Campaign of the Month: September 2013
This holiday is held two weeks after the end of the year’s final harvest. It serves to give thanks for the harvest and commemorate Jaspree’s Gift (see Crystal Raiders of Barsaive for more details) for the coming of the winter.
The first event that occurs is called Gor’kal’renal (“The Repayment”). The flagship of the moot is taken out, with its crew as well as all the Elementalists in the moot, and the competitors for the Fren’hal’Jaspree (“Jaspree’s Test,” see below).
The Elementalists (who have been preparing for this for several weeks) then spread seeds of appropriate types over the land that the moot claims, giving back to Jaspree what their people have taken, and helping to ensure the land’s vitality.
After this is accomplished, the survival contest (Fren’hal’Jaspree) begins. The competitors are ritually stripped of all adornments, clothing, and weapons. They are then given a specially prepared spear that represents the troll’s connection to Nature. The spear is carved from a tree that has been split by lightning. It is blackened in a bonfire, doused in a river, and then given a living crystal tip, signifying a relationship with all five elements.
The contestants, almost always the most powerful warriors in the moot, are dropped off at random areas at the farthest reaches of the moot’s territory (usually several day’s walk). They each then have to walk back to the alheim. Those who do are lauded and are awarded great honor. After the celebration (which takes about a week), life goes on at the moot, with no search for the missing (as it would be an affront to the contestant’s katorr). No mourning is allowed unless the contestant’s bodies happen to be found (again, if the contestant was not actually dead, this would be a grave insult to katorr).
After the survival test begins, the airship heads back to the alheim to begin the celebration itself. This usually begins with massive feast, consisting mostly of whatever crops the clan could eke out of the steppe farms they use to grow what they cannot gain through combat. The hunters in the clan also spend several days gathering enough meat for this event.
During this time there are many norr (or tales) told. Not just any tales, though, the tales told during this time are tales of natural disasters and how the moot overcame them. Also told are tales of great beasts and the warriors who fought them.
While all the revelry goes on, any warriors on the survival test who return home are welcomed with great joy and honor. They always have great tales to tell of their time in the wild. (I myself feel that Jaspree sends beasts and obstacles to challenge the mighty warriors.) If the warrior managed to keep his spear intact, he has the option of keeping it as his personal weapon (many do, and these items often become Elemental Spears or take on other magical properties as their owner’s legends spread).
Presented here for your enjoyment is the Tale of Rel’Talen Haleheart Swiftwind, and his Fren’hal’Jaspree. This tale, by the way, was related to me at the time of norrs mentioned above and I have transcribed it to the best of my ability.
Rel’Talen was a brute of a troll, nearly 10 feet tall and weighing nearly as much as a Thundra Beast. He was a gentle soul, however, and his jar’arak was the beautiful art he was known to create, like the large murals created on the cliff walls in his homeland, many of which have been magically preserved for future generations to see.
He was an adequate warrior, but even he would not call it dishonor to admit his desires and heart lay elsewhere. He raided along with the clan, as his sense of honor and duty required, but his mind was often back at home, creating art.
One year, at Kor’Krenal’Jaspree, a group of outsiders was present for the celebration. When the time came for the Fren’hal’Jaspree, he did not volunteer. The outsiders taunted him cruelly, doing him grave dishonor by suggesting he was too weak or cowardly to go. At this, Rel’Talen did not challenge the kava, as some tra’u’uli would. Instead, he merely stepped forward and volunteered for the Kor’Krenal’Jaspree for the first time in his life.
He was dropped off, skyclad as per custom, on the southern slope of Mount An’grak, and then he was alone with his thoughts and his spear.
Now, if you’ve never been to the area around Mt. An’grak, it is quite a sight to behold. Rivers of lava, some cooled and some not, sit side by side with the remains of the forests that spread in the area between the volcano’s times of activity.
Rel’Talen traveled for days. His feet, hands, and lungs were burned by the red-hot ash and rocks. His eyes burned with tears from the fumes and smoke. His body wilted away due to the heat. Along the way, he mightily fought off wave after wave of angry fire elementals, fire eagles, and even a Magma Beast that had claimed an area near the Mist Swamps. (Now, the version I had heard places great details on these battles, but for the sake of brevity, I will omit them. I’d be happy to tell them, though, if anyone should meet me at a tavern somewhere. But back to the story.)
Rel’Talen’s journey back to his alheim took him 12 days, the last three of which were spent stumbling, blinded by hot ash. He went west, following the heat of the sun and the smell of his moot’s cookfires. He then collapsed just inside the gates, and fell into a sleep-like state from which none thought he would ever awaken. He was taken to his bed, and his clan waited in great trepidation for several days.
What happened shortly after is the cause of some debate. All that is known for certain is that, on the night of the next full moon, a troll clad in a silver robe appeared at the gates of the alheim, and was admitted by the gatekeepers. She traveled directly to Rel’Talen’s bedside, and pull from her cloak a vial filled with a liquid as luminescent as quicksilver. None of the healers at Rel’Talen’s side hindered her (and they knew not why) as she held up his head and poured the liquid down his throat.
Then she said, “My heart will not allow a talent such as you to be dashed by the whims of chance. Live to create again.” And then she turned and left the moot, never to be seen again.
Most believe that this is Garlen, known to the Trolls as Goran’der’alheim (Heartfire-of-the-Moot) sent either by her own desire or on a favor for Astendar to save one of his chosen from a life denied of his jar’arak. But all are certain she came, as Rel’Talen awoke the next morning shortly before dawn, and as the sun rose with its usual splendor over the mountains, Rel’Talen left the moothome with only his paints to begin another mural.
He was not seen again for 18 days, though many searched for him. At length, he returned, covered in paint and with a beatific smile on his face. He walked directly to his bunk in the longhouse and fell into a deep sleep for nearly a day. Many felt that his illness had relapsed and he was sure to die. However, when he arose, he told all present that he had a new work, one to rival all his previous attempts. At this news, the moot rejoiced, and traveled en masse to the site of this masterwork.
The mural was easily a hundred feet on a side, and as smooth as elven silk. It was carved on an eastward-facing cliff, so as to greet the rising sun each dawn. Depicted thereon was Rel’Talen’s tale, from his early life all the way up to the precise moment when he showed his work to the moot. The final detail even included a crowd of trolls standing around, looking at a mural.
By the time the crowd’s attention shifted back from the work to its creator, Rel’Talen was gone. Some say he simply walked off into the wild. Others say he transcended this mortal life and joined Astendar, Jaspree, and the other Passions in whatever awaits us after we pass from this life. But he was never seen again.