NARRATIVE INTERLUDE, A New Host
RADAGAR the Red,
“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
“Faith…is intellectual bankruptcy.” Dan Barker
“You often meet your fate on the road you take to avoid it.” Goldie Hawn
The young man gazed up into the eyes of the Speaker of Souls. His face showed no sign of emotion, at least none that Radagar could tell. Whatever thoughts he had of this would-be disciple, or his possible abilities, he kept to himself. His dream, his longing to be a Soulspeaker, was here at his grasp. This moment would decide his entire future.
The Speaker moved his hands around the surface of the bowl’s contents, a liquid that Radagar knew would contain the spiritual material needed to speak with the souls of those recently departed. Too recent was their death to have found their way into the spiritual fabric of the Well. It was these souls, new to the web that all wove themselves into after mortal death. A Soulspeaker tapped into this web to heal, cure, or simply to give comfort to those still mourning, who counted themselves among the living.
He had practiced this moment many times. All manner of meditations and mind clearing exercises, the teachings of the Web and it’s Speakers. He had always known the calling to the Host would someday work within him, and because his father had been a speaker, and his father before him, it was a foregone conclusion to all those in his life, that he would someday reach full connection as well.
And now the moment had arrived. “It is time for you to declare your true faith in the Host. Giving up yourself, to join. You have prepared well, Radagar. What have you to say?”
“I declare my faith in the Host. I declare that I am but a part of the web of life, and I wish to take my place, among all those before me.”
Radagar rose and looking each speaker in the eye, one by one, he circled the basin, finally taking a seat beside it on the ceremonial rise. Kneeling, he bent over the rim, placed his hands within the clear water, and cleared his mind. As he brought the hands up, he felt as though he could feel the force of the web, sifting through his fingers. The life energy was palpable, he was connecting.
“Circle of Speakers, today we give this man, Radagar of Acla, connection to the web, to become a member of that which is the Connected. To use it’s majestic power for the benefit of our people.” A chant rose. Radagar knew the words, as all disciples knew well, and from memory. The circle was repeating ancient Sasserine, a pure form of the invitation, the request of all in the circle to grant a new member of the web permission to use it’s energy until their death.
This was a solemn ceremony, not one to be taken lightly. A member of the Host was granted access to the web for their life. Should an initiate be of mal intent, the circle would, in a manner of speaking, be creating someone who could harm them, and the web as well. For this reason, initiates were chosen carefully, as Radagar had been, and by this point, the connection was simply a formality, but a truly life changing one nonetheless. It was said, that many who had completed the ceremony looked different, hairs would gray, or backs hunched. Most were much more solemn and sometimes demurred. In many ways, the Speakers were privy to the voices of those who had lived and become one with the web. They had, in a sense, received a look beyond the grave.
The basin darkened, and tendrils of vapor began to lazily float above it, snakelike, they wrapped themselves around the members of the circle and around Radagar, himself. Radagar could feel the energy of so many spirits, swirling around him, within him, inviting him. In his mind, he accepted the invitation, using the words of his many trainings, and he felt himself ephemeral, leaving his body, rising among the others. “By the Light! There are so many. So many more than I could have ever dreamed!” He was surrounded by them, among them, their numbers were infinite. How many consciousnesses here, with all their own dreams, souls, ambitions, desires. All connected into a singular web. He knew then just how ignorant the idea of death was, and how insignificant he was.
His purpose was confirmed. Radagar knew then his training, his discipleship to the Host was not in vain. He would serve the web, serve his fellow living spirits, and one day take his place among the web, as part of the Host. It was a noble, simple, and meaningful existence. The only one he ever wanted.
As Radagar drifted among the web, the chanting grew around him, he felt the fogs lifting that impaired his ability to connect the many times he had meditated in practice. The force of the web, it’s energy was opening to him, it was beautiful. If he had been conscious, he was sure that he would most surely have wept.
And then it happened…
From around him, a force began to manifest itself. Slowly at first, Radagar felt it’s energy and presence, unlike the bright joy he felt with the others, this one was different. Lurking, watching, it was closed off from him. Swirling, as a large shark would a school of fish.
A voice, a voice from inside the web, no, inside his head. He wasn’t sure. “Get out….” Confusion stole over him, he thought of what to say, what to ask, but nothing seemed to make sense, so he just waited.
“Get out! You are not meant to be here, Radagar! You are not allowed!!!!!”
Water dripping through his fingers, his knees on the rough basin edge. A hallucination? He must focus, “Focus Rad,” he thought! He could feel his eyes squinting as he attempted to clear his mind. The spirits seemed to separate from him, they were leaving….
“How, but….why? Wait!!!” Too late, he felt the others begin to disconnect from him. As Radagar struggled to regain the forces that he could feel near him, the tendrils began to loosen and sway. They released their grip and moved away from him, backing down into the basin.
“What? Why is this happening?” What have I done”, thought Radagar….he had never heard of such a thing. In all of the stories he had heard his father tell of the many connections he had been a part of, he had never heard of anyone hearing a voice. Why was this happening to him?
Radagar, now fully aware of his material surroundings, looked around. Confused, even disturbed looks were scattered on the faces of the members. Lord Berelonus looked at him. A friend of his father’s, Radagar knew that if any of the member’s faces belied truth, it would be his. It was a mask of uncertainty. For the first time, Radagar grew scared.
“Members,” began the Chamber Speaker, “a connection failed.”
“Failed?” Lord Berelonus replied, “Failure? Do we know this for sure? It was but a mere disconcertion then, we must try again.”
“I should think not,” all eyes turned toward the Chamber Speaker, Lord Thesssian. “I heard a voice. It was material. A material voice in the void. You all felt what happened. This man is not allowed. We have invited a person of malicious intent!!”
“We are talking about Radagan’s son, Thessian! I have known this man since he first began walking, he is and always has been, nothing but kind.” It was Berelonus, thank the Light he was here.
“The Host is all-knowing. All being. It is not for us to question, Berelanus.” A moment of pause, no one seemed to know what to say, or maybe they were considering these words from the Speaker.
“What do you mean a material voice in the void?” another member asked. “It is not possible.”
“I heard it too.” Began another member, “I as well,” claimed another.
Radagrt seemed to feel all eyes lock onto him, mouths agape. “I heard it, yes, I heard it….”, a deep breath, “It told me to leave, that I wasn’t permitted….to..connect.” Around, the members nodded. It hadn’t been imagined.
“By the Light, what can it mean? This has never happened during a connection!” a member worded.
“Is it not easy to tell?” This time it was a member who had come from a Church of the Host in the Grand Sasserine district. “This boy must not be allowed to connect. It has been nearly a generation since a connection has failed, but it is not impossible. Who gave this young man clear passage? Who gave him instructions?
It seemed like years had passed since his dismissal from the order. In fact, it had only been a year since his banishment. The Council of Members had decided that to send him to Sasserine would only cause a scandal in the church. One that they didn’t need right now with news coming almost monthly from the West. New customs and religions of the savages and intelligent beasts being discovered in the Isles were beginning to threaten the claim of the Church of the Web of the basic principle that everyone belonged to the host, and that access to the web began and ended through the church. In order to prevent a scandal, Rad was forced to leave and leave quickly. He left his town, his church, and his family the very next morning, without so much as a goodbye, it was just as well for him, his shame made it the departure of his choice, as much as the members from Sasserine who escorted him from the city himself.
But Rad, could never have guessed what happened next. How Lord Thessian’s guards, in a betrayal, had brought him to a watering hole for the horses, and there on the banks of a small stream, attempted to murder him. How he escaped, is, even to this day a miracle to him, but what followed was definitely the nightmare that became his life. He fought his way through scrub and wilderness, never knowing the wilds himself as a youth, it was a second miracle he survived them. Although he had never connected fully, his knowledge of healing lore and herbalism served him well, and he found refuge among the various settlers outside Sasserine, constantly moving with the seasons. His appearance he changed, but with time, the notices were weathered, and soon he lived without fear of discovery, so long as he stayed on the edge of towns, never in them, never near the capital, Sasserine.
Eventually,Rad found himself among a group of settlers traveling to the Northern Lands. They lived a simple life, content to dream of tilling soil, and growing crops, raising children. Even an adventure or too into the ancient ruins they had heard of. Radagar found himself in familiar and even joyful company. None of these would have interest in placing him as the murderer of Lord Thessian, criminal to the land of Sasserine. Here were simple people, not unlike the harmony he once felt within the web, even if it had just been for a fleeting moment. One night, one of the elderly men sat beside the fire, stoking the flames, he called out “Omora!”. As Rad watched, the embers became brighter, and a wave of fire erupted from the coals.
“Magic…” Rad spoke, “It has been awhile since I knew someone capable of using it.”
“One does not use it, one simply applies it. It is, everywhere, friend,” said the man.
Finding this concept an interesting comparison to his own attempts at becoming a Speaker, and healer, Radagast asked “Are you saying that anyone can wield that which you do? If this were true, we could all use magic for daily chores…whatever we desired.”
“Magic does not work that way,” said the old man, hunching down in his linens, it was a cold night. “It is not for anyone to wield it, and certainly not for anyone to use it how they see fit. It’s secrets are arcane. They must be researched, in detail. Even a lifetime of study may only reveal how to brighten the coals on a chilly, Autumn night. Would you care to try?”
“Me?” Radagar asked. He had never considered.
The old man, stared at Radagar for a long time. “There’s a risk. But I’m getting the feeling you have little to lose.” Was it that obvious? “So repeat after me, and listen carefully to what I am about to explain….”
Several nights later, Radagar felt the surge of energy flow within him. Before a week was out, he was able to brighten the coals, and shield his face from the wind. When magic came to him, he felt something primal, something surreal, as he had in the folds of the web.
This time there was no voice, no shame. Only warmth. Magic. A connection, at last.
Discovery and Departure
Ultimately, it was this connection that saved his life. The story of how he was discovered and his ultimate departure to Far Realm, however, is something that Radagar often thankful for, but thought about less and less. What was important was that he made it. In Far Realm, Radagar had found something, something that for the first time in decades, he believed might help him find what happened to him.