Originally appeared on CamelotUnchained.com on November 11th, 2013.
“Gather ’round me now young tricksters for the recitation of how we came to be in this benighted world. You there, young Lurigadawne, put down those swords and wands this instant! And you, young Cluri, stop working your trickery on those other fellows and join us now!” While some of the young students heeded his demands, a handful of them stared back defiantly, daring him to take up their wordless challenge. “Sooo, it’s a bit of a fight you’ll be wantin’ to remind ya of yer place then? Is that the way of it?” said the elder, speaking in the “old way,” as he was wont to do when his ire was raised. Drawing his staff from its resting place on his back, he hollered “Then it’s a fight you’ll be havin’!” The younger Luchorpán smiled eagerly as they counted their numbers, six if all would be true, more than enough to overcome his years of hard-acquired wisdom and power. They too drew their weapons; a wide array of organically curved and stylized staves, wands and swords. The eldest among them puffed himself up to full height, and bragged, “We’re ready for you old one. We’ve fought enough duels to know all of your tricks. Today is a reckoning day, we have many a beating to repay you for!” In return the elder smiled deeply, “Tis true we have fought many a fine duel, yet, I have one old trick that I have saved for this very day.” Upon hearing these words the confidence of the youngest ones wavered a little but not that of the eldest boy, “Words don’t scare us, we are more than prepared for whatever deviltry you’ve cooked up!” “Are you now?” replied the elder with a lively twinkle in his eye. “Then prepare for…this! Ehindbay Ouya!” he bellowed, and then nodded almost imperceptibly. The young men were confused by these words, for it was a language that they had never heard. Was it a new spell? Looking at the elder they saw no sign of magic being summoned. “Is this a trick old one?” said the eldest boy summoning up as much bravado as he could muster, “or is it your powers that you have lost?” Upon hearing these words the elder sat down and said, “I am not that old yet but if you were my age you would know that I just told you to look behind you.” With more than one quizzical bushy eyebrow raised, the six turned around to see six even older boys standing there with heavy staves. The other eyebrows joined those already raised in question, their expression transformed into astonishment, as six staves came crashing down on their heads. THWACK! It was hard enough to raise a good-sized bump, though not hard enough to cause lasting damage. Well struck, the six challengers slumped to the ground, conscious but in more than a bit of pain. “Young ones, magic is not the only way to trick someone. Our minds can be our greatest weapon if used properly. Now, who wishes to start the recitation?” Smiling as he stood, one of the younger Cluri began to speak in a singsong manner.
Before the Piercing of the Veil there once lived a pair of children, a brother and sister named Gadai and Angha. Orphaned even before the Piercing, they were inseparable. Gadai was sibling and parent to his younger sister. He kept them both in hearth and home by becoming one of the greatest thieves of his time. While everyone in town knew his profession, he followed a strict moral code. First, only steal from those that could afford the loss. Second, never take everything on hand. Finally, always share with those who were truly in need. He was also known to play a prank every now and again, though some of these pranks were quite amusing, even to the victims, and not a one of them were evil. As a result, he carved out a good, though not spectacular life and he and Angha were happy. Gadai was about as well respected as a thief could manage and they lived in a nice home atop a small hill from which they could see the entire town. As they matured and Angha was on the cusp of adulthood, the first Veilstorm struck their county. While they themselves were spared, many of their neighbors were not so lucky. This pattern continued for several years and as the Veilstorms continued to plague the world, Gadai’s once friendly neighbors began to wonder why his home seemed immune to the storms’ malice. Wonder turned into suspicion, suspicion turned into jealousy. After the first Malevolence struck jealousy turned to hatred when, yet again, his was the only home left undamaged.
One terrible night, as the taverns were closing for the evening, a crowd gathered in what remained of the storm-wrecked town square. An ale-infused tidal wave of emotion washed away any common sense left among them, and the crowd became an angry mob. They cried out for justice, blaming their misfortunes on the likes of Gadai, but justice was the last thing on their minds. They wanted Gadai to suffer as they had suffered. They wanted to inflict pain, clinging to the vague and foolish notion that it would ease their own. The mob’s thirst for action was further fed by some of the former “victims” of Gadai’s looting ways. They saw their first chance to reclaim some of what he had stolen from them and they were not going to let it pass them by. Forging torches from whatever was to hand, the mob set to marching through town, calling for others to join them in their crusade. From a distance they appeared as a trail of fire that quickly spread up the path toward the home of Gadai and Angha. When they reached the home they stormed it as surely as their ancestors had once stormed the castles of their former oppressors. It was not a grand mansion in the way of the wealthy, for Gadai had shared much of his wealth, yet it was the only fully intact home remaining. The mob demanded that the siblings share the secret of their safety. When Gadai had no answer for them, they forcibly entered the home and claimed it “for the good of the village.” They evicted the siblings, and threatened to kill them if they ever returned to their village. In truth, there was nothing special about the house or its residents; they had simply been lucky.
Bereft of their home, and friendship and a place of belonging, Gadai and Angha sought shelter in a cave in the nearby hills. While they knew that the caves wouldn’t protect them from the Veilstorms, they would at least be kept dry. Their expulsion had greatly angered Gadai and he cursed himself for being fool enough to care about anyone save himself and his sister. He swore he would revenge the villager’s cruelty ten-fold. His sister too was outraged; though she blamed their assailants’ actions on fear and the weakness of humanity, thus shielding her own heart from such anger as shook Gadai. She hoped that over the passage of time she could calm his anger and that one-day they could find another, even better place to call home. Angha believed wholeheartedly in this, she was a very kind soul, and aptly named by their parents.
Back in those days the storms came frequently, including Malevolences, and they were terrifying to behold. This night’s storm was one of the worst in memory; it lit up the sky as never before. It first descended on the village, leveling it and everything for miles around, including the home that had been taken from Gadai and his sister. The storm’s fury also reached into the cave where Gadai and Angha sat huddled closely together for warmth and security. Gadai hugged his sister close to his chest, his arms wrapped around her, hoping to somehow shield her body with his own. Sadly, he was unable to serve as a barrier to the storm. It reached into the cave, and Angha’s body began to shake with the beginnings of “The Change.” The effects of the Veilstorms, especially Malevolences, are only predictable in their unpredictability. Sometimes, and sadly this was one of those times, good people are horribly transformed while others are left unharmed. As Gadai hugged his sister ever more tightly, he could feel her changing. She screamed as she realized what was happening but as the change overtook her, those screams were silenced. She became an emotionless abomination. Gadai hugged her still, trying to will the change to reverse. He prayed to God, the old gods of his people, and to the storms themselves but the Change continued on its inexorable path. He held her still even as her hands became claws and those claws raked at his flesh, drawing blood. He refused to let go, bleeding from multiple wounds and bites, telling her how much he loved her and that everything was going to be all right. He then drew his hidden dagger and almost tenderly, he slit her throat. As she died and the light left her still human eyes, he thought he heard her say that she loved him. Though he knew she was not capable of thinking, let alone forming those words any longer. She was an abomination and all that his sister had been was taken by the storm. When all the life had left her body he placed her on the ground, cradling her misshapen head as he had when she was a baby. Mad with pain and loss, he walked out into the storm, daring it to change him, defying it and calling upon all the powers of the universe to grant him his revenge against those that caused the death of his sister. When the Malevolence ended, he was still Gadai but he felt slightly different, yet he couldn’t say how.
Over the next few decades Gadai fulfilled his dreams of revenge. He stole like never before, caring not about the needs or wants of others. Thievery became a way to punish the entire world for his loss. And the more he stole, the greater the Veilstorm influence on his body. He found that he started to shrink in stature, which made it all the easier to hide and sneak into homes and through small openings. His eyes also began to change, reflecting the color of any wealth that was nearby, which he could smell in the same manner as a hound following a trail. His skill at opening locks and evading traps was as never before and soon he amassed a great fortune that he hid away in a new cave. He couldn’t bear to go back to the one he and Angha had shared, even then. His pranks, which used to amuse, were now calculated to cause pain to his victims. None of this satisfied him and his mood grew ever darker and his countenance reflected that, his face twisting into a mask that would warn any who approached of the evil therein. However, he found he could also change aspects of his appearance at will. As his power grew, he gained other powers of trickery that he put to good use cay.
One winter’s evening he entered the home of a wealthy merchant. Quietly he crept from room to room, pocketing anything of value. When he entered the room of the youngest daughter, he noticed that she bore a passing resemblance to his sister. Not enough to be her twin, but enough to stir feelings deeply hidden within his scarred psyche. Pushing them aside, he proceeded to relieve her of a pitiful jewelry collection when, as fate would have it, a Veilstorm struck. This house was ground zero. Feeling the power coursing through the home, Gadai knew that it was time to leave and he quickly made for the nearest window. As he flung it open and prepared to leap down to the street below, the storm wakened the young girl. She screamed wildly when she saw Gadai and simultaneously realized that a Veilstorm had begun. Her desperate scream, eerily similar to that of his sister’s on their last night together, pierced Gadai’s heart as surely as an arrow and he hesitated for just a moment. That was long enough for someone to answer her scream. The door burst open as a newly transformed abomination crashed into the room, it made straight for the young girl. Whether it was her former father, mother or sibling mattered not. This thing had only one thought in its now primitive brain. Kill! It went directly for the still-screaming girl. Gadai reacted as before, he tried to protect the girl. Once again he put his body directly in the path of death yet he knew he could only offer a moments protection. For despite his powers, he was no warrior and the abomination was a creature of the storm, both now at the peak of their power. Holding her tightly, he refused to let go even as the creature savagely attacked him, raking his body and reopening scars of decades past. As he felt his strength weakening and the life leaving his body, the storm reached its zenith and Gadai’s last thoughts sent him back to his last real home, the long abandoned cave. As the abomination pulled back for a killing stroke, his bloody claws found only air and the creature howled in inhuman frustration.
When Gadai awoke he found that he was back in his and Angha’s original cave, a fire gently warming him. He discovered that his clothes had been cleaned and his wounds were also properly dressed. He looked around and rubbed a thick coating of sand from his eyes, he had been asleep for days it seemed. His eyes then landed on a young girl sitting by the fire. At first, he thought that everything had been a nightmare and that he was still with his sister and elation briefly filled his heart. Before he could utter her name, the girl came into focus and he knew that this wasn’t his sister. She was still as dead as when he had killed her. The girl walked over to sit next to him and she thanked him for saving her life. She told him that he was her hero and she promised to one day marry him. These words brought Gadai no comfort. He didn’t want to hear them. He was ugly inside and out, deformed by the storms and his own actions. He had no use for love, especially in this unworthy world. He scoffed at her words but she simply kissed him sweetly on his cheek and said “Men are always the last to know.” When his wounds had fully healed he took her back to her village and left her with a village elder, for her entire family had been killed by the storms. She didn’t object to this parting, yet repeated her promise to him. The villagers who heard this conversation were shocked, for Gadai, while not an abomination, was repulsive to look upon.
Over the next few years Gadai kept watch on the girl from afar. He made sure that she had enough food and that nobody hurt her. He watched her grow into womanhood. She was a kind soul who helped those in need and was well loved within her village. He watched suitors come and go, but one day a handsome and wealthy young man came and literally swept her off her feet. They laughed together as he courted her and with each passing day Gadai’s heart broke a little more. He realized that he had hidden his hopes away, even from himself. He knew then that he had allowed himself to love her and to hope, in his secret heart, that they would one day be wed. When he could take it no longer, he went back to his cave to once again curse humanity.
Gadai went to sleep dreaming of how he was going to get revenge on this girl for lying to him and on the world for once again victimizing him. However, this time he found he couldn’t summon the passion that had fueled him in the past. Unfamiliar and long forgotten thoughts and feelings filled him and he knew then, that he couldn’t and wouldn’t take revenge on her or anybody again. The Gadai who had done those things died the night of the battle in the girl’s house. He remembered his code and most of all he recalled the young man he used to be and swore to become him again. Even if the girl had not been faithful, he would be the man that he should have always been. Those thoughts gave him comfort and with his burden eased he fell asleep and slept more peacefully than he had in many many years. When he awoke he set out to be that man again and use his powers to help those who needed it. However, he thought, an impish grin now playing upon his twisted features, a good prank now and then would not be an altogether bad thing. He would leave this cave and its terrible memories, never to return.
Several years passed and Gadai kept the silent promise he had made to himself. Stories about a kindly, impish rogue spread throughout his region. People who were in dire need would find food and other items waiting for them and those that were evil or greedy suddenly found their wealth mysteriously diminished. After one particularly satisfying adventure, Gadai went to sleep in his cave and dreamt of what he was going to do the next day. Dreaming deeply, a pleasant scent pulled him from his slumber. There was something wonderful cooking in his cave. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he saw that the girl was sitting by the fire, cooking a meal. Stunned and not quite sure how to react he tried to stammer a greeting but before he could get out a single syllable the girl walked over to him, and kissed him. “It took me a while to find you,” she said, smiling sweetly, yet knowingly at him “I told you, I always keep my promises. And, since you have forgotten to ask, my name is Aingeal.” On that day Gadai’s thrice broken heart mended and it is said that he literally glowed from that mending. The pair were soon wed, and while some of the abilities that Gadai had acquired in his youth and anger vanished over time, what remained was more than enough ensure that tales and legends about him and the girl sprung up like the wildflowers of spring. Even a book, The Adventures of Gadai and Aingeal, was written about them and was one of the first published as the world began its long rebuilding process. Many years later Gadai discovered that Aingeal was also more than she had appeared.
“That was well spoken,” said the elder. “Leave me now an’ go practice yer skills. All except for you lot, with the lumps on yer heads. We shall work on something else and I promise you, it will hurt. Though just enough to remind you of yer folly.” Smirking now, he added, “And like me wife, I always keep me promises.”
Thus ends the tale of the Luchorpáns.