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Thorn's Chronicle: Traldar's Lost Tribeby Robert J. Nuttman, Jr.
Wanderers. Drifters. Vagabonds. The Lost. Accursed of Zirchev. More than likely, the traveler in Karameikos will hear one of these names before any will utter another: Darine. Kaldresh. Marikesh. They call themselves "the Dom," which simply means "the people."
History tells us that several tribes of the descendants of Traldar fled west, before the terrible the onslaught of the invading Beastman, leaving farmstead and family to burn. For this, the history books tell us, they were cursed by the Immortals, never again to have home, hearth, or fields of their own to tend. Should they attempt to settle, misfortune would find them, and that which they might build be consumed: their houses would fall to ruin, their families stricken with disease, crops to wither and rot in their fields.
And yet, despite the curse, any night's camp is a place of good cheer, alive with music and song and dancing; the fireside is a place for tales adventuresome, or romantic, or fantastic. No caravan is without a few of the garishly painted vardos, for it is said to be bad luck to refuse a Darine's invitation for company on the road. Cursed though they may be should they try to settle down, their presence on the roads is more often than not a blessing.
I remember devouring the information on Ravenloft's Vistani culture back when that setting came out, and was pleasantly surprised to see much of that material given a Known World spin in the writeup from the MML. There are some pieces that don't quite fit Thorn's Mystara, others that I feel need a bit more filing to get the last of the serial numbers off.
Immortal curses are good, and of course, are even better when mortals only understand part of the reasoning behind it. They are made even better when mortals completely misunderstand the reasoning behind them.
As I tinkered with my notes, I was struck by that 400 year gap between the Darine's leaving the lands of Traldar and returning to Traladara. Why would anybody wander for 400 years through mostly hostile territories? Where all did they go?
What if they weren't merely wandering, but were being pursued? And what if they weren't simply wandering, but had a very specific purpose? A line popped into my head as I noodled with my notes: "Ah, to wander implies no destination, no purpose. The Darine, for all their traveling, have never wandered."
The Darine are said to venerate Zirchev.
If the Darine are looked upon with a mix of suspicion and wonder, how would this fit in with their connection to their Immortal patron?
Suspicion, wonder, distrust, disregard for laws not entirely of their own making. A gift for fortune telling (whether it be true gazing into the future or just showmanship)... Wait a minute, isn't one of the powers of the Eye of Traldar (the so-called Black Opal Eye)... foretelling the future?
What if Zirchev didn't "find" the Eyes of Traldar, or they weren't "given" to him. What if his magical power came from the stones? And what if he stole them (mistakenly or on purpose), in fleeing those oppressive Hutaakan masters from the Lost Valley? If we go along with this supposition, it's not implausible that the Hutaakans could have sent the gnolls into the lands of the Traldar, either in retaliation or simply in order to recover the artifacts.
Hmm. Hero of the Beastman invasion and wars to the cause of it all?
Worked into the very much work-in-progress mythology of Thorn's Mystara, Zirchev's use of magic would have put him at risk of madness at the hands (claws?) of the demonic taint upon Mystara's native magic, and it is entirely possible that he was deep in the clutches of madness by the end of the 40 years of war against the Beastmen. If he wasn't mad, then could the stones have acted as a buffer, much like the elven Soul Gems? Or perhaps the key to Traldar's artifacts lay in the fact that they were crudely-built demonic prisons?
Then again, it's entirely possible that Traldar's mystical Eyes were not opals at all, but another type of stone familiar to readers of Thorn's Chronicle.....
Also, in reading through material about Zirchev from Marco's awesome compilation of Immortals, I was struck by many of the similarities between Zirchev and the Wizard of the Woods from Dave Arneson's Blackmoor. Learned of magic, friend to the sylvan folk, if not commanding them, then on good enough terms that they would do his bidding in helping fight against the gnoll invaders.
History repeating itself?
If the Darine do indeed follow Zirchev, I'm thinking they would have some sort of connection (power over?) the fey. And who do we know who might have a connection to the fey as well...?
The Darine tribe were originally from what would become western Karameikos: the Achelos woods bear the name of one of their ancient kings, though nearly every other trace of the tribe has been lost or forgotten in the thousand years since their exile. The tribe consists of several different clans, the largest of which is the Kaledresh. These are the "typical" Darine most think of when the tribe's name is mentioned: they travel in wildly colorful vardos, homes on wheels, strung with chimes and pots and pans. These are the rovers, the most widely traveled of the clans. Their talent lies in mending and tinkering; it is said that the item touched by Kaledreshi hands is returned in a condition better than when it was brand new.
The Marikesh is the second largest clan, their vardos more sedate in color. They do not range as far and wide as their Kaledreshi cousins, mainly due to the fact that they keep small herds of goats, sheep, pigs, and various types of fowl. The highest born families of the Marikesh keep and breed horses, and aside from elven whites, it is said there are no finer horses to be had than one given by a Marikesh.
The smallest of the clans is the Lovani, but these are said to be the First clan: Achelos and Zirchev were both of the Lovani, and were possessed of great wisdom and foresight. The Lovani clan not only tends to produce the wisest and most powerful of seers and sages, but also the finest huntsmen and makers of cloth and leather goods.
Kaledreshi who take up Zirchev's debt are granted power over roads and means of travel. Those of the Marikesh gain an affinity and attenuation for animals and the wild. The Lovani become seers, able to see over great distances, at times to even pierce the veil between past and future.
Darine class add-on material coming soon!
This material is being developed concurrently with the First Quest segment of Thorn's Chronicle of the Saga of the Last Daughter of the Lost Kingdom