Hawkes Bay Kingmaker
A paladin of Iomedae. Believes others will get their enlightenment in their own way and time.
Roche is a wry man, standing just under six feet tall and a solid build.
There is something about him that lends an otherworldly sensation, and it’s not until he removes his helm that it becomes obvious that he is not completely human. For those who know of races, he is Aasimar, and the blood of celestials flows freely through his veins.
Blond hair that is kept short and tidy in a military style hides under a helm and a well groomed beard adorns his face, marking him partially human. Blue eyes stare out intently from the sun bronzed skin.
“Depending on who is talking, you can get several versions of Roche’s past. I’m here to tell of the most common one. Doesn’t mean it’s true mind, just that it’s been told more than the rest.”
The old man sits further back in his chair, shuffles a little closer to the fire and re-lights his pipe before continuing.
“This all started way before any of you were born. This was way back when Ser Brightheart was a nearly ordained knight of Iomedae. His High Priest at the time, Gallien the Serious, was in the process of starting new martial chapters of the order and expanding the knowledge of Iomedae. Part of Gallien’s plan was to get initiates to travel in a random direction, decided by a spin of a bottle. This bottle was enchanted after it settled on a direction so that no matter where the initiate was, whenever they spun the bottle again, it would always end up pointing the same way it initially landed, so that the initiate could be sure they were always travelling in the right direction.”
The children crowded round as the old man clearly started getting warmed up.
“Now young Roche, before he was Ser Brightheart remember, he was given his bottle and direction and off he set. All he had was a backpack, some patched up armour, a cheap sword, not even the scimitar he ended up favouring and a wooden shield. So he set off, not knowing what to expect, other than trouble. It was well known that these journeys always tested the initiate in any ways, and not all returned. Some through death and injury, but others failed their tests and left the order of Iomedae. Roche declared to himself that he would never fail these tests.”
“His direction set, he followed the the day to where the sun set each night. On his way he came across villages both poor and vibrant. Lush forests and dry plains. Mighty rivers and massive lakes. He had been travelling for months, upholding village laws and passing judgement as was befit an initiate on the journey.Some laws were harsh and although he didn’t always agree, he followed them regardless. Where would society be if laws were not followed?”
“One small village came up on the horizen and as the sun set, there was a glow that set the village alight as though it was on fire, lighting the heavens. The closer he got, the brighter the village became until he was a couple of miles away and the light was so bright he needed to turn his head and avert his eyes. As soon as he did so, the light disappeared and night fell and the only thing to light his way was his own ability to see in the dark and the torches on the village walls. Surely, this was a sign that his journey was nearing its end?”
“Now this small village has many names, but we shall use none tonight. It is not the focus, but Roche is. He entered the village and to his amazement, the whole place seemed bereft of inhabitants. He did chance to hear a noise and following the sound, he came upon a gathering of the entire village, crowded round the central plaza, throwing stones, rotten fruit and vegetables and anything else that came to hand at a small goblinoid creature. It could hardly be any more than a child, and the vilence and hatred towards it was palpable. As he pushed through the crowd, he looked in astonishment at everything being thrown at the child simply bounce off and slid to the ground. At each thump, the child would hiss and stamp and search for a gap in the crowd, but there was no escape to be found. It was trapped.”
One child had his hand in the air, eagerly waiting for a chance to say something important.
“It was goblin eh? An evil goblin sorceror? No, a devil! A demon!”
The old man raises his hand as a guesture of patience.
“Surely, if you waited, I might actually tell you?”
Shaking his head in mock frustration, he continued.
“As I was saying, there was no escape for this evil looking goblinoid demon boy. It looked directly at Roche and he could feel the hatred and anger through that gaze slam into him, almost a physical blow. braving the rotten fruit, vegetables and rocks, he moved to stand by the creature, weapons and shield still away, and he raised his hands, guesturing to the crowd to stop. Once the crowd had calmed, he asked them what this creature was and how it came to be here. What had it done and where was the proof. Villager after villager came forth, tale after tale spilt from desperate lips. All had seen the creature destroy livestock, crops, homes and even several villagers had died after being touched by it. There was no mistake, this was a creature of evil and the villagers had finally caught it and were attempting to exterminate it. The village mayor himself had presided the trial and by accordance to all laws, the trial was both fair and just.”
“And yet…yet there was something. Why would this village have lit up like a halo? Why would he, Roche, have chanced upon this exact village at this exact time? Roche asked the village for somewhere to stay for the night. He would pray, meditate and question this creature under Iomedae’s own laws. He would determine the cause of the creature and if it was indeed a false creature, evil in all its heart, he would weild the sacred duty to carry out its sentence himself.”
“The villagers paused and seemed relieved. They showed Roche to the village gaol and made him as comfortable as possible, while ensuring that the creature could not escape. Through the night Roche prayed, meditated and sought advice from Iomedae. All the while, the creature howled, hiss, spat and cursed in some gutteral tongue. Eventually the suns rays crept through the bars of the gaol and Roche was no closer to his answer.”
“The mayor came to him and asked, quietly and fearfully, had he made his decision? Had he received his answer? When no answer was forthcoming, the mayor ordered the cell opened and the creature was dragged back to the village plaza, with Roche walking slowly behind. His heart was heavy from the ordeal and still, he was not sure why he had been drawn to this place. The village laws were absolute and his only option was to follow them and execute the creature. He put out his hand and the villages sacred blade of judgement was pressed into it. The whole village was deathly quiet and the only noise that could be heard was Roche’s footsteps as he closed in and the ragged breathing of the creature. Raising the blade, he prayed one last time to Iomedae that his cause be just, the aim true and his decision final. With a mighty swing, the sword decended to behead the creature, but at the last second, Roche shuddered with doubt. The swing stopped and he closed his eyes. This was never easy, but it was his role to play and it was better him than some violent person who enjoyed death. Resolved, he raised the blade again. He looked at the creature, no longer angry, but pitiful, and took a deep breath. This time the swing was strong and sure and connected cleanly with the creatures neck.”
“An explosion of light cascaded from the impact and all turned their heads in shock, lest they be blinded. When they turned back, the miserable creature was no more. In it’s place was a young boy. Disheveled, dirty and terribly thin. He looked up at Roche and his eyes changed to a bright blue glow and the voice that those parched lips emitted could only be something all powerful.”
“ROCHE. YOU WHO WOULD BE BRIGHT OF HEART. YOUR JOURNEY IS AT AN END. YOU ARE NOT READY TO BE A KNIGHT OF IOMEDAE. FOLLOWING THE LAW IS SACRED TO ME, BUT SO IS VALOR AND IN THIS, YOU HAVE FAILED. THIS BOY IS AN INNOCENT, CHANGED TO THE FOUL THING YOU SAW BEFORE YOU. YOU HAVE WITHIN YOU, THE ABILITY TO SEE THROUGH LIES, DISCERN THE TRUTH AND SAVE BOTH SOULS AND LIVES. THIS CHILD IS TO BE YOUR NEW JOURNEY. RAISE HIM IN MINE OWN NAME AND YOU SHALL BE READY TO BEAR MY TITLE. SO SPEAKS IOMEDAE!”
“The boy collapsed and shivered as the celestial force left his body. Roche, tears streaming from his eyes in the face of his very god, bent to pick the child up and carried him from the village. As the child woke, Roche stopped, gently laid him to the ground and let him recover. Asking his name, the boy could only shake his head and reply that he had no name. He could remember nothing other than waking up in Roches arms, tired, sore and weak, both hungry and thirsty. Gritting his teeth, he realised that he was going to have to name this child.”
“The only thing he could think of was Io, both in reference to his god and as a constant reminder of his duty to raise this boy well in the eyes of his faith.”
Leaning back, the old man smiled at the children. He stretched his back and shoulders as the children realised the story was at its end. Some were happy, others bored and yet more were tired and ready for bed. One though, looked at the old man and mouthed one word, at which the old man smiled, nodded his head and made his way out of the room.