin, tattooing me not only physically, but branding its content into my very being, so to speak. I felt tranquil, even somewhat pleasured, when suddenly I felt something. Something watched me from the evening gloom to my right--it was dark with yellowed eyes, and was not at all hidden. If I had turned my head then to look, it would be there, a featureless shadow enshrouding two yellow points of light with its darkness. I knew this the way you always know certain things when a dream commences.
Instead of turning my head, I was moved to stand up from my sitting position, and walk inside the log cabin...which was an inn. An inn? I then opened my right fist, and there was nothing there. I rolled my sleeves all the way up, feeling something roiling under my skin, but there was nothing there either. Inside the inn, I went into a small room...my room...walked to a bed, my bed, and I saw someone in it, staring in open-eyed horror at the ceiling. It was me.
I then distinctly remember walking outside of the inn, facing the altar of the gods, and looking down into the endless depths of its basin. I lost myself within the obscurity of that sacred abyss for what felt like hours. When I looked back up, it was morning and the streets were filled with the bustling sound of activity and the all-encompassing music of the morning church bells of Danaan ringing out throughout the village in celebration of a fresh dawn.
They say the experience of becoming an Aisling is different for everyone, but always either deeply scarring or wholly rejuvenating. I am not quite sure to this day where my experience of this phenomenon was along that gradient--I remember the feeling of euphoric rebirth. But, I also remember that, technically, I never woke up from the dream I had been having that night. And, in the same way, I remember the dark hulk with the vomit-colored eyes.
I have been an Aisling for slightly over one year now. I do not know what happened to me, but I have realized that it does not matter. As an Aisling, I have within me something I did not have before. Something has fused with me, a something that has freed me of all care and responsibility. I live still in Mileth, now the epicenter of Aisling civilization, and enjoy it. I have officially rescinded my social status as a mundane peasant to truly become a rogue and have recently joined the church of Luathas in Rucesion.
I spend my days writing, traveling, studying the many roguish crafting skills, secret abilities and ancient texts, pilfering a shiny rock or two from the Crypts of Mileth, walking through the East Woodland at sunrise and praying, and sometimes merely standing around and swapping stories and views with whoever is next to me... Someday, I hope to grow to be a famed bard, a mighty rogue, and a politician. Someday, I hope to have a student to guide along the path I have tread and show them that there is more to the world--that there is a difference between living and merely existing. Perhaps even someday, I will fall in love. Those days could be far in the distance...or just around the corner. But as I sit here, I realize that those days will come if I want them to come. I can do anything I wish. I am a man, suffused with infinite potential, living in a place that has suddenly become magical and rife with possibility. My quest for knowledge has just begun, much like Luathas' must have at some point so many aeons ago. But what was the dark thing in my dream? I do not know. This does not matter to me. I am an Aisling.
That is what has changed.
--->Arne Gustaf Swanberg, Rogue of Suomi.