[Pt. II] Ch. 39: [Interlude/History] “Your people brought me to this world and then forgot me.”
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Old Imperial Year 804 (324 Terran common era)
Island of Obdrest

No one could remember when the first people came to Obdrest, but their descendants knew that they had been survivors who had escaped the from Priest-Kings of Zir and Shir.  The crossing was perilous, and many more had died than had made it through, but it was better than being treated as little better than cattle or sacrificed to their dark gods.

The island was heavily forested, with mountains at the center, swampy in the south, with little flat land for agriculture.  The people there didn’t mind; there weren’t many of them and when they’d gotten there or new ones arrived, they mostly associated growing crops with forced labor at the Priest-Kings’ hands.  So long as they stayed out of the high mountains – where dragons sometimes visited – the island was very safe, free of large predators and of other sentients.  The hunting was good; fishing was even better.   Once in a great while, the tall volcano at the center of the island would erupt, but it was deeply inland and far from the people.

Life on Obdrest stayed the same for centuries, until the first Human Empire became strong enough to force the Priest-Kings to release many of their brethren.  Then the Priest-Kings, out of desperation, did something they had never done before. It was a mass summoning, which brought whole cities over together.  

Unlike prior summons, who arrived one at a time or in small groups, the new cities kept their own language, governments, and even armies.  They went to war with the Priest-Kings, and the Empire got involved on the side of the summoned cities.

In the end, most of the people from the summoned cities escaped to freedom with Imperial help, but the Priest-Kings defended their territory, took the possession of the cities and enslaved enough of the summoned population to keep their economy running and their dark gods fed.  In time, they would breed many more, as they had in the past. 

Of those who avoided enslavement, most migrated north, naming their first city Penrose after their goddess Pennyr.  They would one day establish the second Empire.  Another, smaller group took ships across the sea to Obdrest.

Although there were not quite as many as the people who were already there, they were a lot of people to arrive all at once.  Unlike the locals, they founded towns and started clearing the forest for crop land. Both populations intermarried, and within a few generations, the summoned people’s language – the shared root of modern Obdresti and New Imperial – had become the norm.

At the same time, both the old and new Obdrestis valued their freedom. They had no Kings, nor any nobility.  Each town had its own council of elders, and periodically elders from all the towns would come together to debate.  If someone did not like how the elders of their town led it, the land and sea remained rich enough that a person could support themself away from the towns.

Under the protection of the old Empire, Obdrest enjoyed centuries of peace.  There was no one moment when the Empire fell; instead, its sphere of influence just shrank and shrank, until eventually the last old Emperor in Kala died, and his son went back to calling himself a King.   Eventually, the Priest-Kings noticed that there were no longer Imperial ships patrolling the seas nearby, and that no armies reinforced their neighbors.  They began to raid their neighbors for slaves, including Obdrest – first a few at a time, and then growing bolder.

Among the Obdrestis, there were only a few strong magic users, but in that generation there was one who excelled at divination.  She was a priestess to the nature spirits, and worried by the raids, she looked through space at the Priest-Kings’ Harbors. She saw that they were building a large fleet.  Afraid, she then looked through time, and saw two fleets – one from Zir and one from Shir – coming to Obdrest’s shores, to conquer them and make every man, woman, and child on the island a slave.

Obdrest had no army, although each town had a small guard to protect them from pirates and slavers.  The priestess went to the elders of the largest town, Tramagel, to tell them what she saw.  They, in turn, calle on the elders of all the larger towns.  They met, but there was no agreement on how to respond – some folks wanted to fight, others to flee north across the sea to Penrose where their ancestors’ distant relatives had settled.

One of the youngest elders was a man from the wild East side of the island, from the town of Lassander.  He asked the Priestess what to do to protect their people, and when she did not know either, he begged her.  Seeing the man’s desperation, she called on all the nature spirits of the island to ask their wisdom.

Go to the volcano at the center of the island,” they said through her, “there is a powerful god there who can help you, if you can pay the price.”

The youngest elder went to the volcano and finding a winding path down into the dormant caldera, stood upon the ash and rock and called out for the god who lived there.

And then she came; not an inhuman spirit like most of small gods of the island, but a goddess of mankind, a tall, beautiful woman with golden blonde hair, and sharp eyes that shone with a light so bright one could not meet her gaze.

The man prostrated himself, and said to the Goddess, “I beg you, please take mercy on our people and save us from the Priest-Kings.  I will pay any price you ask.”

“I can do this,” said the Goddess, “but why should I?  Your people brought me to this world and then forgot me.  Here, close to the element of fire, I am still powerful but without worship I am cut off from the world of the gods where I belong.”

“What is your name, Goddess?” he asked.

“My name is Tennia, and my spheres are fire and wisdom,” she said. 

“I swear, if you save us, I will devote the rest of my life to bringing praise to your name, and I am sure the other elders will do the same.”

“Very well,” she said, “but I have one other price.”

“You have but to name it.”

“You have a son.  Bring him here and give him to me as sacrifice.”

The elder had a son, not quite a year old. He wanted to ask the goddess what she would do with the child but knowing stories of the Priest-Kings’ magic, it could be nothing good.

“I will do as you ask.”

It was a long road home, and over his wife’s tearful objections, he took his son, returned to the volcano on his son’s first birthday. He called to Tennia, “I have brought my son, Alexander, to you.  Please save our people.”

The Goddess appeared, and the boy, fearful of the strange woman, cowered in his father’s arms.  “Alexander is a good name.  Bring him to me,” Tennia said.

The elder did so and set the struggling boy in front of the Goddess.  Before he could crawl back to his father, the Goddess froze him in place.  Then, with a burst of light, the boy was gone, as if he had never been there.

“The pact has been sealed.  I make you my first priest in this world.  You will know what to do, and you must teach others. So long as you spread my name among your people, and they in turn worship me, I will save them from the Priest-Kings.”

He returned home, knowledge of what he was to do came to him.  In his town, he had the elders build a shrine on a tall hill just outside of town; a fire would be kept burning there through every night, and at every new moon the town would build a bonfire.  The elders did as he asked, and the promise of protection convinced many to join in worshipping Tennia.

Over the next months, he travelled to every large town.  Almost every town agreed to build a shrine, and the number of worshippers grew.  Finally, when the next Spring came, and each town sent an elder to Tramagel, the Priestess told them: “The Priest-Kings of Zir well send a fleet in the next few weeks.”

The once-elder, now-priest begged his peers from the last few towns who had not built shrines to send word home to do so.  Without any other way to protect the island, they agreed.  Finally, the entire congress of elders let him lead them all in a prayer to Tennia, and they erected a great bonfire at the shrine outside Tramagel.

As that bonfire started to burn steadily, the great volcano started to smoke.

A few weeks later, as a great fleet of ships appeared over the horizon, the volcano began to emit huge billowing clouds of smoke and ash.  After the first ships anchored in sight of land, when the first longboats of the Priest-Kings’ soldiers reached land, a miracle happened.  The volcano erupted catastrophically, with huge plumes of magma and flaming boulders.  Not a one of them landed on an Obdresti town, on an Obdresti boat, or an Obdresti person.  Most fell harmlessly into the sea, or on the still-broad forests.  Just enough landed, as if guided, on the soldiers and their longboats, and many of the ships at sea were set ablaze.

More of the Priest-Kings ships moved in, and more longboats rowed to land.   Magma or flaming rocks struck every one of them; no soldier from the boats made it more than a few years up the beach,

After their third attempt, and with a large part of their fleet shattered, the ships from ZIr withdrew.

The elders sent word to their towns, and there were many feasts of thanksgiving.  The eruption subsided, although the volcano still smoked. 

That summer, a fleet from Shir attempted to land.  This one was guarded by powerful mages, and soldiers managed to land for a little longer, but in the eruption drove them away.

Finally, the next spring, the Priestess let the elders know a combined fleet from both nations was coming, and with them a terrible horde of demons the Priest-Kings of both nations had received from their dark gods.

Once again, the Priest went to Tennia’s volcano.  This time, the way into the caldera was blocked by smoke and ash.  He called to from as close as he could, and he was greeted by a shimmering vision of her that floated in the smoke.

“You have done as I asked, and I now have returned to the world of the gods.  I see your people’s plight, and I will do what I can to protect them.  It would be helpful to have the assistance of the other gods of your people.  If you can raise more shrines to them, they will assist me.”

When the Priest returned to Tramagel, he was greeted by strangers.  A ship had come from Penrose, bearing a priest for each of the main gods they worshipped– chief among them Zefrin, the Sun God, and Pennyr, the Moon Goddess.  They built shrines there, and taught others to take their names to the many towns around Obdrest.

When that summer the fleet arrived, it appeared just over the horizon from Tramagel.  It was again met by flaming rocks and lava.  Many ships were destroyed, but enough succeeded in landing boats full of demons that the townspeople had to flee.  The Priest himself took up arms, as he had once done against pirates, and he cut a path through the cluster of demons, with a flaming sword in his hands. 

Finally, at the cost of many lives the demons were beaten back.  The ships, most of them far enough at sea to be safe, did not leave this time.  Instead, a great and inhuman creature with many mouths and even more tentacles, more than 50 meters tall, rose out of the sea, and started to float towards the town.

Three huge human figures, each nearly as tall as the creature appeared standing on the sea outside of the town.  They were a woman and a man with golden-blonde hair and another woman with silver hair, and the Priest knew them to be Tennia, Zefrin, and Pennyr. 

For a few tense moments, the creature stopped.  Then, slowly, it sunk below the waves.

With the creature gone, the ships fled.   Zefrin and Pennyr left immediately.  Tennia grew much larger and less solid, until she stood as a flickering vision nearly as high as the mountain. Only when the last ships had disappeared from her sight did she leave.

The Priest-Kings never returned in force , and the island of Obdresti returned to its peaceful existence. 

The priest mourned his son for 19 years, and he and his wife never had another child.  He dutifully tended the shrine outside Lassander for all those years.

Then, one day, the Tennia sent him a vision in his dreams.  He was to go to the shrine outside Tramagel and then await further instructions.   He arrived there and was amazed at what he saw: the town had grown, with new stone buildings, and the shrine he had helped build had grown – it was being called a temple now.   

A few days later, on the night of the new moon and what would have been Alexander’s 20th birthday, the Priest was helping set up the bonfire as they did every new moon. The moment it was burning solidly, out of the flames stepped Tennia, along with a young man.

The Priest and his colleagues all prostrated themselves.

“Stand up, father,” said the young man.

The Priest did.  His hair had changed color since he was child – it was now blonde, almost like Tennia’s, but otherwise he could see his son in the man before him.  “Alexander?”

“This is your son.  I have raised him in the world of the gods as if he were my own.  I return him to you, and your people, for your faithfulness.  Now that he is of age, I give your island a King.”

The old priest wept, and his son embraced him.

Alexander was a strong and wise king and committed to make the island into a great kingdom worthy of its patron goddess.  His advisors encouraged him to take several wives, as was the custom of the Kings of Penrose, but he had watched his father and mother for many years from the heavens and refused, forbidding the practice entirely in his island.

Instead, he married Claudia, the granddaughter of the diviner-Priestess who had originally seen the coming invasion.  As he aged, his advisors urged Alexander to preserve his life and youth with magic, as had the Kings of Penrose. 

He refused, saying that Tennia wished him to live his ordained span on earth and then return to her.  When his wife died, he never remarried, and on his 81st birthday, he gave his eldest son the crown, and made pilgrimage to the volcano where his father had given him to goddess so many years before.  There she took him once again to the heavens.

Three sons and two daughters survived him; the royal family of Obdrest descends to this day from his eldest son, Alexander Brisséan. Many of the other noble houses of the island descend from his younger children, most notable among them the Duchess of Lassander and the Duke of Tramagel.

This chapter was a bit of an experiment; any feedback on whether to write/include more of these bits of history/legend -- or not to -- would be very much appreciated

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