My DM: Hey, can you send me a short email with some details about your character?
Me (6 hours later): Here’s the brief history of my Cleric.
Name: Marna DuGorman
Hailing from the quiet, verdant foothills of Chendle Glen. Her people are human but are said to have descended from a bloodline laced with halfling ancestry. The men of the tribe are known to be amicable farmers, shepherds, artisans and little else but have also had a long history of being regularly drafted into the wars of neighboring kingdoms. This constant recruitment by their larger and less peace loving neighbors has left the men of this province to fulfill what has been coined as “Chendle’s Charge”. Over the course of the last few centuries, this has left the Chendles with generations worth of community history in which the women made up the vast majority of the population. They have worked the land, maintained the homes and written the history of their people while their loving husbands were forced to fight and die for wars they couldn’t believe in because a man cannot fight for a cause he never knew existed.
The medicine women of Chendle Glen are followers of Pelor, the God of light and extremely adept healers. The unfortunate upturn of violence in surrounding kingdoms, in previous decades however has proven to be taxing on their community. War has made their boys into cripples, shut ins, and worse yet, cold, hard unfeeling men. In order to treat the wounds of the body and the mind in such scale and volume, the Chendle healer women have turned to more unconventional but unarguably effective practices than had ever been explored by their distant forebears.
The Pilgrimage of Lenara:
Lenara DuGorman; My character Marna’s great grandmother was only 14 when the War of the Sparrow Rivers provided yet another dark age for Chendle Glen and its ever mending families. The men were taken by King Roenid the Cursed and his red clad knights but Lenara would not let her brother Rett be taken, at least not alone. While she could not keep the red marauders from dragging away every boy and man who could hold a spear, she could pack a bag and she could keep pace with their march toward the now cratered and war torn banks of the Sparrow Delta. For months, Lenara tended to the injured and fallen, seeing to proper burials for the dead and proper comfort for the suffering. In the red camp, she grew skilled at mending and soothing while her brother found that he had no choice but to become fierce and at times savage as he was forced to defend his beloved sister from the uncouth and desperate footmen who fought alongside him.
This went on for years. Beyond the war for the Sparrows and over many borders. Lenara grew to know the smell of soldiers’ blood as any other woman of her upbringing would have known the smell of her children. Rett never stopped protecting her up until his final day. She lost him in a sandstorm crossing the Khan-Kabar desert while marching toward the stone city of Esmir; yet another land to be violently contested in the name of Roenid the Cursed. Most of that party were lost in that crossing but Lenara made it to the the other side where she realized that there was little reason for her to stay with the few surviving men who now revered her as an asset but would never respect her as an equal. Rett had fulfilled Chendle’s Charge and Lenara was left alone with no purpose other than finding her way home to let the rest of the Chendles know of their loss.
Lenara struck off shortly after the desert crossing. She had been paid nothing but wisdom for her years of aid. She carried little else but grief for her lost brother on her journey. With only a basic understanding of which direction to go, she found that there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of languages outside of the Glen. So many that she could never learn half of them in a thousand lifetimes. Every town was alien to Lenara and she in turn, to it… but all living things know pain and sickness. This was her key to every gate. Her bargaining chip. Her currency.
Lenara crossed hundreds of cities on her journey home. She helped whoever was in need and was rewarded for her compassion more often than not. There was only one place in which Lenara could find no use for her craft and it was there that she learned a bitter truth. “The world is vast and I know nothing”. It was a place so perfect that it somehow inspired only hopelessness.
Lenara had found a land untouched by pain, sickness or even madness. It was here that she gave up hope of finding her home. She sat and waited for misfortune. The scourge of an inevitable oppressor. The cold of winter. The collapse of her tired, starved body. The release of death. The warm light of Pelor’s final grasp. None of it came. Nor would it. This tiny, hidden land was beyond decay and so was she, just as long as she stayed within its borders.
The denizens of this realm were, and are (for they will no longer allow themselves to expire) practitioners of dark magic. Wielders of the type of energy that can produce anything so long as the price is paid with heavy interest. These beings were once seduced by power but toppled by a greed that consumes from within. But they were also beings of great intelligence. Just humble enough to change course before the fall. Wise enough to avoid the fall altogether… and fearful enough to accept that in order to never die, they could also never live anywhere but this one space.
The Chendle listened to the tale of each one. All different in size and shape but identical in color. Elves, Men, other strange beings, some towering and branched at the top. Others tiny and flitting about on translucent wings. There was even what seemed to be a few half orcs and a goblin despite all the rest being the shape of more civilized races. All of them were a deep blue in coloration. A blue darker than the blackest night sky. Their eyes were shining marbles of azure obsidian. Hair like delicate flowing blue cracks against the very fabric of space. Each of them different living statues cut from the same midnight stone. Each of them powerful sorcerers in a long passed life, deserving of a cruel hell for their transgressions against nature. Each of them just outside the gate of that very specific hell. Forever here. Painless. Deathless. By the saving boon of their one final spell. An eternal enchantment over this one small space. Their home. Their prison. Their penance.
Through these hours and days and months, Lenara learned not to fear them. They were bound by the comfort of this place. They had all been wicked and in their sins she saw the fruit of vice and ill gotten gain. Having seen the fruit, she knew the seed and it was within her just as sure as she sat before them.
But in hearing story after story, Lenara began to realize that the seed in her had not grown. Not much, anyway. Not like theirs. This was a place to avoid the wrath of a just universe. She was at peace with accepting her judgement and so she asked just one favor of these beings before she left. Lenara asked to learn the secret of their undying enchantment. They gave it freely and Lenara knew that her own charge had begun.
It took Lenara another 2 years to journey back to Chendle Glen. She was 29 when she returned and the young girl she was had been all but forgotten over the past 15 years. No one recognized Lenara the woman. Not because she was older. Not because she had adopted the garb of many foreign lands in her travels. Lenara had changed in a much less subtle way. She was two years bluer. Not blue like a Ralterian troll. Not blue like a drowned man. More like a starling’s egg. One that blushed when she realized that she had… well, turned blue. It seemed that everyone else she had met recently just assumed that she was born blue.
Very shortly after her homecoming, Lenara was recognized by her family and her friends and all of the dwellers of Chendle Glen. She told them of Rett’s loss and of the scores of other cultures, totally disparate in every way from their own but similarly bound by the chains of mortal suffering.
But it was Lenara’s tale of the blue people that garnered the attention of the elder medicine women of Chendle. She told each of the creatures’ stories. She told of their shapes and sizes. And she told their secret freely just as they had told her.
“The only magic for which there is no price is thus: Give and Trust. Take only the life you can give back. Relinquish all you have so long as you trust that the world will give back.”
It is an endless, cyclical incantation. When understood, it can be used to form a bond that will accelerate healing, eliminate pain and ward off death itself. Give and Trust.
Lenara’s teachings showed new horizons to the medicine women of Chendle Glen and they harnessed the cycle of give and trust supremely effectively.
Chendle’s charge is still being paid by many young men but most military leaders are careful to keep the Chendles safe. They aren’t typically efficient or fearsome fighters but a safe Chendle is crucial for morale. The other men fear what happens when a Chendle comes to be harmed.
For where the charge has been fulfilled, the blue women come. The young ones could be mistaken for any other girl who’s a bit less rosy in the cheeks than most… it’s the elder ones that’ll bring a chill into the heart of the most seasoned soldier. Shrouded in deep, dark blue, the matriarchs come and all the other men give them space. Space enough to stay clear of a Chendle healer’s hand. Blue black as the deep waters of the farthest sea. The mark of an elder healer. The price of the secret given freely. The give and the trust. Lenara’s proud rebuttal to Chendle’s Charge.
Generations have passed since Lenara'a pilgrimage home. A daughter of Chendle may choose to follow her path and set out into the world practicing the magic of give and trust until they see fit to return to their homeland. Marna DuGormand has said farewell to her beloved sister Bale, her mother, her grandmother, her great grandmother Lenara, and of course Lenara’s mother and grandmother.
This is where Marna’s story begins. She is a confident, optimistic and sometimes headstrong young woman. Marna approaches her Charge with a full understanding of give and trust but very little understanding of any other motivations held by less peaceful cultures.