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By the Beard of Barenthesis!

by Patrick Sullivan

Since Sir George Kirbey utters this oath in Dragonmage of Mystara, I got to wondering... who is this Barenthesis?

The Legend

According to legend, Barenthesis was the daughter of a pirate-king of Texeiras long ago. She was a fervent follower of Diulanna, and swore herself, at a young age, to the service of her patron, taking a vow of chastity. Barenthesis' father, however, had other ideas, and sought to marry her to the old baron of a neighboring realm to cement an alliance. Barenthesis prayed desperately to Diulanna to intercede on her behalf and prevent this marriage, and Diulanna granted her wish, causing a full beard and mustache to grow on her girlish face. The baron refused his now-hideous fiancée, and Barenthesis' father was so furious that he had her hanged. Now a martyr to Diulanna, she was rewarded by being made a titan. To this day, many peasants and those who follow Diulanna know that, with strong will and the intercession of Barenthesis, granted in exchange for prayers and offerings, they may be delivered from unwanted fates.

The Icons

Two icons of Barenthesis are widely known to exist. One is located about a mile outside of Port Tenobar, and the other is located along the trail halfway between Port Hatti and Vinton, along the shore of Vanya's Girdle. Each icon is a figure that appears to be a plump young girl, about four feet tall, with rosy cheeks, curly red hair, a red mustache, and a bushy red beard. She hangs by the neck from a noose attached to a large, dead tree. She appears to wear a simple brown blouse and skirt, with a simple belt ciched around her waist, and an elegant gold circlet. She sometimes wears one or two silver shoes; at other times, her feet are bare. She hangs over a narrow stone well, encircled by a stone wall about three feet high.

Legend tells supplicants to cast a coin into the well while making a wish. If Barenthesis fails to answer their first wish, they know to keep trying each time they have an available coin.

Ontkommer--A Variation on the Barenthesis Legend

Just south of the village of Graez, according to legend, is the magically preserved corpse of Ontkommer, a very brave Flaemish sorceress. In life, Ontkommer was the daughter of a minor Hattian nobleman in what is now Glantri and his Flaemish bride. Ontkommer devoted her short life to studying magic and pursuing the conquest of the hated air wizards of Alphatia. Her father secured marriage contract with a Boldavian baron of Glantri. Refusing to be paired with anyone but a pureblood Flaem, Ontkommer desperately searched for a magical solution to her dilemma. She finally found it in an alchemical secret that allowed her to grow a full beard and mustache. Outraged, her father had her hanged. With her last breaths, Ontkommer worked powerful magic to preserve her body and evidence of her fate, and to help others of her race in their continuing struggle against the air wizards.

Today, her body, along with the rope and dead tree from which she was hanged, remains just south of Graez. She appears identical to the icons of Barenthesis, except that she sometimes wears gold boots.

According to legend, the good people of Graez were outraged when a wandering fiddler attempted to sell a golden boot in the village. They marched him out to the dead tree, a handy gallows, to hang him for his theft, and felt vindicated when they saw that Ontkommer was missing one of her boots. The fiddler insisted the boot had been a gift, and that he would never steal, but the villagers did not believe him. As they placed the noose around his neck, Ontkommer stirred and kicked off her remaining gold boot, proving his story to be true. The villagers released the fiddler, who went on to inspire the Flaem to ever-greater feats of magic through his heraldry, and learned to visit Ontkommer with their wishes and coins.

The Truth

Around 200 AC, a band of gnomes devised a scheme to subsidize their tinkering. They crafted a complex machine: an early version of a lottery. As they worked on this machine, they told various traders and those with whom they had business a story about the wicked gnomish King Barnthes, who the gnomes had overthrown due to his vast evil. They explained that, as everyone knows, the only way to imprison the spirit of a truly wicked person for eternity was to hang that person above the mouth of a magical wishing well. Since true magical wishing wells are so difficult to come by, the gnomes struggled to find a suitable location, and everyone involved was sworn to secrecy.

The components of the machine included an 80-foot deep stone cylinder filled about halfway with acid, an artificial dead tree, hollowed, with artificial roots built into and alongside the stone cylinder, and the hanging automaton figure of a dead gnome, dressed in the height of gnomish fashion of the day--a gnomish tunic cinched at the waist, with a gnomish crown. The artificial tree conceals a secret door, and a passageway leads downard through the hollowed trunk into the root system.

The machine functions by slowly dissolving metal cast into the acid, then distilling it in the automated refinery built into the false tree's roots. Most of the metal is stored, but in the original machine, half of the dissolved silver is drawn through small capillaries winding through the machine to form deposits on the foot of the automaton. The machine requires 50 silver coins (an electrum coin counts as half a silver) to form one complete shoe. When a shoe is complete, there is a 1% chance per day that the automaton will kick it off (roll twice per day if there are two complete shoes). Each time a coin containing silver is tossed into the well, there is also a chance that a completed shoe will be kicked off: a 4% chance for each silver coin, and a 2% chance for each electrum coin. Again, the chance is per complete shoe.

The legend spread quickly and was just as quickly distorted, confused, and modified until it became today's legend of Barenthesis. The gnomes regularly stole into the secred door late at night to recover the precious metals from the tree's root system. The enterprise was sufficiently profitable that they repeated their work at least twice more--once with an exact copy of the original machine, and once with an automaton wearing gold boots.

The gold-booted machine requires 100 gold coins (an electrum coin counts as half a gold) to form one complete boot. Its chances of randomly kicking off a boot are identical to the silver-shoed machines. Each time a coin containing gold is tossed into the well, there is a chance that a completed boot will be kicked off: a 2% chance for each gold coin, and a 1% chance for each electrum coin (per complete boot).