Five hundred years ago in Mournhold, city
of gems, there lived a blind widow woman and her only child,
a strapping young man. He was a miner, as was his father before
him, a common laborer in the king's mines, for his magicka
ability was but small. The work was honorable, but poorly
paid. His mother made and sold small wildenberry cakes in
the market to help make out their living. They did well enough,
his mother said. They had enough to fill their bellies, no
one could wear more than one suit of clothing at a time and
the roof only leaked when it rained. Symmachus would have
liked more. He hoped for a lucky strike in the mines, which
would garner him a large bonus. In his free hours he enjoyed
hoisting a glass of ale in the tavern with his friends, and
gambling with them at cards, and he drew the eyes and sighs
of more than one pretty elven girl, although none held his
interest for long. In short, Symmachus was a typical young
dark elf man, remarkable only for his size. It was rumored
that he had a bit of Nord blood in him.
In Symmachus' thirtieth year there was great
rejoicing in Mournhold for a girl child was born to their
lord and his lady. A queen, the people sang, a queen is born
to us! For among the people of Mournhold, the birth of a female
heir is a sure sign of peace and prosperity to come.
When the time came for royal child's Rite
of Naming, the mines were closed and Symmachus rushed home
to bathe and dress in his best.
"I'll come straight home and tell you
all about it," he promised his mother, who was not to
attend. She had been ailing; besides, there would be a great
crush of people as all Mournhold would be there, and being
blind she would be unable to see anything anyway.
"My son," she said. "Go, fetch
me a priest or healer, else I may pass from the mortal plane
when you return."
Symmachus crossed to her bed at once and noted
anxiously that her head was very hot and her breathing shallow.
He pried up the loose floorboard where their small hoard of
savings was kept. There wasn't nearly enough to pay a priest
for healing. He would have to give what they had and owe the
rest. Symmachus snatched up his cloak and rushed away. The
streets were full of folk hurrying to the sacred grove, but
the mage guild and the temples were locked and barred. "Closed
for the ceremony" read the signs. Symmachus elbowed his
way through the crowd and managed to overtake a brown-robed
"After the rite, brother," the monk
said, "if you have gold I shall gladly to attend your
mother. My lord has bade all clerics to attend and I shall
not offend him."
"My mother's desperately ill," Symmachus
pled. "Surely, my lord will not miss just one lowly monk."
"The father abbot will," the monk
said nervously, tearing his robe loose from Symmachus' grip
and vanishing into the crowd.
Symmachus tried other monks and mages, too,
but with no better result. Armored guards came through the
street and pushed him aside with their lances and Symmachus
realized that the royal procession was approaching. As the
royal carriage drew abreast, Symmachus rushed out from the
crowd and shouted, "My lord, my mother's dying--"
"I forbid her to do so on this glorious
night!" the lord shouted, laughing and scattering coin
into the throng. Symmachus was close enough to smell wine
on the royal breath. On the other side of the carriage his
lady clutched her babe to her breast, and stared wide-eyed
at Symmachus, her nostrils flared in disdain.
"Guards!" she cried. "Remove
this oaf." Rough hands seized Symmachus. He was beaten
and left dazed by the side of the road.
Symmachus, head aching, followed in the wake
of the crowd and watched the Rite of Naming from the top of
the hill. He could see the brown robed clerics and blue robed
mages gathered near the royal folk far below.
Barenziah. The name came dim to Symmachus
ears as the High Priest lifted the naked babe and showed her
to the twin moons on either side of the horizon: Jone rising,
Jode setting. "Behold the Lady Barenziah, born to the
rule of Mournhold! Grant her thy blessings and thy counsel
ever that she rule to Mournhold's weal."
"Blessings, blessings..." all the
people murmured with their lord and lady, hands upraised.
Only Symmachus stood silent, head bowed, knowing in his heart
that his dear mother was gone. And in his silence he swore
a mighty oath, that he should be his lord's bane and in vengeance
for his mother's needless death, the child Barenziah he would
have as his own bride, that his mother's grandchildren should
be born to rule Mournhold.
After the ceremony he watched impassively
as the royal procession returned to the palace. He saw the
monk to whom he'd spoken first. The man came gladly enough
now in return for the gold Symmachus had and a promise of
They found his mother dead, as he had feared.
The monk sighed and tucked the bag away. "I'm sorry,
brother. Well, you can forget the rest of the gold, as there's
naught I can do here. Likely--"
"Give me back my gold!" Symmachus
snarled. "You've done naught to earn it!" He lifted
his right arm threateningly. The priest backed away, beginning
a curse, but Symmachus struck him before more than three words
had left his mouth. He went down heavily, striking his head
sharply on one of the stones that formed the firepit. He died
Symmachus took the gold back and fled the
city, muttering the name "Barenziah".
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