The Ethenorden: The Mist Wanderers, a nomadic people
The People and its history: The Ethenorden is a dusk skinned race of nomadic humans that frequent all nations on the Dhargenaas continent, save for populated parts of the province of Silmar and the Obaayn Desert within the Empire. Originally they arrived from overseas, fugitives fleeing the cataclysm that befell both them and the Silmarites. Much of their origin had been lost in antiquity, and still more knowledge was lost in the cataclysm as their keepers of lore perished, but they knew they traditionally had been a nomadic people. They reclaimed what they knew of their heritage and having claimed a small part of the area now known as the Imperial Conquered Lands as their new homeland, they pursued the lives of their ancestors as travelling merchants. But the nomadic dusk skinned people was tolerated at best and persecuted at worst, for they were adept merchants, invoking the envy of the locals. Additionally their skin was of another colour than the other peoples of Dhargenaas, a disadvantage among the distrustful Dhargenites. As the years passed they came under constant pressure from Imperial aggression and Silmarite persecution. More and more frequently they found Silmarite town gates closed and accusations of witchcraft flung in their faces. Meanwhile city after city fell under Imperial control and the Imperial decree of 785 made matters even worse as Ethenorden-Imperial marriages were declared unwholesome and hence illegal. In addition all of the Ethenorden were to be castrated upon arrival in Imperial towns and the slaying of an Ethenorden was made legal when in it was committed in “the defence of the family” or “when protecting private property”.
It was about this time that the legendary Syrrah was born and raised in the city of ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Âºr-Kanesh. As the eldest son of a powerful lore keeper he listened to his father’s tales of past and present and he came to resent the oppression of his people. When the Ethenorden Grand Council decreed that they would raise an army to face the Imperial conquest of their chosen lands, Syrrah volunteered against the wishes of his father.
Only seventeen years old, Syrrah marched alongside three thousand of his brethren, wearing the traditional battle garb of the Ethenorden; the two handed spear, brigandine and a composite bow. The army wore uniforms of typical Ethenorden design, with earthen coloured surcoats and capes. It was all too easy for a young man to romanticize and fantasize about the valiant army marching to face its encroaching oppressors, and as they marched his heart throbbed with nationalistic fervour. Then, on the afternoon of Midsummer Eve, in the year of 802, the army made camp atop a hillock close to the Grey Hills, not knowing that beyond the next hill lay an Imperial army in wait.
In the darkness of the night the Imperials acted, and their army moved from its place of hiding and circled the Ethenorden while most of their men were fast asleep. The next morning Syrrah awoke to disheartened shouts and fully grown men crying or panicking. Quickly exiting his tent, he witnessed the reality of their situation, for around the hillock stood a vast Imperial army easily outnumbering the Ethenorden by ten to one. As the Imperial emissaries stated their demands of forced castration as well as the execution of the leaders and the whipping of all men below the age of 50, the Ethenorden donned their battle garb and took up position atop the hillock. The proposition was refused and with the clamour of Imperial Cavalry trumpets, the carnage began.
It all happened so fast, Syrrah did not register all of it, but in spite of their fervour, their higher elevation and their courage, the poorly trained Ethenorden was no match for crack Imperial troops and without even getting his sword wet, Syrrah fell as a hail of arrows struck his position.
He awoke hours later to the thudding sound of an Ethenorden being skewered nearby. Looters were pillaging the deceased and small groups of soldiers were spearing the fallen of the Ethenorden, making sure they were all dead. Thus Syrrah learned to pray, and while his tears were streaming he called upon his ancestors, the gods and all that would answer, but nothing happened and his desperation grew, for the soldiers were getting really close to where he lay. Trembling violently, Syrrah steeled himself for what must surely happen. Suddenly someone jerked his left boot off, and the surprised Syrrah bolted upright. There stood an elderly man, bald and thin, his arms full of boots and surcoats. Nearby was a trio of soldiers, skewering the fallen and when the old man saw Syrrah, he screamed and shouted to them, alerting them of an enemy all too alive. “Buggers! Do yer d**ned work, so I can alleviate them dead of their valuables in peace! I paid them fees and I want me part of the spoils without having to die to get at it, d**nit!” the old man hollered and then he fell to the ground, utterly dead. Syrrah had run him through with a single, fluid motion of his spear, and the three soldiers charged towards him. Tendrils of mist crept over the battlefield as Syrrah dodged the attackers, throwing himself sidelong to avoid being skewered on the pikes. Quickly he rose to face his opponents. Meanwhile the mist was rapidly getting thicker and Syrrah realized he might have a chance to evade these soldiers in the thick mist. Still he had an arrow in his hip and an entire army was nearby. The three soldiers charged again and this time Syrrah stood perfectly still. Just as the long pikes were about to impale him, he dropped to the ground, still holding his spear facing the enemies and impaled one as the other two rushed by, their pikes missing him by a few scant inches. Turning about to face them once again, Syrrah realized that the mist was now so thick he could not even see them anymore and he ran away, to fight another day.
There are spirits in this world, some benevolent, some malevolent and others uncaring. But often these spirits are curious and whenever humans and animals engage in unusual activity, these spirits drift by to take a closer look. Thus it came to be that Schathia, Spirit of the Mists, drifted over the battlefield and studied the faces of the slain. As she stretched her misty tendrils over the battlefield, she caressed the fallen, wondering what they felt inside, now that their bodies were in ruin and the pathways of the dead were crowded with their slain friends. Then she happened upon the strangest of mortals. Within him were innocence and pride, sadness and fervour, despair and life. As she studied his features, desire welled up inside her, a hitherto foreign emotion, one that she had never experienced before. And she sensed his prayers and registered the indifference of the Gods; she saw his tears as they ran down his face. She witnessed his shock as the looter jerked off his boot and she saw the young man dispatch both the looter and a soldier who died with shock evident on his face. This was a mortal unlike anything she had ever felt, and so she acted and wrapped her misty essence around the young man, and then materialized in front of the two remaining soldiers, scum who had threatened to kill this marvellous mortal.
Syrrah ran through the mist, only stopping when he heard truly terrifying screams of horror in the mist behind him. The screams suddenly stopped and a cold shiver ran down his spine. He clumsily ran onward but he stumbled and nearly fell into a river. But there should be no river here, for he was close to the Grey Hills, miles away from any waterway larger than a tiny creek. When he looked up, he gazed into the swirling eyes of a dusk skinned female, whose very hair was so long it reached the ground by her feet. She was a lovely sight, easily the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, and she stared at him with intense eyes. The mist had lessened now, though it covered their feet and seemed to cling to her hair as she approached him. Embraced him. Kissed him.
The years passed and she gave him two children, a daughter and a son, and on the night of the children’s ninth birthday she promised she would never abandon their people, for she was one with the Ethenorden now and they would always have her support. Syrrah never understood who she was, never understood why she disappeared that night, never to see him again, and it fell upon the children to relate the full truth of the story to the lore keepers of the Ethenorden. Syrrah never fully recovered from his loss, though there would be times when the night was full of mist, that she haunted his dreams and he would be happy for a couple of days. But in the end he died a lonely man, and his children, now fully grown, lay his corpse atop a raft and sent it downstream. When the mists arrived to swallow that raft, his kinsmen burst in tears, except for his two children who smiled, knowing their parents were finally together.
Thus it came to be that the Ethenorden became the Mist Wanderers, able to call upon the mists and to travel them, as if it was a conduit to other misty places, hundreds of miles away. And the descendants of Syrrah became their leaders, whose mystic bond with the Spirit of the Mists assured the survival of their race.
Culture and the way of the Ethenorden: The Ethenorden travels in packs of up to a hundred individuals, carrying all their belongings with them. They use no beasts of burden, nor do they employ any wagons of any kind, opting instead to carry their belongings on their backs. They travel in silence, wandering the mists, and usually settle near rivers and brooks. They will not settle the land close to Silmarite settlements, nor close to the desert, where the air is too dry for the mists. Once they have erected their animal hide tents and their oxen hide defence perimeters, they construct a smithy and workshops, for they are skilled producers of blades and armour, clothing and perfume. They still retain their merchant ways, but now they are careful, for they know well the envy and racism of men.
The Ethenorden favour earthen tones and their armour of choice is the brigandine. They usually wield spears, and after the Slaughter by the Grey Hills, rigorous combat training is a part of every adult’s day, from the age of twelve to old age or illness takes them. They also practice with their composite short bows, and Ethenorden hunters are fabled for their skill. The Empire still has their Ethenorden decree of 785, but it is now dormant and the Ethenorden freely trade with the Empire. The only people they avoid are the people of the province of Silmar, whose opinion of the Ethenorden has only decreased since they became the Mist Wanderers. Still the Ethenorden love the land of the Silmarites and isolated Ethenorden camps can be found throughout the land, far from Silmarite settlements. The Ethenorden stays in a camp for anything between a week to an entire year, depending on profitability and natural resources.