The oldest tale of Atal comes from the northern lands, the highlands and plains above Dreifach. It was said that in the winter of the Year of Nine Trolls that Atal first appeared to the survivors of that fallen city. Indeed it was less than a decade since the Nightmare War, and though many were dead and hunger was rampant, the city had not yet been completely abandoned. The survivors were being greatly troubled by the appearance of a warband of plains trolls who found the survivors easy pickings, especially as they were now bereft of their magical defences.
Their weapons prevailed them naught against the thickly armored trolls and it seemed that the city would simply become a heavy fruit full of meat for the trolls to devour at their liesure. It was then that a tattered man appeared before the survivors, wearing a hair shirt and carrying a twisted walking stick. Atal spoke to them, chided them for despair and gave them a plan. The would lift up the mysteries of Ixia, the Silver Forge and move her entire temple south, out of the mountains. The people would abandon their city, likely to never return in their lifetimes.
There was much weeping, and as they made the efforts to move the council gathered a council of warriors to him. It was decided that the trolls would be eager to attack the fleeing populace and that to give them a fighting chance the men would ride against the trolls, to slow them and allow the women and children a chance to escape. It was afool-hardy plan, but it was better than none at all.
So it was that the men, with Atal with them, rode at the Trolls in their encampment. There was chaos and confusion and some of the men were slain by the trolls iron darts and heavy clubs. With a piercing whistle, Atal drew the anger of the trolls and they did persue him with great lust. Atal rode his horse until the animal grew weak and collapsed, after which he continued the decoy on foot until he came to a cave. Seeing his avenue the trolls galloped into the cave, and to their deaths. Atal had lead the entire band into the lair of another horrific beast which had been slouching about since the end of the Nightmare War.
The trolls were slain, and when the band of men arrived, their steel blades and bows did slay the horror that had lurked in the cave, ending two sets of evil. It was then that the men spoke to Atal and their words were harsh. They demanded to know why he had not simply lead the trolls to the horror to begin with, they could have remained safe in the city walls.
To which Atal spoke plainly, he told the men of their sloth, that had he not come they would have all been dead within half a decade. Were there no children under 10 among them? It was true, none had borne child since the terrible war. They were lean as rails and hungry as wolves. And thus it came to pass that the peoples of old Dreifach passed through the still smoldering ruins of Tausend and passed under the Aegis of Sangia, the radiant guardian of Sangreal.
Many dispute of what blood Atal was, and there are many different likenesses of him. The most prevalent view was that Atal was a bearded Falhathian, of moderate stature with a rather prominent nose. Older sources would reveal that quite to the contrary, Atal was not a Falhathian, but rather hailed from a hyperborean Kingdom that had survived the end of the Old World. The oldest records indicate that Atal was a tall man with honey-blonde hair and had a neatly trimmed beard, only in later centuries did he acquire the long beard of the magus.
There is a book, the Apocrypha of Baldur that accounts Atal to being a man of Ozea, which would be supported by his older accounts of pale complexion and blonde hair. The book also details that Atal was of the lineage of Falha, the first true King of Falhath as well as being the eldest son of Mastere, The Necromancer Queen. While this is hotly disputed by scholars there is certainly evidence that Mastere did have sons, twins in fact. The Apocrypha of Baldur mentions Atal's rival, another blonde headed man named Ajax, who many construe to be Atal's brother by Mastere.
Most Falhathians hold the image of Atal to be a stocky bearded Falhathian man of older years, while Ozians tend to favor what Sangrealians consider the Baldurian Heresy, an Ozian Atal. Serious scholars able to divest themselves of region preferences tend to favor that Atal was a Nysertan, or a denizen of another northern kingdom.
For ruin, is the desolation of a dragon. Yet it is ill-fortune to slay one of the children of the gods. Remember Falha and the ruin of his house. Think of his suffering and the sacrifice he was required to make himself righteous again before the divinities. Think on this before taking up the bow and the spear, the noose is hung and waiting for the head. So said Atal speaking to the men of the township of Lusankya.
Yet the men still were uneasy and many demanded action for their village, for Lusankya was yet still little more than a humble village then, was being harassed by a large and dangerous dragon. When he spoke to the men, he discerned that for some time the villagers had bribed the dragon, yet in recent years it had become more demanding. Cattle and sheep were deemed insufficient and it demanded the flesh of humans, at first criminals but soon turing to the unsullied daughters of the village.
Atal traveled to Daurus, to the tomb of the Golden Wyrm, and prayed there, and did recieve a weapon of bone. Blessed by the ancestors and washed in the pool of the Dragon's Tears, Atal returned and prepared to face the dragon. Disguised among the offerings, Atal was snatched up in the jaws of the dragon. The villagers lamented, knowing that the brave man who had in years past defeated trolls and horrors had been so ignobly eaten. Yet the dragon gave out a shriek and collapsed dead to the earth.
Atal emerged from the creature's mouth smothered in blood. With the weapon of bone he had thust through the soft part of the mouth and had pierced the brain of the mighty beast, felling it. Later, after the hide was removed and the meat was taken, he commanded that the bones be removed to a special place and made there for the dragon's spirit a great and wonderous shrine that is now today lost.
The Tale of Atal and the Dragon is a common one, and though the reasons vary from region to region, all agree that the Dragon was slain with a weapon of bone, though none can agree if it was some sort of bone spear, sword, or some other piercing weapon. Again, as with the trolls and the horror, Atal demonstrates a certain uncanny luck and wisdom that the others are lacking.
The martial aspects of Atal's history are most concentrated in the region around Lusankya and Sangreal, where his earlier 'trickster' tales are most often centered around Dreifach and Ozia. The common explanation is that Atal was a wanderer and would move from place to place, generally moving from the north-west towards the south-east, cutting a diagonal across Falhath.
Atal and Laj
There are few denizens of the realm that are as far ranging as the Nightmares. They come and go as they will, and in those days before their broods were repairs, they were vicious and half mad creatures. Such was the disposition of one such nightmare, a true beast known as Laj, which in their alien tongue means 'That of the Darkness that others Fear'. It was during the winter that Laj made her first appearance in Gaberlunz, then a bustling annual gypsy town.
The beast had made havoc and had slain a number of the gypsies as well as waylaying travelers and leaving them dead. The beast was most cruel and made sport of letting victims run a pace before snaring them again in her fanged maw. Such was her rage that even hounds and horses were not unharmed in her rampages.
It was that Atal was moving through the region, clad in his robes and clutching his walking staff. The beast Laj fell upon him and his companions, a fellowship band of some 20 odd travelers, mendicants and merchants. While arrows could not pierce the beast's hide, and swords could draw no blood, the Wise one invoked a potent spell that calmed the beast. With soft words and a single touch he bade the Nightmare to be at peace, at which Laj was made calm and docile. The fellowship looked on in awe as Laj went from being a horror to being Atal's mount and familiar. Some whisper that she even became his lover as the Nightmare was able to assume the shape of a comely female under the light of the full moon.
Most of the stories of Atal come from the later part of his wanderings when he no longer involved himself in great chases and dangerous tricks. Some assume this was either due to the maturation of his power and realizing his ability as a magus, while others claim that he was getting quite old. The second is quite the understatement as the first tale of Atal is dated to a decade after the Nightmare War, while the tale of Laj is recorded nearly 110 years later.
Most mages and wise men claim Atal as their own compatriot as most of his more well known stories are centered around his use of cunning magic spells, possessing magic items, as well his consultation of a magic bag he had on his person at almost all times. Clerics often scoff at the mages citing that unlike all the mages they have encountered Atal's history indicates a great love for the common people, as well as for the Kingdom of Trinistine and Falhath in general.
Atal, the Wise Councilor
The last official tale of Atal is in the fortress city of Soixane roughly 160 years after the Nightmare War, easily making the Wise Councilor 180 or more years old. It was a time of reformations in the west, and the time of the skirmish wars between Ozea and the nascent power of Sangreal and the Kingdom of Trinistine. There was much violence in the west and the bulwarks of the Great Woses and the fortress city of Soixane were being left all but unguarded.
Atal came to the city as many were packing to head west to get contracts fighting for the Church or to protect loved ones from the percieved raids from the heretic Ozians and their gods of death and retribution. Yet there was a greater danger to Soixane and all of Falhath, for there had been born a union of powers in the Great Woses. Kolshin of Zehin had bound together many of the ogre tribes of the Woses with his potent sorceries, using magic to appear to the Ogres as Radafasz, the Blue Serpent, to lead them against the humans.
Atal had knowledge of these events, relayed to him by his spells of scrying and divination, yet the people had no interest. There had been no ogre sign from the Woses in over a generation, and most thought them gone and eaten by the swamps themselves. This hardly the case. By use of spells, Atal sent warnings to the lords of Sangreal, Dreifach and Ozea. Yet this might not have prevailed yet that Kolshin tipped his hand and was seen winging through the air above Soixane in the form of the Blue Serpent. When the ogres were then spied girding themselves for war, the danger was realized.
In the siege of Soixane that followed there were many heroes made, though it is not the place here to speak of Hendrik Hammerhand who smote the Ogre-King, or Taysin who called thunder from the clear sky, or Lord Garlin who led a suicidal charge of cavalry to prevent the fall of the city when its gate was broken by the ogre engines of war. It was credited to the hue and cry of Atal that the forces of Falhath were successfully arrayed against the ogres as they burst forth from the swamps.
On that day the tiger fierce legions of Sangreal stood shoulder to shoulder with the pale-aspected Ozians respendant with their great axes. With spear streamers trailing in the wind, the Dreifachian cavalry rode with unnamed bands pulled from the ranks of the gypsies of Gaberlunz and the commoners of Acton. The battle was furious and many were slain, yet the suffering was great on both sides and only after much loss did the ogres retreat. Many credit the breaking of the ogrin morale to the death of many of their war bosses and the dissapearance of their Blue Serpent from the skies above.
It is said that Atal cast a spell and summoned Kolshin in his human form into the arsenal of Soixane even as the armies clashed on the walls of the city. What was to follow is detailed only in the stories of mages, but to all else it is simplified into a clash of sorcerous might and wits. Though Kolshin's infernal magic was indeed mighty, it had not the wisdom or precision of Atal's manifold powers of magic. Some speak of a shape-shifting competiton, while others speak of a life or death duel of riddles, and those of a more martial bent imagine fanciful battles of enchanted suits of armor and animated corpses of the dead.
What is known is that Kolshin was defeated and never seen again, and bereft of his leadership and symbolic power the ogres lost their nerve. The city was held and Falhath spared a terrible fate, for had not Atal acted, they would have overrun the city in a week and would have been at the gates of Sangreal within a month. Falhath and all it had accomplished since the Nightmare War would have been for naught. In thanks, Atal was granted governership of Soixane and many commendations from many great lords and surviving magi.
Despite his many accomplishments and deeds done, Atal was never canonized by the Trinity, nor given any special status as a knight or other member of the nobility. There is a tomb in Soixane that is credited to being his, but after being raided no fewer than 30 times, it was made public knowledge that the tomb is empty, and has been since the first time it was reopened, some 200 years after Atal's presumed death. In light of this many claim that Atal lives, and some call him the patron of Falhath, the Lord of Just Causes and the like.
The Real Atal
Atal was born roughly 30 years before the Nightmare War and was during that time a member of the comfortable and jaded middle class. As with most people of the Old World he was educated in many things, including magic. When the Nightmare War came and destroyed everything, he survived, but was very greatly changed by it. He found himself to be now immortal. He no longer aged, and pangs of hunger and thirst were discomforts that could easily be ignored as indulged. More surprisingly was that injuries he sustained quickly healed, including almost getting eaten by a large and angry dragon!
It took him a number of years to adapt to the new world, and to his new mode of existance. He did many things, traveling across Falhath to see what remained of the world he remembered. Walking from Dreifach to Sangreal had taken a very long time, which was all the more shocking to him as he had remembered when magic had made such a trip a thing of scant minutes. He was not originally the all wise council, but like Bill Murray in Groundhog's Day, he's had a long time to figure things out.
Quite apart from manipulative vampires and liches, the immortal Atal now takes a laissez-faire approach to world events. It is only when things look to heading in a very bad direction that he has or will act. The last time that Atal shook off his vestments and strode into the halls of power was the Diet of Sangreal, arounf 400 years ago. He saw that unless he acted, discretely, that the kingdom of Trinistine would collapse into a violent civil war between the traditionalists and the progressives. Rather than see Falhath, just beginning it's second century without a generation-length conflict, he was content to let the Kingdom of Trinistine split in twain.
The Other Atals
To futher muddy the waters for historians and sages, there was a second influentual Atal, who was indeed the son of Mastere. This Atal was an Ozian lord who was well versed in necromancy and sorcery in general. He had a twin bother Ajax (I-yax, not A-Jax) who was a general of the soldiery and fellow warlord to Voz himself.
As a properly mythic NPC the PC party should really never meet Atal, but they should know of him quite well. If someone is lacking backing for a good tale, they may attribute it to Atal, like a magnet of urban legends. Many also use Atal as a reference of wisdom, in such expression as, 'Atal only knows,' or to mock someone for making painfully obvious or inane observations, along the lines of, 'Thanks Atal, without you we'd have never figured that out.'
If somehow the PCs must encounter Atal, he is still a rather healthy looking man of some 30 years with the appearance of an outlander, or possibly of having Ozian blood. If asked, he comments that his mother was Ozian but his father was a merchant from out in the west. He is most likely living a comfortable and low key existance, most likely getting along as a wandering village wisdom, relocating every 20 or so years. If he is in a larger city, he will often be a sage, librarian or some other intellectual occupation.
While no a jovial and bubbly person, he has a good disposition and is willing to let people pay him back for things. He has a great love for Falhath and its different peoples, he has a strange grasp of its history, as often being part of it and meeting those individuals who would shape it, such as Saint Duncan and Mancel, Voz and others. In a literary or cinematic sense he is often one of the anonymous people in the background of the famous photos
His eyes, however, are windows to his soul, one that remembers a world now a 1000 years dead, and the growing pangs of the new one. During these melancholy moments he is fond of strong drink and solitude. It is then that he remembers that which once was, and the loves of his life from his wife in the Old World, to his more modern paramours, even the now deceased Laj. On a final note, Atal is immortal, as he has tried to end his own life on more than one occasion. While he seeks for the greater good of Falhath and her people he is also keen to find the limitations of his immortality.
Every society has their stories of mythic heroes. King Arthur. Hercules. The Monkey King.
Sometimes villians also get in on the mythic status action: Professor Moriarty. Sauron. Jack the Ripper.
In the end, every game world needs a fine assortment of larger than life people, if only just the stories of their exploits.
So this month's quest is Mythic/Historical NPCs.
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? Responses (7)
I like him, he would fit into many worlds.
Nicely done! A man of epic proportions indeed.
An epic (and mythic) NPC encapsulated inside his own particular world. A guide to Falhath as well as an ideal Quest entry. I like that he has attempted ending his own life on several occasions. Its not startling, but makes a nice end note. Good work!
Also enjoyed the romp through Falhath. Laj is juicy too.
Very nice - despite the many world-specific references which added colour, he would still be very easy to lift in to a different world, the mark of a good submission!
Good dramatic addition to that world. Would be more useful with dramatic hooks for stories and such related to his legend.
A good take on the wandering immortal. Very well done.
This is an exceptional submission. I found the overly wordy and passive voice in the 'scripture' sections difficult to read but it was rewarding. I think the interweaving of this and the consistent and high fantasy tone set by the language and pacing is perfect.
I am very curious of what you think of this submission now.