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Lady Darya Nishan

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Lady Darya Nishan

Post  Wynnsaren on Wed Feb 03, 2010 10:44 pm

It was still a couple of hours before dawn, and the dark sky was mirrored in the dark waters of The Throat. It was with not a small amount of satisfaction that the woman filled the final two buckets of her final trip up to the Tower of the Golden Dawn. She slung the buckets over her shoulders and began making her way carefully up the gentle slope to the lighthouse. Today was the Vernal Equinox. An important day among the followers of the Morninglord, and it would also be the day of Darya’s confirmation as a holy paladin of Lathander.

The ropes that held the buckets had cut bloody lines into her shoulders by the time she finished her fifth trip, but now on her tenth, they simply felt numb. Strands of sweat-saturated black hair clung to the sides of her face as she forced her legs to keep placing one foot in front of the other.

The Tower of the Golden Dawn spiraled in red and gold hues, 150 feet in the air. It served as a functional lighthouse, as well as a temple to the merchant ships that sailed day and night into the port of Zelpir and into The Throat to Pyratar. A beacon of light in the darkness. The faith had been growing in popularity among the burgeoning merchant class of Var, as was evidenced by the extravagance of the temple itself.

As Darya approached the first of the 268 gold-streaked, marble steps that would take her to the sanctuary near the top of the tower, she gritted her teeth and began that final climb. This was a test. Everything was a test. Symbols of what her life was to be like if she accepted this honor. Her shoulders ached with the burden that she would have to carry, to lift from the darkness, those who were unable to lift themselves, and even the climb itself represented the endless pursuit of self-perfection.

At the top of the tower, just beneath the blazing beacon, was a small room. The entire eastern wall was lined with windows, and into the marble floor was set a large bathing basin made of solid gold. A small bench also made of marble stood against the western wall. A white robe with a golden cinch lay folded at one end of the bench, with a basket meant for the soiled clothing, sitting on the floor at the other. The young woman poured the final bucket of water into the basin and set the implements off to the side before peeling off her old clothes. After the ceremony, they would be taken to the top of the tower and thrown into the fire to symbolize the death of whom she once was, and the birth of who she would soon become. She stood at the edge of the basin and raised her stormy gray eyes to the eastern sky, anticipating the coming dawn. When the sun broke over the horizon, it streamed through the windows and hit the water in the basin, illuminating it with golden light. The water from bay contained a unique mineral, giving off a warm, golden hue when struck by the light of the dawn or of the sunset. The Golden Water and the Shining Lands themselves derived their names from this phenomenon. She stepped into the cool water to bathe, cleansing her body, and symbolically her spirit, with the rose-scented soap that had been prepared for her.

As Darya pulled on the white robes after bathing, far below she could hear the priests beginning the Song of the Dawn. The temple would be filling with the guests her family had invited, which would probably be most of the hajwa families, as well as many of the more influential families of the Nawab Council. It was a great honor to have a child chosen to become a paladin, and for the young, noble house of Nishan, it was an important symbol of power and status for the family. Her brother Kamran stood to inherit the family title, and both of her sisters, Jessmyn and Zarina, had been married off to influential families. They would be there today as well.

The path that she was now set upon had been chosen for her when she was twelve, when she had become a ward of the new temple of Lathander that had just come into Zelpir. Darya was the first of those young followers to be plucked from the pews because of her potential. It was a difficult life, with intense focus on skills in both combat and academics, but she had thrived under the pressure. She had grown to love it, and faced each new day with fervor for the challenges it would bring. At fifteen her instructors had discovered her sensitivity to magic, likely due to her diviner mother, who often aided the church in their scrying. After that discovery, she also began her studies in the ways of magics, both clerical and wizardly. Not the casting of magic, but the detection and elimination of its evil incarnations. She learned to steel her mind against those spells that would seek to control it, and to train her eye to see the truth through spells that would seek to show her falsehood. Her path was different from that of her peers. She was being trained for a very specific purpose, and because of that, did not gain the healing abilities nor the power over the undead as the others had. She was to be at the forefront of the church’s war with practitioners of the dark arts. High Morninglord Ladarius Bachar had been given a vision from Lathander, of a great storm rising from the West. The black clouds were yet far off, but it was coming, and ever a prudent man, Ladarius would see that they were prepared for it.

Darya cinched the golden cord tightly about her waist and descended the stairs to finish her final preparations in the dormitory before she was expected for the ceremony.

By the time the official celebration of the first day of spring came to an end, Darya had taken her place, standing behind the audience at the back of the sanctuary. A grizzled old knight dressed in blood red plate mail strode out onto the platform. A crystal sword was sheathed at his side. Lord Gaspar Yilmaz was a highly decorated soldier, a holy paladin of the Morninglord, and had proven himself as one of the toughest men this side of the Dragonsword Mountains. When he lost his left hand in battle, he refused to let that be the end of his military carrier. Instead, he strapped his shield onto the stump that remained and continued his campaign to keep the western boundaries of Durpar safe from the encroaching monsters of the Veldorn region. When the remainder of that stumpy limb was chewed off up past the elbow by a band of wererats, Lord Gaspar was asked…very politely…to retire and become the trainer of recruits for the new church in Zelpir. There were days during weapon training, when he would forgo a weapon and spar the young candidates with his shield alone. Those were the roughest days. Gaspar’s skill with the shield was legendary, and the man could do as much or more with a thin sheet of wood and bronze strapped to his one arm, as he could with a long sword. Darya tried to pay particularly good attention to those lessons and her diligence to learn his techniques had garnered the old paladin’s favor. When a student was in Lord Gaspar’s favor however, they would find themselves with more bruises and black eyes than the others, often becoming the example for the lessons they were to learn that day.

Darya’s memories were interrupted by the paladin’s booming voice as the confirmation ceremony began. “Is there anyone here willing to risk life and limb,” he asked, with a flourish of his stump, “to serve as a bastion of hope for the weak, and a bane to those that seek to extinguish the pure and noble light?

“I am willing,” came the woman’s unhesitant response, as she strode up the aisle to her mentor.

Most of the faces in the audience were familiar to her. Some of the nobles she could only recognize by the family crests they wore, but aside from her own family, Darya was most pleased to see her three fellow candidates there. They were slightly younger than she, but they had all trained together for the past six years, and they’d seen each other through the triumphs and defeats. There had been plenty of both. The sad smile Phairith wore on his face, told the young woman that his thoughts were being led down the same path.

Senegha.

All his life Phairith had dreamed of the honors and glory the paladinhood would bring him, but he had learned a hard lesson a few months ago. They all had.

This past fall, the four paladins-in-training, Darya, Namin, Raethe and Phairith, along with Dawnlord Ellira, set out to investigate reports of undead activity about a day’s ride east of Zelpir. The small village of Senegha had been plagued with a rash of grave robbing. After speaking with the elders of the village, they learned that skeletons had been coming at night, carrying the freshly unearthed corpses further east toward the hills. When the sun rose, the small band rode east. They eventually were able to discover a small cave entrance within the hills, which had a well-worn path exiting it. Darya could clearly remember the feeling of her hands and fingertips tingling as they entered the cave. Though they heard nothing, it was evident that something with nefarious purpose lay within. Torchlight could be seen in the room ahead of them as the path twisted around to the left. Before entering, Ellira Blessed them all, and then Darya, as the eldest paladin, led the way. The narrow passage opened up into a large, cavernous room. Torches lined the walls, lighting most of the area with a warm orange glow. To one side of the room, stood thirteen skeletons at attention, armed with swords, while four desiccated corpses lay on the ground at their feet. As soon as the holy quintet entered, the undead attacked!

“Keep ‘em off me while I work!” Ellira yelled, as she pulled out her holy symbol at the same time Darya barked an order to form the shield wall. The charging skeletons clattered against wall of wood and bronze that the four fighters raised. Namin, and Raethe were each able to score hits, though it was easily apparent that their swords would not be able to inflict the kinds of wounds they might against meatier opponents. Darya had no such issue as her morning star smashed through the rib cage of one of the skeletons.
The others had often jested her about her unorthodox choice of weapons. Not as elegant as the sword, they said. Too unwieldy to be used with a shield… The morning star was indeed slower than the swords they chose, but when it connected, it would crush bone and plate armor alike, punching holes through metal and flesh with its sharp spikes. Besides, thanks to Lord Gaspar’s tutoring, her shield was as much of a weapon as her morning star, and these skeletons had provided her first opportunity to employ them against a true enemy on the field of battle!

She heard Raethe grunt in pain to the left of her as one of the skeletons’ rusty swords managed to pierce his chain mail. From behind the shield wall, with a voice emboldened by the power of Lathander, Ellira held out her holy symbol, managing to turn three of the skeletons. It was odd that so few were turned, and Darya had to believe that they were not alone in the cave…that the skeletons must have a master who was here as well. The nine remaining abominations continued their assault, and Phairith was gashed deeply at the leg. It was then that she heard it. Over the din of battle, beyond them within the darkness, Darya heard the faint mutterings of a spell being cast. Ellira had just touched Phairith to heal his wounds, when he went rigid. She felt the wave of magic roll off her mind, her training making her nearly immune to such controlling spells, but Namin wasn’t as fortunate. Raethe sent another skeleton crumbling to the floor as Darya’s eyes searched the darkness for the evil caster. Heaving the shield up over her shoulder, she swung it hard to the side, decapitating one of the skeletons with the edge of the bronze disc. It was then that she spotted him in the distance! A twisted man, looking well beyond the years he had probably lived. He saw her gaze fall upon him, and he smiled smugly before touching a ring on his right hand. For a moment he faded from her sight, but after blinking a few times, her eyes penetrated the illusion of invisibility he had cloaked himself with.

Raethe was holding his own, and Ellira was busy healing wounds. “I see the vile priest!” Darya shouted to her companions as she took off a skeletal arm at the shoulder. “Hold the line! I will see to it that his lips stop moving.” With that, she brought the shield up before her and charged headlong toward the dark priest who was waggling long, twisted fingers as he launched into another spell. She screamed as she ran at him, a wall of metal and fury, and though his eyes widened when he realized that Darya was able to see through his invisibility, the priest managed to finish the spell he had aimed at Ellira, just before the paladin slammed into him. He flew backwards a few feet and Darya pursued him. Though stunned and lying prostrate from the blow, he was able to utter a word, setting his hand aglow with a sickly brown light. She knew enough to dodge the touch as he swiped for her leg, missing by mere inches. “The Dawn has risen,” Darya snarled as she brought the bronze shield down on the priest’s face, knocking out teeth and turning his nose against his cheek, “and you are undone!” Those were the last words he heard before falling into blackness.

When the paladin turned to rush back to her beleaguered allies, she was surprised to feel a sharp pain in her side, as the one-armed skeleton she had struck moments before ran her through with his blade. Gritting through the pain, Darya tried to shove it off with her shield, but the wicked blow had momentarily sapped her strength. With the skeleton’s blade trapped by the shield, she brought the morning star high over her shoulder to send it crashing down through the abomination’s chest cavity, but it stepped to the side, avoiding re-death for the moment. Just for a moment. Darya let the momentum of the heavy weapon carry it down across her body before circling it, bringing it back to send the spiked ball crushing through the skeletal spine.

Stepping over the pile of bones, she hefted the shield to front and charged back into the fray. Namin was still Held, and surrounded by two skeletons, but Ellira had managed to Dispel the dark magic and free Phairith. The smell of burning flesh assaulted her senses as she neared the battle. Smoke was rising from the cleric’s chain mail, and the expression of sheer agony on Ellira’s face told Darya that she was suffering as a result of the last spell the evil cleric had managed to cast.

The woman crashed against one of the skeletons attacking Namin, unable to knock it to the ground with the first strike, but her morning star saw to it that the thing wouldn’t rise again. Three more skeletons were left, and Darya saw that her friends had been badly injured. She suspected that the only thing keeping Namin upright was the Hold spell. The cleric was doing everything in her power to heal him and keep from screaming as her flesh cooked beneath the heating metal.

“Collapse the Wall, press them to center!” Darya stepped in front of Namin as Raethe stepped back and the two flanks closed in on the undead, crushing them together with their shields. With little room to swing their rusted swords, the three paladins made short work of the remaining skeletons.

The threat now eliminated, Phairith rushed over to Lay Hands on Ellira, who was in the midst of ridding herself of the burning chain mail. Namin snapped out of the Hold spell in a rage. In an attempt to bandage his wounded pride, he charged toward the three skeletons that had gathered at the farthest end of the cavern after being turned. Darya’s eyes shifted to meet Raethe’s, and they shared a slight grin as they rushed off to join their fellow.

Once the remaining three skeletons were dispatched, they moved over to the unconscious priest, binding and gagging him. An unholy symbol hung around his neck. Three amber teardrops on a purple triangle. Raethe pulled it off gingerly, recognizing the symbol of Talona, dark goddess of poison and disease, and he crushed it to dust beneath his boot. Darya’s companions began gathering the skeletal remains for reburial in Senegha, while she was scanning the rest of the cave. Honed senses searched for any remnant of evil magics. There had to be a reason the priest had come here. There had to be a reason he was Raising this force of undead…

After a few moments of concentration she felt that tingling sensation in her fingers again. Darya asked the Dawnlord to join her as they explored a darkened corner of the cavern. They would never have seen the secret door, if it hadn’t been for the evil magic radiating from the ward that had been placed on it. Ellira was able to dispel the Glyph, and beyond the door they found a small room. A crude laboratory of sorts. There were vials of dark liquids and filthy pots were some noxious potions had been brewed. More interesting were the sheets of parchment on a small desk in the corner. Ellira snatched them up quickly, eyes growing wider as she scanned the scrawling handwriting. “Most Fatal Horror…,” she read aloud to whom the unfinished letter had been addressed. “We need to get this back to the Tower at once!” As curious as the young paladin had been to see what information the letter contained, she knew it wasn’t her place to ask. The Dawnlord was the senior officer of this particular mission, and if Darya needed to know any of it, she was sure Ellira would have said something. Undoubtedly she would hear some news once they got back to the Tower of the Golden Dawn with the correspondence and the withered cleric of Talona.

Later, Darya had been told that the cleric had been getting orders from a priest of Talona at a shrine near the town of Des. He had been about to test a strain of debilitating disease out on the poor folks of Senegha, and chose to Raise some skeletons to protect him if the disease didn’t take hold and he was discovered. Fortunately for the townsfolk, he wasn’t exactly the evil genius, and his minions had been spotted. After being alerted to the shrine to the Mother of All Plagues, priests of the Adama in Des joined with a few members of the Order of the Aster from Zelpir, to see that the shrine was destroyed, and its priests run off or slain. No one wants a priest of Talona in their neighborhood…

Though she’d requested to be dispatched with the Order members to Des to see the mission through to the end, Darya had been denied. She was not yet a full paladin, and the outing to Senegha had only been intended as a training mission. After that experience, Phairith had chosen to pursue the path of a priest instead of a paladin. It seemed he was uneasy with how closely glory was tied with tragedy. It was nothing for him to be ashamed of, and Darya had told him so, for he had behaved admirably in the heat of battle. Service to the Morninglord in any capacity is an honor unto itself.

The young woman’s attention snapped back to the present as she climbed the few steps to the platform. Lord Gaspar raised his chin slightly as his student stood before him. “Kneel, and I will have your oath!”

Taking a knee, she raised one hand and recited the words she had prepared for this moment. “I, Darya of Zelpir, daughter of Lord Ardavan Nishan, do hereby pledge to honor the strictures of this sacred heritage and promise by my faith to be loyal to the church of Lathander and to his clergy, maintaining my devotion against all persons without deception or forethought. Further, I vow to promote and uphold the principles of Fealty, Courtesy, Honesty, Valor, Honor, Humility, Generosity and Industry, and to solemnly and faithfully follow the edicts of my church and my family. I take this pledge freely, without coercion or expectation of reward, sworn before this honorable assembly of witnesses, and in blessed memory of those who have given their lives to this noble cause.”

Gaspar turned to High Morninglord Ladarius, who nodded in approval. Drawing the crystal sword at his side, the old paladin touched each shoulder with the blade before flipping it over to hand her the hilt. “Then rise, Daughter of the Light, and take up the standard of the Morninglord! May this symbolic blade ever remind you of the fragile boundary separating good from evil.”

She took the ceremonial weapon in her hand and held it at her side as she rose to face Lord Gaspar. He looked at her a moment and a hint of a smile played at the corners of his mouth before he struck the woman violently across the cheek with his right hand. A few of the audience members gasped, but the woman calmly brought her eyes back to center before being struck again on the other cheek.

“Remember your oath,” came Gaspar’s emphatic reminder. “Your life is not your own.”

---

Nearly six months from that day, Darya had been summoned into the study of Dawnmaster Alokkair Turan. The fair-haired half elf sitting at his desk, rifling through parchment, served as both priest and recruiter for the Tower, and had been the man to first notice Darya’s potential.

“Dawnmaster,” she addressed him formally, bowing after being ushered into the room, “my presence has been requested?”

“Yes, Lady Darya.” Alokkair smirked, after answering the woman with equal formality. The priest had been a friend of the family for many years, and though they worked together often since her training began, she persisted in addressing him by title alone. He found it aggravating, but endearing. “The High Morninglord has received news from Turelve, a port city to the west across the Golden Water. You are familiar with this place?”

After seeing her nod in affirmation, he continued. “You are being sent to meet with a priest there, who has found some disturbing evidence of evil magic being worked to the north. He has not been able to determine the nature of this magic, nor its source, and he needs someone to help him investigate this matter.”

Darya’s gray eyes sparkled and her stoic expression cracked with the grin she couldn’t suppress. She had been so eagerly awaiting the day she’d be sent out on assignment! Instead of deterring her in any way, Senegha had only focused her resolve. Whetted her appetite for adventure and amplified her desire to bring Light to those lives mired in the Darkness.

Alokkair chuckled at her poorly concealed enthusiasm. “We’ve booked your passage aboard the merchant vessel, Mehrnaz, which will be departing tomorrow morning. After meeting with the caretaker of the shrine in Turelve, it will be up to you to determine how best to proceed with the investigation. You are to send us reports of your progress as you are able.”

“Of course, Dawnmaster, it is an honor to serve,” she responded with another bow, taking the moment to try to regain her composure.

“Yes it is…” The priest rose from his seat, the hem of his golden robes swishing across the marble floor as he moved to stand before the young paladin. “Darya,” he said, dropping all formality, “You are prepared for this mission, I’ve no doubt, but do not underestimate any Darkness that might lie within Durpar and Veldorn beyond that. It is a wild place, full of monsters and worse. If you can find yourself some worthy companions on this quest, it might prove a benefit to you while you work to accomplish your objective.”

“I thank you for your wise advice, Dawnmaster,” she said sincerely, “I will do everything in my power to ensure the success of this mission.”

“I know you will,” he smiled, placing his hands on her shoulders. “Now you have the remainder of the day to gather your things and say your farewells. Meet me here again at Dawn, and I will have a letter from the High Morninglord for you to deliver to the priest in Turelve.”

“Until the next Dawn,” the priest patted her shoulder affectionately as he dismissed her.

“Until the next Dawn,” Darya echoed with a luminous grin. “Thank you, Dawnmaster.”

Alokkair sighed dramatically as the paladin turned sharply on her heel, nearly bolting out the door in anticipation of her impending voyage.

---

Darya stood at starboard, scarlet cloak pulled around her shoulders, watching as the hull of the Mehrnaz cut through the glowing waters. She wasn’t looking back at the gleaming lighthouse they were sailing away from, but forward toward Turelve and the challenges that lay ahead.
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Wynnsaren

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Re: Lady Darya Nishan

Post  Wynnsaren on Wed Feb 03, 2010 10:47 pm

Darya (except hair should be black, and cross replaced by a rising sun, otherwise...)



Morningstar ^_^

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Wynnsaren

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Re: Lady Darya Nishan

Post  The Sub-Creator on Thu Feb 04, 2010 1:41 am

Phenomenal! Bravo! Encore! Encore!

Seriously, truly enjoyed this a great deal. Well-written, and very exciting! I'm looking forward to meeting this courageous young Lady! Very Happy

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The Sub-Creator

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Re: Lady Darya Nishan

Post  captain54jcv on Sun Feb 28, 2010 5:20 pm

What a fantastic story! I believe that your character is the type that mine is seeking to join their fight against the unknown enemy who attacked their pride and kept him prisoner...look forward to meeting her!
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Re: Lady Darya Nishan

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