The Ridge

The history of the "ridge", as told by Nethla'vai the scholar.

"Our story begins many hundreds of years ago in a small village named 'Sun Ridge'. With a population of around 100 farmers and peasants, Sun Ridge was located around a crossroads. Officially belonging to no kingdom that existed at the time, it was a quiet town of hardy and respectable peasants.. mostly human. Life in the village was peaceful, but basic. Although located at a significant crossroads, travelers were not rare, but strangers were. Everyone knew everyone else, dating back many generations. The only features of note in the town (beyond the 30 or so farmsteads) was a small blacksmith shop who was responsible for building and repairing farming related tools, a small travelers inn/tavern and a small church of light located on the ridge. Less a true church than a small home owned by a devoted priest, he played the role of moral advisor, confidant and in times of trouble a focalizing keystone of the community. The priest, a human in his forties, was a deeply devoted but somewhat serious man who took his faith very sternly.

Late one cold and quiet winter night, a room at the inn was rented by a human man with two very young dark elf children. He said little, didn't drink and barely spoke to the townsfolk. The next morning the man had left, but to the shock and dismay of the innkeeper it was discovered that he had left his children behind. A boy and girl, approximately 4 years old in human years, were found in his room sleeping together in bed by the only barmaid. It was never discovered whether the mysterious man was the father of these children, but it was assumed that the two youngsters were brother and sister. The community waited for two days for the man to return, with the barmaid acting as a temporary foster-mother, but he was never seen again. A general town meeting was held to try and determine what to do with the children. The community turned to the advice of the priest of Light, who, though reluctant at first, eventually agreed to raise the children himself.

As the years passed the Priest treated his "children" less like offspring and more like students in a 24 hour hard-line religious monastery. The Priest knew little of true love or compassion and filled this void with constant tutoring on morality, abstinence of pleasure of any kind and warnings of the evils of magic, darkness and monsters. Although perfectly normal, healthy children, they were rarely seen playing outside of their home. In fact, their presence in the community began to fade as the townsfolk saw less and less of them over the years. They became less of reality and more of a local myth. As the priest grew older, his involvement in the community lessened, and thus his "children" were almost all but forgotten.

When the children were reaching the age of puberty, a horrific event happened in their lives. A local farmer entered the inn one dark summer night claiming he had heard screams coming from the church on the ridge. A small band of peasants armed with pitchforks, staves and hammers cautiously made their way to the ridge towards the church. They found the door to the small home broken inwards and much damage to the outside walls - apparently made by some vicious monster or animal. Inside the home in the center of the main room was found the horribly mutilated and partially eaten corpse of the priest. Blood, limbs and gore had been sprayed in a wide area, leading to the belief that the attack had been an especially violent and gruesome encounter. The smell was unbearable, and only a handful of the "investigators" could stomach the shock of the scene. Those that remained soon found the two children huddled behind a large antique chair in the corner of the room. From their positions it was obvious that they had witnessed the entire savage attack, and yet the farmer who had heard the screaming later stated that he had only heard the cries of an adult male - not that of young children. The two remained in the corner, refusing to be removed from the house, and only after the peasants physically picked up and carried them away were they removed. They were taken to the inn while the rest of the commoners collected what pieces they could find of the priest for a burial the next morning. However, the following day the window to the children's room was discovered open and they were discovered once again in their home, the church, that afternoon. At a meeting later in the day, the children were asked what they would like to do now that their "father" was no longer around to take care of them. Speaking little, the two youngsters expressed a desire to remain in their home. Although the townsfolk would not accept this choice at first, it was later decided that the children would not accept living anywhere else, as they would simply escape and return to the church. The barmaid agreed to check on them twice a day and bring them food and clothing, and the children were returned to the now repaired and cleaned home. This she did faithfully for many months, but over time it became obvious that the children were able to take care of themselves sufficiently, and her direct attention was not required. The town simply assumed that their "father" had taught them well, and they were able to provide for themselves. Due to the fact that the townsfolk knew little of these children from seeing them so rarely over the years, few felt the desire (or courage) to approach the two with offers of friendship, and eventually they were once again all but ignored. (It was never discovered as to what attacked the priest that night, but most assumed it was some animal gone mad or some creature of the night. Wiser folks might have suggested something along the lines of a ghoul.) Although the town mostly forgot about the children, a kind old woman felt pity on them and their hardships and presented the children with gifts of sweets and hand knit clothing many times over the years. These were accepted, although the relationship was a distant, formal one at the best. On occasion these gifts were given to the two in person, but mostly they were simply left at the front door to the home early in the morning.

Many years went by and the two children reached young adulthood. A new arrival in town was made by a scholarly mage, and he took up residence on the opposite side of town from the two orphans. Although reluctant of magic, the townsfolk eventually warmed to the mage as he spent time socializing in the tavern and performing small magical tasks for the townsfolk to make their hard life a little easier. The first summer after the mage's arrival the community was blessed with an especially bountiful crop and many attributed this to the kindly old mage, who simply smiled and accepted their gratitude.

Although rarely seen, rumors began to spread slowly around town that the two orphans were seen acting as "husband and wife". Never seen during the day, the two were sometimes found walking the woods late at night, on some mysterious task that left the townsfolk gossiping for days. Two years after the mage's arrival, the couple somehow came into the possession of a small child - a girl. Although at first concerned that the brother and sister had "made" this child themselves, it was held in general belief that the child was too old to be the offspring of the orphans. For this to have been the case, the child would have to have been born when the mother was a mere 14 years old and kept away from the collective eyes of the town for many years. The mage agreed that although it "was possible that the child was the result of an incestuous relationship between the brother and sister", it was highly doubtful, and too horrific a concept to grasp as fact. This said however, there was one disturbing fact that didn't settle well with the locals - the kindly old woman had stopped bringing her "gifts" to the two orphans many years before the discovery of the child. She had died of sickness since, so she was unavailable for questioning. Although at the time this ending of deliveries was simply attributed to her aging, but now that the town thought about it they collectively remembered her isolating herself for close to a month shortly after her gifts ceased. When the barmaid had visited the widow's home to check on her long absence the old woman was clearly upset and spoke of "..the horrors of isolation". The barmaid presumed the old woman had been speaking of her own situation, but now, many years later, she wondered if that was truly the case.

However mysterious and suspect the arrival of the new child in town was, one must remember that this is a small community in a vast wilderness, and it was used to bizarre and unexplainable actions outside the fringes of town. Whatever was going on in the small home on the ridge didn't effect their lives directly, and when you have to worry about starvation, creatures of the forest and other darker realities of an isolated life, if it didn't effect you directly, it gained the priority of gossip and nothing more.

A few more years past, and the concerns with the family on the ridge slowly faded with time and was eventually replaced by a new horror. Two children over a period of three months had gone missing. Although it was a rare and disturbing event, it was a fact of life that sometimes wild animals snatched up young children when they played too far from home - however two in such a short period of time invited concern. The locals began a series of "wolf hunts" over the next month, believing that perhaps a hard winter had forced the wolves to look elsewhere for food.. but this was now summer, and no wolves were found. Just when the town began to accept its string of bad luck, a third child went missing. Mothers became paranoid and fathers surrounded their homes with torches and bonfires at night.. children were kept indoors most of the day. Shortly after, the grave of the old woman was found upturned and the body missing. The next night the now grown "father" of the orphaned family in the ridge church made a rare appearance in the tavern. He spoke of the town's "sins against Kael" and told the people that through the teachings of his adopted, now deceased father, he recognized that the town was being punished for it's abandonment of the Church of Light and for their acceptance of a mage into their community. He stayed only briefly within the tavern, but he claimed that he was helping the town "reclaim its favor in the eyes of Kael" by performing sacred rituals and praying on a constant basis. Although surprised by this sudden manifestation of Priesthood, the town was perhaps glad for some kind of stabilizing authoritative figure, even if it came in the form of rare visits by a suspected incestuous, isolationist orphan.

Weeks went by, and children continued to disappear. The town had now entered a state of paranoid shock. One of the local farmers owned a pair of bloodhounds and they were used in an attempt to find the children, but to no avail. The town's new "priest" continued to make appearances, preaching about the evils done by the townsfolk in the eyes of Kael, and he offered up the existence of his own small girl as proof of this. He stated that his child hadn't been taken from him because he was a devoted follower of Light, unlike those families who's children had gone missing. In their desperation the townsfolk pleaded to him to tell them what to do to regain Kael's favor. He simply pointed toward the mage's home, and said nothing more.

Although reluctant at first, a further disappearance forced the town to act. Seven children had vanished without a trace now, which represented almost half of the younger population in the area. A group of 40 or so peasants made their way to the wizard's home the next evening, mostly comprised of the families of the missing children. When the mage answered their calls and came out into the night the townsfolk demanded he tell them what had become of their children. The mage claimed that he "had not the power to grant them insight into such things", which the townsfolk took as a lie since they believed he could enact such miracles as bountiful crops; surely he could answer such a simple question. They stormed his home and took the magi captive. His house was searched, whereupon many bizarre and unexplainable discoveries were made. Strange objects were found (formal components), books in bizarre, unreadable languages with pictures of horrific creatures and glowing writing (spellbooks and research) and in the basement a large ritual chamber (a failed and abandoned attempt at a circle of power). This was more than enough evidence for the town. The old mage was dragged to the center of town and tied to a table. The town threatened the mage with torture and death if he did not bring back their children immediately. The mage, (now desperate for his life) told them what he thought they wanted to hear. Unfortunately for him, this only made the townsfolk even more fanatical. They decided that the magic "in" the mage was an evil force that must be removed from the boundaries of their town, but they also feared it's vengeance.. so simply to banish it would not do. For the next two hours the mage was dissected alive as the frantic and confused townsfolk searched for the "magic" within him. Pails and buckets were placed under the table to catch the blood lest the magic escape through the earth. Unsuccessful in finding anything out of the ordinary, what remained of the mage's body and the many pails and buckets of blood were burned in a large bonfire in the woods of the ridge. Also thrown into the fire were all suspicious materials collected from the mage's house. With this act complete, the townsfolk went home to their beds, satisfied.

Less than a month later, while casually walking to the blacksmith one morning to have a scythe sharpened, a local farmer spotted a wild dog running through the dew-covered underbrush dragging what appeared to be a humanoid limb. A 15 minute chase ensued with the farmer eventually cornering and scaring away the canine with his scythe. A few minutes later he was at the door to the tavern, gingerly carrying the severed and partially eaten left arm of a woman, bearing a ring belonging to the barmaid. Once again the bloodhounds were called in.

The townsfolk searched all day with the dogs, the barkeep being the unfortunate soul who had to carry the severed limb to help the dogs track their scent. They searched the more forested area to the south of town to no avail, then moved in a wide arc toward the west. This took the majority of the day and they were about to give up the search until the morning light when the dogs picked up a scent on the way home. The dogs lead them to the base of a treeline and into the forest, then to a small gully in a valley. In that gully they found the remaining arm, both legs and head of the barmaid, recently disposed of. Further investigation found skeletal remains poking through the dirt, and a small footpath leading up the hill toward the small church home, which the peasants now made their way up.

Knocking on the door to the home, the farmers forcibly placed the man with the scythe in front. The door opened, and the young dark elf priest smiled pleasantly back at them, small bloody saw in one hand, clothing covered in gore. He was immediately dragged out and into their arms. The farmer with the scythe entered the home alone, and soon after he was heard swearing in shock and revulsion to himself from within. He returned dragging the priest's "wife" by the hair, with his other arm covering his mouth and nose. Dropping her on the ground, he made his way to the bushes where he proceeded to spend the next five minutes vomiting, unable to answer any questions as to what he found inside. While some of his kinsmen attempted to question him, the remainder tied the priest to a large post in the ground. This post had been used by the priest's "father" in years past to attach his goat to, and still stood. The townsfolk, perhaps reluctant to enter the home, bombarded the priest with questions, although it was obvious to them that he was responsible for the barmaid's death. The priest claimed that he was "cleansing the town", as they themselves had done to the mage. He stated that they had not fully regained Kael's favor and more work had to be done. In a state of shock and rage over recent events and the loss of the barmaid, the innkeeper flung himself at the bound priest and managed to plummel him into unconsciousness before he was dragged off. The priest's wife sat on the ground, quietly witnessing all of this before the townsfolk turned their attention on her. This conversation ensued:

Townsfolk: "What is going on?! Why did he kill these people?"
Wife: "We were doing the work of Kael.. we were restoring the light of Kael to the town."
Townsfolk: "Did you kill the children too? To save the town?"
Wife: "Yes, we cleansed the children; but not to save the town."
Townsfolk: "But your husband told us that the mage killed the children!"
Wife: "No he didn't, he told you the mage was evil in the eyes of Kael and must be dealt with."
Townfolk: "Why would Kael want our children dead?!"
Wife: "He didn't."
Townsfolk: "Then why did you kill them?"
Wife: "We needed to make a husband for our daughter, like I was the wife of my brother. I tried many times to do this, but after the birth of our daughter, Kael made me give birth to corpses to show his displeasure in me. We needed to find another way to make one. It had to be done to continue the cycle."
Townfolk: "But where are the children? Where are their bodies? What did you do with them?"
Wife: "We needed their parts, but none of them fit, because their parents were not clean in the eyes of Kael."

At this point the conversation was interrupted by the now recovered farmer bisecting her body with an overhead swing of his scythe.

Over the next hour, her body was placed at the feet of her "husband" and surrounded with firewood. Shortly after being lit, the screams of the priest awoke their daughter, who sleepily made her way out the front door. The young dark elf was brought away from the scene, but could not be taken far away enough not to hear. When the farmer who owned the scythe was questioned about the inside of the house, his only reply was "Burn it." However, this was not acceptable and the house was searched. With both husband and wife now dead, and the townsfolk unwilling to question the girl, they were unable to discover most of what went on within the home/church, but this is what found within the house. Like the farmers who searched, I'll leave it up to your imagination as to what purpose it all served..
- The house *was* a church to Kael, God of Light. It didn't resemble a house at all. Cots served as beds and minus a small room in the back, every area of the home was filled with altars, religious materials and holy symbols. It was basically a shrine to Kael.
- In the small room in the back of the house was found:

A table on which was placed the naked torso of the barmaid. Her abdomen had been sliced open and it was obvious that objects had been placed within and removed multiple times.

Under the table in a chest were the remains of the now highly decomposed body of the old woman, in much the same state as the barmaid.

A chest of drawers, within which were placed neatly piled rows of stillborn babies, all wrapped tightly in white cloth, covered in the markings of Kael.

A book filled with religious-based writing. The grammar was that of a young child, but it was obviously written by the young "priest". It went on at length about the glory of Kael and followed a very hard-line belief system which basically formed the tenants of the church of Light into black and white issues. However extreme, the belief system did conform to the proper tenants of the Church of Light.

A small shelf containing various tools and instruments, on which all had been carved the symbol of Kael.

A bed for a small animal. Later a small white kitten was found, in perfectly healthy condition. The child informed the townsfolk that it had simply appeared at their door one day. She said that it never played or purred, rarely slept, and spent most of the time sitting in a corner watching. The kitten was never seen again.

- In the gully in the woods behind the house were found the remains of all the missing children. All the bodies were in good but dismembered condition - what role they had played remained a mystery.

The next day the house was burned to ashes.

The young dark elf remained in the care of the innkeeper for three years. She spoke little of what happened in the house, or of her parents and few questioned her. She appeared little affected by the events that took place, and acted as a quiet but normal young girl. She did have odd habits however, including sewing the eyes shut of any dolls or stuffed animals given to her as gifts. One day she simply vanished. A travelling merchant told the townsfolk that he had passed a girl traveling eastwards on the road, approximately three days distance away. When the merchant asked the girl what she was doing so far into the wilderness all by herself she simply stated that she was "looking for my cat." She was never seen again.

Her name was Rhademia.

Within 15 years, the town was abandoned and remained that way for close to 100 years, before Gordon Maclean arrived and with the permission of the Grey Elven nation, founded Sindar."

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