A sun-kissed fellow of dark wavy hair and sharp brown eyes stands before you. He seems friendly enough, and offers a warm chuckle.
His almond-shaped eyes and alkaline nose denote a mixing of the Cormite and Kara-Tur peoples.
Most noticeable is his voice... a smooth smokey baritone. He speaks in Marsember colloquials.
I've been having these weird thoughts lately... Like... is any of these real? Or not?
The clouds were moving slowly above, stripes of warm colors stretched out before the sun... covered with a grim haze that enveloped The Maze.
Pale eyes, still and unmoving... reflected the site. Nethamirth's laugh echoed in the background.
Tal was dead, murdered by an unseen foe.
A carrion bird would caw, and peck at what was his upper torso, an explosive and deadly trap nearby.
His form was scattered amongst the bloodied ruins.
Tal looked down on his dismembered and mortal form... and would look up to the sky, his vision turning to a blinding white.
It comes with no surprise that others often misinterpret me given the high ideals He represents.
I come across parties who might avoid having me in their ranks,
Thinking me to be holier-than-thou, a dry and one-dimensional character.
But those of my mantle come from every walk of life and have to face every kind of danger,
Just like anyone else.
The biggest issue,
is when the behavior of comrades is used as judgment in place of my own deeds.
I do not expect non-believers to obey the laws of my faith.
I hope that through shining example, others will come to see the value of The Code.
Doing Good under threat of punishment does not count.
I consider mercy, but do not expect others to follow oaths they did not swear.
My own past is not lily-white and I recognize that true Faith takes time; patience is key.
Justice in its true form, is swift and brutal. This is its truth.
I am not an evangelist or demagogue.
I can respect other methods; I can respect others so long as their heart bears not The Mark.
I am the unrelenting, unwavering bastion of Good.
I will tell you when I am coming,
I will play with all my cards on the table, and I never, ever quit. Take into consideration, that I do not even hold The Mantle.
I am not beholden to any organization, faith, or even god: I may join with others that I find like-minded,
I may worship deities that I think are going to achieve the most Good,
but ultimately I answer to Goodness itself.
If I discover corruption within the church, or secret evils in my god’s plan, then I am beholden to leave my church,
forsake my god, and continue to pursue Good.
Throughout history we have made reference to my sort of people, no matter the culture.
We, as well as our deeds, have been revered,
storytellers have regaled crowds with renditions of their legendary quests,
and plays have been made depicting them as both human and saintly.
Because we are the most romantic, respectable, and courageous historical figure to have ever been presented to the world.
Even people who care nothing for us would agree to this.
The more one knows of the past and one's ancestry
the more likely it is that one will be able to play oneself
with the carriage that such a noble warrior should be portrayed with.
Though, there are always questions... aren't there.
To whom was I born?
To what social class was I born into? How did I become affiliated with the church? Am I part of a knightly order in that church? What kind of childhood did I have? What historical events have affected my life? How did I take to cloistered life in the church?
I ask then,
is that any business of yours?
I understand the answers to these questions and what I stand for.
I have a split role within society.
I am a representative of His faith and ideals,
and a person who is turned to in good faith by all who are of true heart.
It is that thing that has most people believe I must stay and fight to the death in any combat.
Those rules that make me so difficult to understand and cause most on my path to find an early grave.
However, it is with honor that most people sign their death warrants before even entering this world,
and it doesn't have to be this way.
Most think that answering the call means gaining vast powers,
that they would be nearly invincible against any foe.
But truth is that while we are skilled at fighting, those are the least of our abilities.
A quest might involve no fighting at all, or a battle against beings no steel could pierce.
Above all else, showing that courage is possible is our core.
It is easy enough to find reasons to give in to evil.
War is ugly as many know.
But we do not argue that war is better than peace; we are not that stupid.
It is not peace when cruelty reigns,
when stronger men steal from farmers and craftmen,
when the child can be enslaved, or the old thrown out to starve, and no one lifts a hand.
That is not peace: that is conquest and evil.
We do not start quarrels in peaceful lands, never displaying our skills to earn applause.
But we are the sword of good
defending the helpless and teaching by our example
that one person can dare greater force to break evil's grasp on the innocent.
Sometimes that can be done without fighting, without killing, and that is best.
But some evil needs direct attack, and we must be able to do it, and lead others in battle.
Wonder why we are so likable?
It is important,
we come to a town, perhaps, where nothing has gone right for a dozen years.
Perhaps there is a temple there and sometimes there is not.
The people are frightened, and they have lost trust in each other, in themselves.
We may lead them into danger, some will be killed or wounded.
Why should they trust us?
Because we are likable, and other people will follow us willingly.
And that's why He is more likely to choose a popular adept as a candidate rather than the best fighters.
My friends call me Tal.
The words echoed in his head. Followed soon by the sound of a songbird amongst a sea of grass dancing in the calm breeze.
Tal would blink his eyes open... adjusting to the bright light of the noon sun. He was not sure where he was or how he was alive. Lifting his loose shirt he would see no scar. "What scar?" He would pause. "Scar from what?"
Looking across the room towards the window, the emblem of the lion's face upon his blade would meet his gaze.
"We are not finished."
Tal looked around for the source of the fading whisper.
In the year of the bridle, The Harpers kill three leaders of the Rundeen and almost fifty of their lesser agents. They successfully disrupt their plans in Calimshan and break their trade monopoly over Chult...
The Puissant Department of Joyful Rediscovery in Shou Lung tasks the Ko family with developing Akari Island as a maritime colony and forward naval base for Shou Lung's fleet...
High Harvestmaster Tolgar Anuvien founds Goldenfields, a temple dedicated to the worship of Chauntea, southwest of the Sumber Hills...
...and in a very modest stilt house shared with one other family, in the swampy harbor city of Marsember, Tal was born to an immigrant Kara-Turan father of the surname Chen, and a Cormite mother of the family Leonhart. It was decided that Tal would keep his mother's surname since not everyone in the kingdom cared for the recent influx of foreign refugees.
1359 - Year of the Worm - Age of Humanity
Tal's father exhaled with a controlled frustration as he stalked into the home. Tal thought that father must have been talking with Uncle Shiau. Those conversations never went well. Uncle Shaiu was very much about "keeping the bloodlines pure"... something that didn't equate with his very mixed nephews and foreigner sister-in-law. Still father tried, assured that one day Uncle Shaiu would come around. It didn't help that The Chuen were spouting propaganda with increased fervor. Ten years and counting.