Bannica Yulrude sat near the candlelight and brought his quill to the parchment laid before him. Finally committing to written word the thoughts and feelings in him, about his faith and how his diety has revealed herself to him, was both enlightening and terrifying to him.
“Year 263, The Revelations of Shepard Bannica Yulrude.
All my life I have served the Mother, but never once did I consider I might become such a direct instrument of her Will. I certainly never believed I’d commune with her directly through a Mordok shrine, but I suppose the details of how this came to be are irrelevent. What matters is that I continue my work as I always have, and share my revelations as promised.
I realize now you cannot defeat or defy a God, only accept it for what it truly is. The Mordok shrines are seen as a place of corruption, but this is not true. In fact a delicate balance is at work. There is no corruption, only decay and rebirth. The Daughters of Gaea’s “Cleansing” Rituals merely represent an opposing force in it’s extreme. They are no more helping Mardrun then saving a burning man by drowning him.
Would you starve a forest of it’s natural order? Would you have the leaves never fall, so that when spring came no new life could sprout from the rot? Suffering is a necessity. One must consume to survive, and they must in turn offer their own life to decay so life may begin anew. This debt cannot be denied, and it can no longer be ignored.
The Red Eyed Syndar spoke of a great danger to the land, one the Mordok seek to overcome. Though I’ve seen it with my own eyes, it somehow escapes recollection. It remains the companion of the Mother, and the charge of her Mordok children. Together they lurk, ever present in the corner of my eye.
The answers I seek are presented as visions, whispering to me in a strange language. Waiting for me to understand, waiting for me to share. Though the road I resolve to walk appears dark, I must remain resolute to the vows I’ve made as a Shepard of her Will. The Heralds of Change have arrived, and I will do as asked: I will teach.”
Among the wreckage of their caravan, Elder Luisa Barros of Deva’s Will barely clung life.
An open chest wound promised a slow and agonizing death. She was a healer, and though she had treated many wounds like this one, the Mordok had left her arms crippled and her talents useless. She had made her way near Onsallas to retrieve an injured subordinate when the merchants she thought herself lucky to travel with were hit. Now in the carnage, she couldn’t help but see the situation’s many ironies. Fading in and out of consciousness she began to recite one last prayer, accepting her fate.
Only it was not to be, an unexpected sight brought her attention back to the world of the living. The Mordok had vanished back into the swamp, and a human man, clad in black with a headdress of feathers skulked out of the woods behind them. The stranger danced among the bodies, speaking in a strange tongues to an unseen figure and stopping often at corpses, kneeling beside them and placing his hand above their head. It looked as though he was struggling with channeling magic of the divine, trying to speak with the dead, but he asked no questions. Instead, he stroked their brow and spoke as if to reassure them, marking them in blood before moving on. He sought no answers, this was a ceremony to him. The man in black worked his way closer, stopping often to perform these bizarre rites. Though he made no sign of noticing the survivor, he seemed quite deliberate when he suddenly turned and knelt beside Elder Barros.
Only then, through blurred vision did the dying servant of Deva’s Will realize: this was Shepard Yulrude, the wounded subordinate she had come to retrieve. She tried to force out words to exclaim her surprise, but her throat produced only blood. In response Yulrude placed a hand on the wound, and began to recite a healing incantation, only the words of faith had changed and the magic wavered. Leaning close he began to whisper “The Mother has shown me your face in visions. I do not know why you were chosen, but I believe I am here to save you.”
“No!” she managed to gurgle out, struggling beneath the very hand which preserved her life. The man of once impeccable honor now reeked with an aura of corruption. It was palpable, she would have no part in whatever darkness infected him. Yulrude contemplated her reaction, this woman would rather die than challenge her own beliefs. Truly the minds of Human and Ulven alike were warped and deceived. They had been blinded by faith and lies, and would only suffer as a result. Elder Barros spat blood and fought, but Yulrude persisted. He would not leave her to die. Finally, in desperation, she pulled a dagger from his belt, and tried to drive it into his side.
It was at that moment Yulrude’s spell took on a will of its own. The life-preserving magic became like poison and Elder Barros began to convulse violently, dropping the dagger. Her wound festered and corruption seeped in, rotting her body from the inside and bringing a gruesome end to her life. Yulrude pulled away in horror, but his remorse quickly vanished at sight of the dagger. Only then did he realize the Mother had never intended him to save her life.
“Apologies Elder, it appears I misunderstood her.”
Screams in the distance suggested the Mordok had found more victims near Onsallas Outpost. It was time to speak to Reyna Longfang in person, and now he made haste towards his destination, fearing she would need his help with the survivors.
As Yulrude walked off in haste to whatever purpose his mind had been set to, across the way a figure with blood red eyes had been silently watching.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Yulrude was so confused. The torment of his faith and the immense loss of blood were making it hard to think.
He could feel her, The Mother, the presence that he had built his spiritual fortress around. Her presence was pleading, resistant to what was happening. Recently it had been supressed but now it was strong, now it forced its way back to him frantically. It tugged on his faith and pulled at him, but Yulrude would not budge. Suddenly, with a jolt, she was gone.
Yulrude was alone. His faith was shattered.
He could see the ulven and the others, the ones that stopped the ritual. He saw Mad Morty, crawling beside him, as a sword was impaled into him and Morty stopped crawling away. Yulrude could feel his life blood flow from his body as Thrand was screaming at him. Thrand had stepped into the corruption site to stop him. He couldn’t hear what the ulven was saying. His eyesight was fading. His faith was a vessel, void and emptied, and he started to feel remorse for his actions. The presence crept back to him. It was pleased, grinning at him as his heart beat its last and final beat.
With a gasp of sucking breath, Yulrude shot back to the realm of the living. Choking and hacking, his body regained life and stepped away from the cusp of death. The world was spinning and he was sick, vertigo tearing at him from every direction.
Suddenly, a familiar presence poured itself into the spiritual vessel that was the core of Yulrude’s being. What was once conflicted and then emptied, was not filled with affection and purpose. Yulrude wretched and vomited on the ground and though the world was spinning around him he noticed he was surrounded by figures.
Encircling Yulrude were half a dozen mordok and a tribal helmed Syndar.
“You have learned well.” said the Syndar as he gazed upon Yulrude with blood red eyes.