In ages past the people of the valley were wont to quarrel and bicker, with peace sheathed and their hearts tempered in the fires of war. Great evil was wreaked upon the earth and each man did partake in the destruction of his brothers. Of what they deemed they would accomplish little is known; what is known is that out of the smoke and fire, betwixt the valley’s walls did a man rise, to tame his people and unite the valley once more.
Blessed by the High Priests of Syr, who doth proclaim him Rylaeg or “Gods’ Judge” in the common tongue of our more complacent world, he marched at the head of a great host, binding each upstart lord to vassalage. From the gates of Tor-Asr and the Skykeep, to the meadows of the Ashvale he conquered; water, sky and earth were his domain.
Upon his gilded palanquin of fire he ruled for many an age. Erelong he perished and his kingdom doth fall unto ruin; the keeps burned; the land scarred, and the gilded palanquin, the Hassan-Rylaegsum “Gods’ Throne of Judgement” lost unto time within the shimmering peaks of Syr.
Centuries passed and time withered. Now the valley is grown harsh and the people have betaken to savage ways and the worshipping of old and new gods alike. Whispers of encroaching danger spread but alas that is a tale for another time. And so it was once, in a greened town perched upon a mountain overlooking the river Landamyr, there dwelt a stout young man – a lordling unusually wise in the ways of Ochranmah, the sacred martial art of the High Priests; it this man of which the common folk now do speak with such zealous adoration and pride. For this man was Rylaeg reborn, returned to bring peace back to the valley and reclaim the Hassan-Rylaegsum. The man’s actual name need not be known and so he shall be called Rylaeg for their spirits were one and the same.
Thus it was a dark and cold evening; the moon hung high and thick fog wound as veins up the battlements of the Sunspear. High Priest Salten did sit divining the portents in the Orrery. It was he who advised the Great Duke of the Skykeep on his conquest of the Aldemar Lowlands; it was he who then led the Aldemari refugees in exile to a distant land beyond the Vale and it was he who did wander the forests and came upon the Valley-Heart thus healing it and replenishing the lush growths. As the portents were divined a pale green fire beckoned from Salten’s eyes; the warm glow of the braziers grew dim and he began to murmur and mutter. Whencesoever the visage came Salten did not know but that which he did know frightened him and delighted him in equal measure. As he sat, gibbering and twitching the light danced playfully among the vaulted roof. The High Priest beheld unnatural voices and rose, cross legged, above the stone plated floor. With a daemonic entity he did converse, finally ending with a passage of speech now recorded as legend in the annals of history.
“Where art thou holy Raven? Art thou amongst the trees?
Thy grace hast birthed the world; thy love hast spawned the light.
Where art thou most holy Ryl? Art thou within the Valley?
Thy touch hast made us great; thy voice given us cause.
The Raven hath reborn his chosen; Ryl hath deigned him risen.”
The Sunspear is high up in the mountain ranges of Syr, named from its appearance; a polished tower thrusting towards the heavens, rising so high as to grace the clouds with its majestic presence. Servants from within claim that Ryl itself visits on a cold, clear eve in the late times of the year, indeed many a tale hath been told of miraculous events and of horrific deeds that seldom doth life in the highest levels of the keep dwell. The Orrery lay at the summit of the tower, whereout came Salten, somedeal elated alas with the weight of the gods upon his shoulders.
Upon receiving the divinations Salten gathered his company to set out and find Rylaeg. They went forth from the Sunspear unto the wilderness; over mossy crag and steep hill did they travel and through perilous abyss they went and all manner of vile and evil creatures crossed their path, each in turn cut down by the High Priest’s righteous fury. While journeying through the Ashvale they encountered an old decrepit traveller who warned them of their quest, and with cheap parlour tricks did he mesmerise half of the company to their deaths and was burnt alive within holy flames by High Priest Salten. On the thirtieth day they arrived at the river Landamyr and afar could be seen The Rhosagha, the mountain from which the Valley-Heart was discovered within many aeons ago; with sadness great and waxing Salten had to turn away, for he longed for the lost Valley-Heart’s warmth and wisdom and while he had, long ago, found it, ‘twas now lost to him.
For six nights they dwelt on the riverside, making merry each night, enjoying what little joy remained after the loss of their brothers. Atop the hill, away from the camp, Salten’s tent sat, making not merry dance in the wind as the remnants of the company were. For nigh five days and five nights did the High Priest meditate; upon thought; upon the divinations. He knew not the way forward; the location of Rylaeg. Ere fall of night upon the sixth day, did Salten awake from his ponderous thoughts, the tent flapping, and a pale green fire arose from the ground, engulfing the surrounds within an inferno. In disbelief and horror the remnants of the company watched as the thick cloud bellowed upwards, forming tendrils clambering up towards the waning moon. Hearsay talks of forces malevolent that entered the world that night, feasting upon the souls of the remnants of the company while the fire blinded them and turned those blind mad as they turned upon one another. Certain was Salten, emerging grimly from the unholy flames, of the location of Rylaeg. The corpses of the company hearkened to him as he gave a thunderous sermon:
“High upon a mountain edge doth the Judge dwell; Ryl hath deemed him most wise and holy. As sure as the sun rises and the moon wanes shalt I, Salten, High Priest of Syr, search out Rylaeg, and bring him unto the Raven’s light. Now rise and rise again my fallen brothers, rejoice in undeath and join mine most holy quest.”
The common folk now do speak of the evil wrought that night; of the High Priest who sought out Rylaeg and found him, upon the greened mountain edge town in which he dwelt.
Waning in the blackened sky the moon, casting a deathly light upon the mountainside, appearing to grow, becoming akin to the sun. Mayhap ‘twas the sun, alas the sky was dark and foreboding. A spectral charge filled the air and the cattle grew restless. Thus did a lone man enter the town, clad in black and hooded. Approaching the centre of town he slew many a guard with fire and fury. Shadows came forth from his self, revealing the High Priest, and driving the townsfolk mad, as the remnants of the company had grown mad before. From amongst the flames and ashes did a man arise; a young stout man, and rallied the townsfolk and drove back the undead.
Surrounded was the High Priest, and he was wise to grow weary of his prey. As he laid eyes upon Rylaeg, he did chant; with each phrase he uttered green fire burst from his eyes. Rylaeg approached, unknowing of the forces with which he made his quarry. They duelled, fire against fire, wrathful and ferocious, each of equal skill in the ways of Ochranmah. The fire gathered in the sky, amassing as a host and descending upon the two with such a fury that the mountainside did collapse. Time faded; the world plunged. Yet on they fought, from rock to rock, leaping and jumping and gliding; performing unthinkable acts of graceful agility and power; meeting fist with fist, foot with foot, ‘til what seemed the void hath perished and even Ryl hath faded into oblivion. Very suddenly from the High Priest arose a blinding light, and Rylaeg could hear his poisonous shrill:
“Thou art Rylaeg, chosen as its Judge. Thou shalt rise and claim all between the Valley walls as thine domain. Why doth thou weep? Art thou afraid? Doth now the raven hearken unto the worm? Nay, the raven doth smite the worm. Embrace thy destiny; Ryl hast chosen for thee a most glorious fate, accept or face oblivion; ‘tis foolish to otherwise think.”
And with that the light vanished and the High Priest was scorched to bones and ashes, leaving Rylaeg to plummet into the Landamyr. Thus was the legend of Rylaeg born anew, for he did survive the fall and did rise to lead the people in uniting the Valley once more. Hath he fulfilled his fate as Ryl will it? This they found to be true.
– Written by Dan Mason. The former President of the University of Exeter Philosophy Society, now Director of Notion, he is in his third year of studying Philosophy at the University of Exeter.