The Bells of Old Drozhenen
Old Drozhenen is a walled town which lies upon the fens at the edges of the northern hinterlands. Divided by a ceremonial wall, splitting the city down the middle, into Ist-Drozhenen and Vys-Drozhenen, the small city once was and still is a holy place of some significance to the One True Faith. The City of Bells as Drozhenen is aptly called, is a mandatory stop, for the Faith-Pillars, the men and women who undertake the annual pilgrimage across the north, led by priests and monks, braving the cold and dangers of the hinterlands, as one huge peasant, holy army. The four stops along the six hundred hundred mile sacred sojourn, are in order, Silpag and its Onion Fields, The Ulox, and its Unbreakable Glass Church, whose cellars hold relics from antiquity, Old Drozhenen, and its holy bells, semantrons, and brazen gongs, and finally the shrine of St. Cled atop the mountain of the Hundred Angels.
For the past two centuries, Old Drozenen has been a bastion of the Faith, and includes a thriving community of fervent worshippers, and features an impressive granite cathedral, renowned regionally for three things. Its particularly solid construction, denoting the rock-solid faith of its worshippers, for its many ringing bells, gongs and semantrons, and more particularly, for Bornegault’s Tongue, a magical striker, or clapper, an animated iron mace, over four feet in length, as thick around as a thick mans wrist, with a plain, elongated oval head of nearly solid iron, except for a coin-sized bubble of air inside the heads core. This weird feature supposedly allows for the unique sound which emanates from the chapel’s walls, whenever the striker is doing its work and the church bells are droning their sonorous song, calling the faithful to prayer.
Many religious groups make pilgrimages to cold-swept Old Drozhenen, in order to witness the miracle of the seemingly sentient, animate iron striker, and to watch and listen, as the ninety-six cathedral bells ring in the New Year.
The northern chapters of the One True Faith, the Traditionalists, as they are known in far-away Marsuth, are the predominant sect of the hinterlands, and so it was in Old Drozhenen. The northern sects it should be noted, possess a long and complex history of bell-ringing, with particular bells being rung in particular ways, for particular ceremonies, rites and prayers, throughout the year. The Bell-Striker takes its job quite seriously, and is the equivalent of proverbial clockwork, when it comes to ringing the bells and clanging the semantrons, and sounding the bronze gongs, with military precision, perhaps a nod to the weapons martial past.
Bornegault, the legendary mist-giant, who so terrorized the Rainlands for the better part of a half-century, and who has developed over time, a near-mythical stature, in the oral legends of the Rain-clans, playing the role of both great ancestral enemy and glorified folk-hero, had left a mark upon Old Drozhenen, both in life, and in death.
Bornegault was put down for good by the Crimson-Drinkers, a fancifully named band of troll-and-giant-hunters, led by Hastrin the Cleaver, a brutal-minded bounty-hunter, Tyiv the Dawn-Caller, the local priest of the Faith who went on to be proclaimed Archpriest of the North, and Kaligro, a wizard of the Topaz-Order in Marsuth. Rounding out the fellowship was Sumber, a fire-mage from the south, Areyus, a daring young prince of Stariy-Liossk, and Wola of Gerion, the self-proclaimed world’s strongest woman.
Slaying Bornegault in the heart of the Rainlands, along the banks of the Great Puddle, the Crimson-Drinkers caught up to the giant finally, after he had already devastated Old Drozhenen and its many walls and bells and towers, causing more structural damage in a span of two days than the city had ever suffered in its history, including the earthquake of 2792.
After the Crimson-Drinkers had slain the long-lived giant, Kaligro the mage, whose power was beyond considerable, took one of Bornegault’s favored weapons, a small (by giant standards) iron mace, cast many a spell over the plain, blunt weapon, and gifted it to the citizens of Old Drozhenen, as a magical clapper, or bell-tongue, a gift in return for their suffering at the hands of the fearsome giant. Thus Bornegault’s Tongue became another local nickname for the animated, dancing, bell-ringer.
The clapper not only rings the ceremonial bells, but also acts as the guardian of the cathedral. Many a thief, local and foreign, has found this out the hard way over the years. The Tongue of Bornegault animates and strikes at trespassers violently and efficiently, with precision and purpose, much as it rings the bells by day. The Tongue of Bornegault will always know when a monk, priest, or one of the Faithful, enters the cathedral, and likewise, will unerringly sense when evil-doers, hooligans, or other undesirables trespassers are afoot. Men have been peeled off the very walls the mornings following night-time break-ins, crushed into pasty, flesh-bags filled with rattling and broken-bones. The mace, for in this duty, defending the cathedral against all intruders, it is indeed more mace than bell-tongue, flies about and squashes foes, brutal and merciless, much as Bornegault was, when wielding it in his day.
The Cathedral of Old Drozhenen is the only one of the recognized northern churches, in all the Hinterlands, which does not breed, train, and use guard-hounds, roaming packs of attack dogs, in defense of their chapels and vicarages at night, thanks to Bornegault’s Tongue.
The people of Old Drozhenen are a stoic,dour lot, set in their sacred ‘old ways’, and outwardly rude to foreigners and intruders. Those not of the One True Faith need not apply. There is little if at all religious tolerance in the timber-city. Severe winds, which howl from the north, and the seven-month long winters of Old Drozhenen, do not help improve the moods of the people. Perhaps somewhat hypocritically, the city’s inhabitants do consider themselves paragons of the One True Faith, neighborly, prudent, and kind-hearted.
The folk of the city are known by travellers and ambassadors of other lands, by their rudeness, as mentioned, but one reason for this, is of course all the bell-ringing. Many in Old Drozhenen have gone near-deaf from the endless, nightly and daily tolling. Visitors often think a city inhabitant is ignoring any random query, whereas, most likely, the local simply did not hear the question above the din of the bells.
Visitors to Old Drozhenen, also often comment that there are less people about than befits a religious metropolis, but during the religious processions and pilgrimages, which always pass through the City of Bells, the population swells with hawkers, monks, merchants, idol-sellers, charlatans and mendicants.
Personalities of Note
Tyiv Dawn-Caller, Archimandrite of the North, Lord Spiritual of Old Drozhenen, Proto-Hegumen of the Hinterlands
A man of pure heart, if rigid demeanor, Tyiv was once a member of the famed Crimson-Drinkers, but sobered later in life, and took up the Faith exclusively, eventually rising high in the ranks, and selected for his current titles. His biggest responsibilities, as he sees them, is to keep Old Drozhenen relevant in the Faith’s hierarchal estimations, and to keep the ravenous hordes of the norht, the barbarians, humanoids, and other, worse things, away from the Bell-City’s walls.
Though Bornegault’s Tongue has somewhat lessened the importance and gravitas of the title, Master-of-Bells, it is still a prestigious church-rank. Thsutyr, the current Master, is an important figure in the daily lives of the townfolk. He is also the Keeper of the Rituals, having put to memory an incredible four-hundred and sixty different bell-ringing ceremonies and rites. If there is a reason to think about something in this city, there is a reason to ring the bells in honor of said thought.
A young girl chosen to be called Oracle of the Faith, at merely twelve years of age, Chuda leads the congregation in joyous, prayer and song. The girl is blind, but is said to be able to see things with her hands.
The Captain of the Guard and citys standing army, Lord Vurien is a sobering force for pragmatism, where others are fundamental followers of the Faith. It is his responsibility to defend Old Drozhenen from its many northern enemies, whereas Tyiv’s is to merely think on strategies and long-ranged plans. He is a dour man, who wields a massive, hooked voulge into battle. It is always easy to spot Lord Vurien, standing between and behind the Dawn-Caller and the Master-of-Bells during official proclamations. He towers nearly seven feet into the air.
Motherless Vydub, the Urchin-Seer.
Many have heard of the street orphan who rises against all odds to become a hero. Vydub the Motherless is no such heroic figure. Vydub has been a street-urchin in Old Drozhenen for the better part of the last seventy years. He has never risen above his homeless status, but he has gained a bit of notoriety and celebrity, as the Preaching, Father-of-Orphans, or as simply, the Urchin-Seer of Old Drozhenen. Vydub spouts prophecy and passages from the holy books as he begs and slinks along the promenade. He is left alone by the less savory of the city’s inhabitants, and looked upon as a sort of bastardized inner-city Saint by the downtrodden.