Wilders

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How gentle and beautiful
and gracious is she
How ruthless and cruel
and wonderful to me

For the Children of Light, nature is a dark and shadow-filled kingdom populated by terrible creatures and dangerous monsters - it is a scary place. But the ‘pagans’ co-exist with nature - their belief is that the Children of Light are stupid and blinded by that light.

The ‘wilders’ are a smaller group of pagans who move around in nature in such a way that they actually become part of nature, rather than being mere observers. They are, at the same time, both beautiful and terrible, peaceful and vicious, gentle and ruthlessly wild. But where nature is never knowable, the pagan wilders are always knowable in at least one way - they are cruel and dangerous to people who do not understand them or know their ways.

The wilders are a pagan group, they live between the ordinary physical world and the other-world of spirits and dreams. They are as diverse as the sea and the land and the sky; yet each chooses a single path in nature, to the exclusion of all others. All but the youngest of wilders are always strongly associated with a single aspect of nature, such as darkness or fire, and it is possible to regard them as spiritual manifestations of that aspect.

In all, six aspects have been identified to date: Darkness, Forest, Water, Fire, Cold and Wind. There is no reason to believe there are no other aspects, but only these aspects have been identified in the past 150 years.

The Wilder Environment

Wilders are so much like nature it is difficult for a non-wilder (whether a Child of Light or pagan) to actually see a wilder in its native aspect - they blend so perfectly with the surrounding nature as to be unseen. Often they are noticed only as a movement from the corner of the eye, or as a strange bump in the landscape; maybe a dank, nasty smell, or even a sudden neck-chilling emotion.

Because the wilders are unseen, it is extremely difficult for ordinary people (i.e. non-wilders, whether pagan or Children of Light) to take action against them. The exception is the spirit third-eye mystery scholars, who clearly see the wilders and thus can choose the conditions often when they enter into conflict with them.

It is critical that adventurers understand that as long as a wilder is in its native, untouched aspect, any conflict that arises will give great favour to the wilder. But this advantage is lost when the wilder leaves their native environment, or if the environment becomes ‘Touched by the Light’. Not all members of the Church of the Elements will shine the Light of the Children of Light, but when it is present, it will burn the wilders and turn the circumstances against them.

The Wilder Goddesses

Just as humans have their queens, so too the wilders have their Goddesses - one for each of the six identified aspects. In the pagan Eskara, they are simply known as Goddesses, but across the northern lands they are also generally known as Mistresses or Ladies. Or there may be a specific name that based Queen or Mother or Witch, but these simple names do not convey the power of the Goddesses which can be immense. These beings are cruel, sometimes completely incomprehensible in their actions, and overwhelmingly selfish. But to those who are ready to worship and comfort her with blood sacrifices, a Goddess will share her secrets which can bring great power.

Of the three pagan groups in the northern regions, the Gaesati have the the most passive relationship with the wilders though they do fear the Goddesses and try to avoid their anger. The Goblin Peoples guard and respect the six Mistresses and maintain a suitable distance, but they also strive to learn some of their secrets. It is the the Eskarans who fully embrace the power of the Ladies, offering fear and worship and often giving over their minds and bodies that they might fully serve the will of their chosen Goddess.

A wilder Goddess is a supernatural extension of nature. She has her own secrets and powers of witchcraft, and she will share these with her mortal worshipers that they might continue and expand their worship of her. The wilders have learned that making a sacrifice to a Mistress is a relatively safe way to contact her to learn her secrets. There are many tales of wilders who have visited (or tried to visit) the home of their goddess, with or without an invitation, and the stories suggest that this is a much more dangerous way to connect.

All of the wilder Mistresses are pleased with those who resist the Church of Elements (the church of the Children of Light), but the Ladies are strong and independent of the others. Each of these nature ‘queens’ is pleased when one of her followers proclaims her doctrine over that of the other Ladies.

The Six Wilder Aspects

The six identified Wilder aspects are described below along with examples within the aspect (e.g. a low-wilder and a strong-wilder), along with a description of the Goddess or Mistress of that power. Also included is as much information as is known about the home of the Goddess, but for the most part this is rooted in folklore.

It should be noted that these are only examples - wilders come in many looks and sizes and there is no reason to assume that the list below is comprehensive (and every reason to believe it is incomplete).

All wilders will blend into their native environment - a goblin (darkness spirit) will not be seen in the night, a Curran (water spirit) will not be seen in the stream, and a Knickerknock (air spirit) is only a part of the blowing wind.

It is known that wilder magic is better handled by females than males, and for this reason most wilders are female. In the discussion below, feminine pronouns are used, but male goblins and bone spirits (for example) are known to exist. Similarly the Nagas are described as snake-women, and the Stormwings as bird-women, but snake-men and bird-men also exist.

That said, the stronger wilders will almost exclusively be female, and of course the Mistress or Goddess of each aspect is always female.

The Aspect of Darkness

Wilders in the aspect of DARKNESS have the greatest range of size and shape. They tend to be simple creatures with ever present hungers for blood and bone.

The Mother of Darkness values courage, but it must not be brazen or sultry - her servants must always maintain an aura of dignity and mystery. She prefers those who make grim threats and follow through on said threats in a timely manner. Quite surprisingly, she also seems to have a weak spot in her heart for true love and carries a strong hatred for those who betray genuine love or separate lovers.

Goblins

Goblins is a catch-all word for the creatures of darkness itself. It does not matter that come in small and large shapes, for their exact size cannot be determined in the dark. But they can sometimes be detected in the dark - by their ember like red glimmering eyes and possibly by carnassial teeth that flash in the light of a campfire or stars.

Goblins are simple creatures and they can be easily fooled. They are cowards and are quick to flee into the darkness. But they are also a bloodthirsty race and it seems that their thirst is never quenched. As a group they will take small risks for their next meal, this can make it dangerous for a lone traveler to travel through the dark forests. Light is known to be the best protection against goblins.

Note: The wilder goblins are not to be confused with the Goblin peoples of the north (pagans).

Bone Spirits

Bone Spirits, sometimes called hooks, are frightening creatures of death and putrefaction that delight in sucking bone marrow from the newly dead. This can only be experienced in a physical form, so the bone spirit will seek out a body as a temporary host. It is easier for them to set their ‘hooks’ into bodies that are long-dead, but to move freely the body must be largely whole (i.e. not yet decomposed); so the bone spirits are known to haunt the northern marshlands which provide the carcasses of many drowned traitors.

They can, if they wish, move without a physical body and in spirit form they are known to attack unsuspecting sleepers in their dreams, turning a gentle slumber into a terrible nightmare which will then build the power of the spirit.

Mother of Darkness

The Mother of Darkness, also known as Mater Tenebraum, is the oldest and most well-known of the wilder Goddesses. Across Eskara she has many names; most often she is called The Witch, or by a name from those who claim to have glimpsed the sharp end of her long nose (Hook-Nose) or felt the hardness of her iron teeth (Iron Tooth). She is unnaturally tall and clothes her lean body in a ragged robe that swallows her face in the depths of its hood.

The Mother of Darkness lives in a house in the middle of a dark forest in the far north. Eskaran tales say the house is surrounded by a high wooden fence with a gate made of bones. There is said to be a skull with a glimmering eyes perched on each fence post, these skulls cry out a warning to warn her of intruders.

Like some of the other wilder mistresses, she likes human sacrifices with a known preference for children. She does not like the Church of Elements, so the sacrifice of a Child of Light is especially pleasing. She dislikes all forms of light, laughter and any evidence of frivolity.

She is bloodthirsty and cruel and reportedly so fond of infant flesh that even the bravest woman trembles at her name. Yet she is also known to have helped those who please her.

She is said to be the mistress of the sources of life and death, she who knows the secrets of the past and the future.

The Aspect of Forest

Wilders in the aspect of FOREST are thoughtful in their decision-making: one should think long and carefully to identify the action that will bring the desired result the soonest. They are also greedy: the end result is usually power and the decision should be made in solitude and without consideration for emotion. They are above all ruthless: once a decision is made, the ensuing strike should be lightning fast.

After all, if a matter is well-thought in advance, there is never need for reconsideration.

It should be noted that once made, a decision can be in place for many years. A person who hurts a snake today receives the same judgement as the person who hurt a snake a hundred years ago. (Ophidia is also known as the Serpent of Earth, she has the form of a snake and all snakes are considered to be her servants, none may be harmed.)

Some of the most ardent forest wilders consciously train increasing their resistance to poison by letting the serpents bite them.

Skoggans

Skoggans are found throughout the northern forests and while stationary, they blend in perfectly with the forest. So the tree standing in the forest might be a skoggan, so too can be the leaves that cover an open grove, or a fern, or a rock boulder near a path. When woken, all skoggans are often grumpy and sometimes hungry.

Their size tends to be large, but they generally do not pose a great threat to the moving hiker, as they are slow in both movement and mind. The sleeping hiker might not fare as well. (Or perhaps it is a slumbering skoggan!)

Nagas

The Nagas are similar to the snake-people found in the Icesus outworld - their upper body is that of a human (usually female), and the lower body is that of a snake. They can slither along the forest floor or use their arms and tail to move through the upper canopy. When stationary, they will typically or wrap themselves around trees (or branches) or rocks, and adjust their skin colour to match.

Nagas are known as tool makers, though they do not work with metal - their tools and weapons are made from wood, stone and bone.

They have a great fondness for warm human flesh, they will ambush travellers and shoot them with arrows dipped in snake venom so as to paralyze the victim rather than killing it directly. They do not have a pure hatred of humans though, there are many tales that say the Nagas appreciate the people in the forest who recognize their serpent voice, and will help those who can call on them for aid.

Ophidia

Ophidia, also known as the Serpent of Earth, is an ancient and enormous serpent living in a snake temple amidst a lush and vibrant forest guarded by a large herd of intelligent snakes not found in the physical world. The temple is a complex labyrinth with numerous entry points from the surrounding forest, and an over-adventurous traveller can quickly become an uninvited guest. While she is a creature of solitude and hibernates for much of the year she rouses from her sleep quickly that she might prey on temple intruders, often falling back to her sleep while still in the labyrinth.

Ophidia does wake regularly to attend ceremonies organized by the Nagas - these festivities are usually held in the temple but they may be located through the forest.

Travellers tell of other times when she wakes and enters the forest in order to deal with those who break the peace of the forest (or harm the snakes). It is said that the power of the Great Serpent's eyes is so great that if an adventurer makes the mistake of meeting her gaze, he will permanently forget his past and all that he is. If she is feeling merciful towards his companions she will grant him a swift death within a very few minutes. Rarely does she feel merciful.

Spiritually the Serpent of Earth is always awake and actively guiding her followers especially in their worship of her. She is jealous and quick to anger if her followers stray in their worship. She is fond of both animal and human sacrifice, but her favorite gifts are the precious stones excavated from the earth's crust.

The Aspect of Water

Wilders in the aspect of WATER are less driven and more playful than others aspects.

Those who are knowledgeable of the habits of the wilders will consider the Mother of Tears to be the most benevolent of all the Mistresses. She does not care for human sacrifices and teaches that pleasure from the suffering of others is a sickness rather than true pleasure. Surprisingly, she also enjoys laughter and greatly appreciates wisdom and will happily share time with the gatherers of both knowledge and secrets.

However, she does not like secrets being spread around, after all they are no longer secrets then. She expects her worshipers to carefully guard the secrets of their own and others. She also expects her servants to bathe in the waters of nature weekly or daily if possible.

The aspect of water is known to have no place for hatred, anger or rage. But the wilders of water are known to tease and torment men, even to death, but this is actually done without malice.

Currans

Currans are small, wilder females whose bodies are made of water making it is easy for them to disappear into the ripples of a pond or the current of a stream. They cannot speak, but they can make the water burble and bubble, and they use this as a means of communication when needed.

As a group, Currans can be very dangerous. A crowd may determine to enter the lungs of a person who has fallen into the water so as to pull him under the surface that he will drown, his fading life force will swirl through the water, adding a bright taste to the water until it is dispersed. The moods of the Currans can be determined by the waves of the water: larger swells indicate great turmoil, and a wise man knows not to embark on traveling on water except when the Currans appear calm.

Wave Singers

Wave Singers are beautiful young women with white hair and skin, but the colour is tinged with the icy blue of the northern waters. They wear robes of blue silk, these are in constant motion like the surface of lakes and seas. Wave Singers spend most of their time in the water where they are unseen, but sometimes they can be seen sitting at the edge of a lake or river singing a sad song.

It is said that by listening to the song of the Wave Singers, one can learn their secret wisdom, but few can listen for more than a few moments without getting lost in the music. People who are charmed of the song will voluntarily follow the singers to the underwater kingdom where they soon drown.

Mother of Tears

Mother of Tears, also known as Mater Lachrymarum, is a huge, ugly and scary looking creature and she is the guardian of the secrets of the depths. However, she is perhaps the most gentle and kind of all the wilder mistresses. She does not speak, but her big eyes are so wise that those who see into them can understand not only her will, but also many other secrets of the depths.

She controls the deep waters that are too dark to be seen. Through caves and passageway she swims from one body of water to another, or according to stories, to different worlds and different times. In the same way, she can also swim in the deepest tricks of the human mind, and nothing remains secret from her. But though she knows much, she shares her knowledge narrowly.

The Mother of Tears has collected numerous treasures in her caves and corridors, some of which are from today, some from the distant past, and some have not yet been made in our world. To reach these corridors, the traveler must first be able to survive underwater for an unimaginable amount of time, and then navigate through the dark deeps when the sunlight has never been seen. In these depths, there are beasts unknown on the surface and as horrid as if they escaped from someone's nightmares.

The Aspect of Fire

Wilders in the aspect of FIRE are passionate in all they do. They are quick to make decisions, fiery in their actions and fierce in their lust. The fiery nature never rests, when the object of one passion is turned to ash, another is soon found.

The Salamander Queen loves people who are passionate and driven by their emotions. She favours those followers who are flashy, volatile and unpredictable as fire. She encourages all worshipers to forget the laws, rules, and obstacles that surround them.

Emberlings

Emberlings are small lizard-like creatures with a scaly skin that shines and reflects the colors of fire. They are restless creatures, moving in sharp, quick bursts, and resting only when buried in a nest of coals. They are able to release a steady stream of white hot flame from their mouths and will do so when angered, or amused.

They thrive in fire and flames, but as they enjoy spreading chaos. A favourite contest to see who can leap from the embers to ignite a small fire and return to the coals the soonest.

Fire Serpents

Fire Serpents are large three-headed reptiles who spend most of their time lying in hibernation when their bodies are cool and resemble blackened rock. Once woken, the Fire Serpent rushes forward with rage and vigor, and igniting everything in its path with her flaming breath. Very quickly the skin heats to fiery temperature and the skin colour is awash in red and orange.

Fire Serpents do not speak, but they mourn with the sound of thunder.

The Salamander Queen

The Salamander Queen is a slender woman whose beautiful, naked body is awash in flame. Her flamboyant nature is to act quickly on emotions, and her fiery kisses are as dangerous to the soul of a mortal as the flames of her anger.

The Salamander Queen cares not law or the rules. She enjoys her fiery and uncontrollable passions and prolong them if possible. But when the passion is spent, and all things have turned to ash, she becomes quickly bored and seeks to find a new incinerator.

Her home is a cave deep in the earth's crust, and difficult to access due to the extreme heat (it is reported that her cave is so hot that even the rock flows in some places like the river water). Evenso it is a protected space, a vast sea of flames surrounds the cave, and a talisman is needed to enter.

The Goddess of Fire does not like people who control or suppress fire, she dislikes people who take time to think or reason too much before acting. A fire is a beautiful, immediate, blazing idea, and best enjoyed when conceived. Long thought and preparation will diminish its beauty.

She particularly loves fires which are raging free and unstoppable. The smell of burned victims is pleasing to her, and a human sacrifice is well accepted.

The Aspect of Cold

The Goddess of Cold expects her followers to act cold and insensitive. She finds grace and pity to be despicable weaknesses. However, she does appreciate honor to some degree. She doesn't tolerate foul language or betraying one's promise.

Chills

Chills are small, transparent creatures that move with the winter winds. They do not have a proper corporeal body and you only know they have been present by the frostbite they leave behind. Chills can slip through the smallest openings, and they cool everything as they go but they are rarely dangerous, usually causing an unpleasant feeling for a moment. Outside, however, they may attack a traveler in a crowd and unless the traveler knows the correct rites of warmth, he could be in real danger.

Ice Fangs

Ice fangs are slightly larger than northern wolves, and they are of the pure white color that is found only in winter. They blend perfectly into the snow drifts, and the unlucky wanderer will notice their yellow gleaming eyes too late. The breath of an ice fang freezes everything it hits and their teeth and nails are ice-cold, they will freeze their victims even while tearing their flesh.

Mother of Chills

Mother of Chills, also known as Mater Gelidus, is tall and gaunt and regal - a woman's skeleton wrapped in luxurious fabrics and wearing a crown of ice set high on her head. Her deep set eyes are black as night, and her gaze, like her whole being, seems to absorb the will and courage of those around her.

She is a cold and determined Goddess with the power of her life, and she can strike a man to death without lifting her finger. She has proclaimed herself the Queen of the northern lands and hates the Children of Light, the templars in particular, who have invaded the north. She also hates common people whose blood is thought to have been spoiled. She expects her followers to fight tirelessly against these southern bound forces.

She hates also the eldest of her rivals, the Mother of Darkness, for she desires the skills of darkness. She sometimes moves on the face of the earth and in people's dreams in the form of a skinny female wolf.

In the permafrost of the northernmost fjells there are deep gorges, known as Cracks of the Underworld, that lead to her kingdom. To begin that journey, one must first defy the glacial nature of the fjells that are home to both ordinary and winter wolves. Then follows a descent down the slippery and ever steeper walls of the gaps until the traveler finally arrives at the bottom of the gorge. Then begins a long journey through dark and narrow tunnels until the searcher finally finds his way to her throne hall.

Her victims are usually left in the winter forest to freeze to death, and Eskaran tales tell of her arriving in wolf form to directly enjoy their flesh. For her, the perfect sacrifices is a Templar - the more noble his heritage, the better.

The Aspect of Wind

The Mother of Sighs likes cunning and clever worshipers who embrace change in their hearts. Her followers are explorers of the wide world and they seldom settle anywhere for long. Given the choice between the new and the known, they will always venture to the unknown.

Knickerknocks

The Knickerknocks are beings of the air, they are not fixed in shape but shift and dance in the wind. They never speak, they communicate by creating winds that can cause tree branches to swing ways that those who know their secrets can interpret. (The name ‘knickerknock’ is believed to come from the sound of branches tapping on the window.)

Knickerknocks are playful creatures and their actions are rarely life-threatening. More often, they find pleasure in tormenting a chosen victim - using scary noises to keep him awake through the night, forcing him to constantly walk upwind, or by throwing small objects at him.

Stormwings

Stormwings are bird people, similar to the out-world harpies. They are a mixture of black-feathered bird and pale woman (or man), with wings and tails of a bird, and a woman's head and middle torso. The legs and feet are those of a bird, and the bird-woman can use the claws as hand replacements when needed. Stormwings always arrive as a flock with a storm, and they blend in with the storm clouds as they fly - only their shrill cries say when they have arrived. However, when the lightning flashes, even the untrained eye can detect their gloomy characters lurking in the sky.

Stormwings are especially fond of feasting on human flesh. A favorite game is to kidnap a young human male, sexually torment him before and during mating, then dine on his spent body.

Mother of Sighs

Mother of Sighs, also known as Mater Suspiriorum, appears as a whirlwind, so strong and rapid that tears run down the eyes of all who watch her. Nobody is aware of her exact form, though some claim to have seen a woman's figure from the middle of a vaguely twisting vortex. She is mischievous and playful rather than gloomy and malicious, but prone to occasional flashes of cruelty. When she goes wild, she leaves a terrible trail of chaos - the roof of a house in a nearby field, the cow from the field in a nearby tree, and the branches of the tree atop a kitchen table rightside up in the middle of the street.

Her home is in the sky above the clouds, and it is said you must fly straight up through a thousand birds of prey for three sun-filled days and three empty dark nights. The Stormwings could carry an adventurer to her home, but it is more likely they would couple with, then eat, the traveller.

The determined wanderer could drop off from a cliff on a high mountain and hope the Goddess will send a wind to support him. And once he has arrived, there is only a huge mass of swirling air which must be somehow entered.

She also has a good sense of humor and loves practical jokes

She does not like pious or vengeful worshipers. The collection of goods and property is despicable to her, as is the general inability to rise above the current situation. She wishes her servants remain unrestricted by rules and unbound by possessions. Instead, they should travel freely like the age of the wind.

Sacrifices to the Mother of Sighs, whether valuable objects, dead animals or live people, are usually thrown down from the highest heights possible. She is sometimes known to have lifted a victim to walk in the winds, if for some reason she has chosen to save his life.

Summary

Those who are deeper acquainted with the mysteries of the wilders also quickly become aware of their mistresses. It is believed that wilders must choose a mistress early in their journey, for the Ladies will only share their secrets with their followers. But the Ladies will sometimes choose their followers, and they are quick to anger should a chosen one select another path.

The power of the wilder Mistresses is great, but they are difficult to understand and their popularity is fleeting.

The Guild

The Wilders of Aegic are the descendants of the the people caught out in the wastes when Aegic froze. They have survived for generations by living off the icecrawlers which in turn have fed from the frozen herds. Recently the tribes and crawlers have been dying off as the food is exhausted. A few lucky tribes have followed the ice crawlers that blundered into Icesus.

The wilders do not have a home in the valley, no kingdom is willing to share its territory, so they continue their nomadic life in the slightly warmer and more bountiful valley. They have no guild, but simply train from one another wherever they might be.

Wilders are known to be brutal fighters for whom survival of the tribe is the only goal. When axe wielding wilders storm into battle, naked save for the bloody designs painted on their flesh it is only the distant observer that can tell the tale of the horror.

The Wilders of Aegic can be found outside the southern citygates of Vaerlon.