Section I: Gods and Goddesses
Section III: Myths and Religions of other Peoples
“A peddler stood at a forking of the road, his horse and two donkeys behind him, the latter weighed down by the goods he was selling – pots and pans, hammers and saws, the kind of items that are often in want by villagers -, while his horse bore the light load of his bow and his tools for tinkering. There was sometimes a need for his skills in the places he visited, to fix a hole in a bucket, to sharpen and straighten a saw, and other kinds. He would have much preferred to be a tinkerer most of the time, but too few of his customers had broken items that he could repair.
“The two roads splitting from the one he had been using looked much the same. Both were lined by trees, growing just sparsely enough not to be called a forest, both offered shade, and neither showed any sign of where it would lead. Which way should the peddler take?
“It was then that he noticed the single marking of the forking road, a square stone, with moss growing precociously in some crannies of the rock. The peddler knelt before the stone and cleaned off the moss on a whim, then sighed happily when he discovered that those crannies connected to form the image of a walking stick. ‘Now look at that, Horse, we’ve gotten a bit of luck!’ he cried out. ‘This stone must have been blessed by a priest of The Great Wanderer, Nash’Geo. Now let’s see if I haven’t got something suitable in your saddle bags.’ It wasn’t uncommon for the peddler to speak with his horse, for on his long solitary journeys he had found that his steed made for an excellent listener, better – in his own mind – than the women he had known.
“The peddler searched among his belongings, then retrieved a good-sized candle made of goat’s tallow. ‘Yes, this is a good choice,’ he told his horse, ‘for a goat is well-traveled herself. She seeks out the highest peaks of a mountain, the places few others dare explore.’ The horse did not reply but watched with some interest while its master returned to kneel before the stone, placed the candle on the ground and lit it with his tinder box and matches. ‘Great Wanderer, blessed child of Maidoyú and Olmawi, hear my calling,’ the tinkerer said as he bowed his head. ‘I wish to honor you by my travels, yet I now am at a crossroads and do not know which road to take. Please, Great Wanderer, help me!’
“The candle burned steadily, the smell of the tallow rising upwards to the heaven.
“’What do you look for in your travels, mortal?’ a voice asked, and when the peddler raised his head – not without a blush entering his face -, he saw a giant stand before him, his legs to each side of the sacred stone. The giant was twice as tall as an ordinary man, yet his sight did not frighten the peddler. Nor were his horse or the donkeys scared by the sudden appearance, since they, as much as the tinkerer himself, knew that this was the God of Travel himself rather than a creature of this world.
“The peddler bowed his head quickly again, saying, ‘Thank you, oh Great Wanderer, that you have showed yourself to me! Thank you, thank you!’
“Nash’Geo chuckled lightly, a noise both deep as mountains churning underground and light as a merry brook. ‘Answer my question, please, mortal.’
“The peddler wondered what he should ask for. After all, he had already been blessed extraordinarily by the god deigning to visit him! But, he also thought, who knew how long the god would stay by his side? How quickly would he tire of this mortal being’s concerns? ‘Great Wanderer, I wish to know the road which will lead to the best profits.’
“’The profits of a peddler, or those of a tinkerer?’ Nash’Geo smiled. ‘I can see that you are both, and I see that your tools have not been in much use lately.’
“The mortal’s heartbeat quickened. ‘Is there a way that will allow me to use my skills? Lord, ever since I was a child, I knew nothing better than to repair something that had broken down. I am good at it, really I am, but –‘ He sighed before going on, ‘Lately, there has been little besides a leaking pot or a stein of ale that needed fixing. Oh, how I wish that I could prove my worth, that I could live as a tinkerer rather than a peddler! That is what would make me happy.’
“’Then take the left road,’ Nash’Geo said. ‘It will bring you the task and the happiness you desire.’ After having spoken those words, the god vanished, as quickly as he had appeared, and with him, the candle disappeared, leaving nothing but the fumes of the tallow behind.
“His heart lightened, the peddler jumped onto his horse, took the reins of it and the donkeys, then rode towards the left road. Before leaving the crossroads, he halted briefly and told his steed, ‘Horse, henceforth I shall be a peddler no more. A tinkerer’s life awaits me, and we shall get rid of those donkeys quickly.’
“Years passed before the self-same tinkerer returned to this very crossroads. Much changed he was, not only by the weight of the years which had bowed forward his shoulders. Where before his only companions had been beasts of burden, his retinue now consisted of four armed guards, while he himself rode in a carriage drawn by the finest of horses. His clothes were the finest of silk, embroidered with gold. Yet his face was not one of a happy man, instead it was lined by the wrinkles of worry, which could tell long tales of woe and hardship. Angrily he left his carriage, walked over to the sacred stone – which had by now been reconquered by moss – and he pulled out a large hammer fashioned by a dwarf to split the stone apart. ‘This is for you, deceiving god!’ he cried and raised the hammer.
“’Halt!’ the god’s voice echoed across the land, and the guards immediately drew their swords when suddenly the giant figure of Nash’Geo appeared. But the god waved his hand slightly, and the guard’s blades flew from their hands to embed themselves into the dirt road. They realized that a god opposed them, which was enough to keep them from any cries of protest.
“Their master, the erstwhile peddler, was not frightened by the god’s appearance though. ‘Deceiver!’ he challenged the deity. ‘You have destroyed my life when I thought you had helped me!’
“Nash’Geo chuckled, the very same noise that the mortal man had heard long years ago. ‘Have I really done that? You have asked which path would allow you to live as a tinkerer, claiming that it would bring you happiness, and that is what I have told you.’
“’Your path led into a warzone!’ the tinkerer shouted. ‘The day after our meeting, my donkeys were stolen, and I only found them again a week later, slaughtered by the wayside. Horse died a month later, from an arrow shot in its poor heart. I was nearly killed as well! Soldiers took me and forced me to accompany them, to keep their arms sharp, to fix their tools. Those were months of starvation that you led me to, not the happiness you promised, Great Deceiver!’
“The god looked over to the tinkerer’s retinue, his carriage and the gilded clothes he wore. ‘You seem to have found profits, mortal, though. Moreover, you have done more than just fix the arms of soldiers, have you not? In that war you mention, was it not you who built the siege weapons that brought the victory to your side? When those weapons broke down, was it not you who repaired them so that they could launch their projectiles against the enemy’s fortress? And were you not rewarded richly by the new monarch?’
“’All I wanted was to live as a good, simple tinkerer. I wanted a safe life, not the one of toil and hardship that you brought me!’
“Nash’Geo smiled. ‘You never asked which was the safe road. You wished to live as a tinkerer, which is what I gave you. You have proved that you are a good tinkerer, mortal. Had you taken the right path, you would have never learned what your worth truly was. All your existence you would have yearned to show the very skill of your fingers and mind, yet never would you have been able to. You would have lived in safety, never challenged, never threatened. Now I ask you, which is the better? To have braved danger and discovered who you are, or to have stayed huddled up in a shack, never to have explored the possibilities of your own self? If you prefer the latter, then by all means, bring down the hammer and shatter the stone. Otherwise, tinkerer, see what you have and enjoy it.’
“The god vanished. To his surprise, the tinkerer smelled burned tallow in the air. He looked at the hammer in his hands, wondered about the god’s words, then he sighed. Without a word he dropped the hammer, leaving it to rest next to the sacred stone. After watching both items for a while, he returned to the carriage. ‘Take us home,’ he told the driver before settling into the soft pillows and looking out of the window at the sacred stone. ‘You were right, Great Wanderer,’ the tinkerer whispered. ‘I was the deceiver in this, for I have found more than I had bargained for. Thank you for your aid.’”
“Ye think ye’d know a priest right away. As fer me, that’s what I always told my buddy Terc – Tercuk Peh, that’s his full name -, that I could smell a cleric from a mile away, just by the stench of smug sanctity. Terc used to laugh loudly at that. Nothin’ unusual, Terc was constantly chucklin’ about this or that. Sometimes he’d start gigglin’ while we were fightin’, if ye can imagine that. A madman he was, an’ I really miss the fool.
“We’ve been through a lot of scrapes together, had our share of fun – fightin’, drinkin’, laughin’, chattin’ up women, an’ all the things a man lives for. Terc dragged me across half the continent or more in our travels, always promisin’ there’d be some great fortune waitin’ for us. ‘course there wasn’t. At least none worth all the trouble we got ourselves into! ‘Let’s see Cornevan’s Atrocity, down in Robhovard,’ he decided one day, while we were safe an’ sound in a Tonomai kafeserat, nearly a year’s travel ‘way from the southern tip of the continent. What do ye think happened? We went down there, ‘course, an’ I still have the scars in my legs from the arrows o’the local savages. Sure, we had a good time in our journey – ye always could rely on Terc t’be a good companion. I’ll admit gladly that the Atrocity was a sight worth seein’. A sane mind can’t imagine somethin’ as twisted an’ crazy as that.
“But a fortune? Money, gold or somethin’ o’the kind? Forget it! Terc’s ideas, they never led to anythin’ o’that kind. What they led to was seein’ some place new, some place extraordinary. Oh, I was grousin’ all the time ‘bout that, not least of all ‘cause we rarely had enough coins to buy things. Always had to make our own tools, hunt, an’ live almost like the Robhovardian savages I just mentioned. Still, I’m kinda glad to have seen all the places that Terc thought of.
“We spent some ten years journeyin’ together, till the day he died. Fell off a mountain side, into the burnin’ lava of a volcano we’d been lookin’ at. Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. I could swear Terc’s eyes were wider than his face during his fall – an’ not ‘cause of fear but ‘cause he wanted to see every little detail of the lava see afore dyin’. Like I said, a madman he was.
“Yet the biggest surprise the ol’ bastard had saved up for after his death. Y’see, each of us had given th’other an envelope, within it an address an’ a name – just in case either of us went to visit the gods afore th’other, so our kin could learn of what happened. Ye know what I found when I opened Terc’s envelope? The address of a Darawk temple in Cayaboré, an’ the name of a priest there. Turned out the cleric wasn’t a Darawk scholar, rather he was one of the Nash’Geo priests.
“An’ so, the priest told me, had Terc been. For ten years, my companion an’ best friend had been a priest – an’ I never realized! At least now I know why Terc used to laugh like that about my skill at detectin’ priests. Somewhere in the great beyond, Terc’s gotta be laughin’ at me still, now that I tell ye these words.”
“And The Great Wanderer spoke, ‘There are more ways to travel than just the one your feet find.’”
“The Wanderer’s Book”, Edition of 3157 A.E. (reprint in Eboracum
Novum, 3161 A.E.)
“Indeed there is much more to travel and exploration than just going there. If the reader of these lines has ever undertaken a journey further than the twenty miles to the next town, he will know what I refer to. There needs be supplies of food, a fashion to repair your saddle or whichever else might fail one’s service, not to mention a map – or at the very least a vague idea of what lies ahead.
“Now consider the Nash’Geo priest’s ideal of exploring that which no other man has ever seen before? To boldly venture where no one has set foot before? You do not know the terrain, you do not know what – if any – peoples live there, nor what dangers await you. Can you go there on a whim? Of course it is possible. It doesn’t make much sense, though. Chances are that the unknown will kill the unwary traveller, most likely in a way that the experienced and well-equipped journeyman could easily avoid.
“The earliest clerics of Nash’Geo found out about this harsh truth through personal misfortune. That was when the words of The Great Wanderer were recognized for what they truly meant, and the three castes of our clergy developed, all of which cooperate in the great endeavor to explore the width of our world (and perhaps even beyond).
“The first and purest caste is that of the explorers, those who – in person – fulfill the mandate of their proud order, to feast their eyes on the marvels of the world, and then to report home their findings. It is not that they consider themselves the superior of the other castes. Far from it, since in their travels they have come to cherish the deeds of their fellow priests who commonly stay in the known world and have to subsist on the tales of the explorers’ adventures.
“There is little that an explorer has in common with his or her brethren, the single identifier being their love for tasting the new and unknown. Aside from that, there are as many kinds of explorers as there are sentient beings in our world. I have met some who are so timid that you find it hard to believe they have explored the crevices of the Laru’Sedna Mountains, amongst them one who claims to have found a passage into the land beyond the mountains. (Her name is Teshkay Nevrodd, a knightdwarf who originally hails from Robhovard. She has put her tale on record in The Sight From the Peaks, published in Sirap in 3122 A.E. Unfortunately her account has never been verified, and shortly after our meeting she had set out for the Laru’Sednas again, never to return.) Other explorers are of the boisterous kind who can regale you for a whole evening with the tale of just a single one of their journeys, with details that border on the unimaginable.
“Never pretend that you can recognize an explorer priest from his words or his deeds! (Also, do not forget that there are plenty of people in our world who would make for splendid clerics of Nash’Geo yet never considered entering the order. It would be a shame to discredit the efforts of such valiant explorers like Vestan Yust, a man whose memory The Great Wanderer’s priesthood holds in high regard, although Master Yust had never joined their ranks.)
“The second caste of clerics is the one of the guardians. They are commonly of a hardy and brawny kind, most suited to a warrior’s life – but with the desire to assist a greater effort than that of merely surviving into old age. The guardians hire their services out to those in need of protection, like a caravan crossing the Elfadil Desert, or a merchanter train into the Arrufatian Wild Coast, but also to those who require a reliable bodyguard, such as perhaps a prince in jeopardy from his own court. There are, after all, many good reasons for desiring protection.
“The guardians most often choose to protect those who journey; yet some have a rather sedentary lifestyle. The Duchy of Quebas, in the Arrufat Peninsula, has been employing Nash’Geo clerics as their palace guards for nearly a century now. Many of those guards are the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the priests originally hired.
“But whichever their occupation, the guardians never keep their entire salary. A portion, commonly all which exceeds their own immediate needs, is transferred to the third caste of priests, the patrons. (Lest the reader worry that in this fashion, an aging guardian has no manner to support himself, rest assured that the order of Nash’Geo uses some of its funds for this very purpose. The order also supports the family of a guardian priest who has died, and not rarely have the children of such a priest joined the clergy upon coming of age themselves.)
“The afore-mentioned patrons are the ones who sponsor expeditions to unknown regions of Gushémal. They also take care of assembling the necessary supplies, horses or ships or other methods of conveyance, as well as possibly required guards. The latter is the easiest of their tasks, since they commonly arrange for the employment of the guardian priests as well. (Most guardian priests are affiliated with a patron priest, relying on the latter’s business contacts. A very good relationship this is, one that almost always ensures that the guardian is employed rather than wanting for a job.)
“Yet it is the outfitting of the explorers which is their most noble endeavor, and the one in which they take the most pride. Patrons are closely associated with Darawk temples, a natural fact for it is the priests of the Lord of Knowledge who can tell which region of the world is the least charted, and where an expedition might be the most fruitful. As a matter of fact, it is often the clerics of Darawk who devise the idea of an expedition (adding their own seeker priests, much like Nash’Geo’s explorers, to the party). Clearly, though, a patron priest knows far better what is required to make said expedition successful and to ensure that the knowledge it uncovers will be brought back to civilization.
“Another connection of the patron priests is with the clerics of Mauerstras, the God of Trade and Wealth. Primarily since these other priests know best which merchant requires the protection of Nash’Geo guardian priests, but also because of the patron priests’ natural affiliation with money. Mauerstras clerics are entrusted with the money of their customers and faithful, they make sure that said money appreciates in value over time; they also invest the money in other causes, hopeful to make a profit. Obviously, a patron priest of Nash’Geo has similar concerns, albeit it that the patron hopes to enhance his funds for a new expedition (or to pay for the pensions of guardians and explorers). Occasionally a priest will serve both deities, a task liable to consume every waking hour.
“Of course a patron does not exclusively rely on the income from his guardian priests, or the profits realized from trade and the like. There are always donations granted by citizens – or by the Darawk clergy, willing to assist in an expedition’s finances. The former is certainly welcome, no matter how high the sum. If a simple weaver wishes to donate a sum of a few bronze coins, why it is worth far more than a bag of gold from a wealthy merchants; the patron will be happy to relate to the donor all that has been accomplished from the gift, the tales of the explorer priest’s journeys.
“There are some who claim that the patron priest is the most noble of the servants of Nash’Geo. Never does he find adventure, never is he permitted to see some of the wondrous sights of the world for himself. He suffers so that others might explore and find the new. Yet do not think that a patron would complain about this fact. If anything, he will bemoan that he has too little time in life to accomplish all that he desires.”
Teekerk, Cleric of Nash’Geo,
“Most priests, dear girl, you can recognize by the mere sight of them. Take the tan vests of a Darawk scholar, or the red, tight clothes of an Alyssian servant. Right away you know what kind of a man he is, and what you can expect of him as the years peel away the handsomeness of youth.
“Yet there is also the follower of Nash’Geo, the journeyman’s deity (whom you might also know as Nagraph or simply Geo, both names that are common in the provinces; the knowledge of such names should not put red on your cheeks, for there are much better causes that have a girl blush). Trust him not implicitly. A man being a priest does not mean he will cherish his woman as he ought to, and of few clerics this is more true than of those beholden to The Great Wanderer.
“Worse for you in your search, it is hard to decipher whether a man is simply an adventurer, after no more than his personal wealth, or one who has a wider goal, the kind that ennobles him. Surely the latter is a better mate than the fellow who is only a man.
“Yet there is no sign to look out for, not even the walking stick which is The Great Wanderer’s symbol. For obvious reasons, many travellers use the stick, not only those consecrated to a deity’s service. Yet it is the only indication you might find. See if the journeyman who has caught your eye treasures his walking stick, treats it as more than the simple aid it would be for an ordinary man.
“That would be your first – and best indication – of who this man is. If then you can find that more than the obvious purpose is hidden in the stick, that is for the better. There are some priests of Nash’Geo who have hidden a rapier within their stick, the wooden hull being no more than an inconspicuous scabbard. (Do not fret if the man of your heart’s desire should have such a device; in his chosen profession many dangers await him. Indeed, one of this kind might be the better for yourself, since he is most likely to survive and come home to your hearth.) There are others who have hollowed out their stick, so as to store their most valued possessions inside, such as gold or gems or, hopefully, a picture of their woman.
“Believe me, dear girl, it is a happy occasion when you should inspect your priest’s stick and fight your own image inside!”
on about Nash'Geo