Monday, July 4, 2016

Orrin and Lia of Grove

Orrin of Grove began his life as a simple peasant. Poor but hard-working, he and his wife Lia labored in the fields. Every evening, they would wander the nearby woods in prayer. One night, the couple chanced upon a young apple tree; every night after, the two visited the tree, tending it as they prayed and talked. Over time, it grew; every harvest, its branches were laden with fruit, providing Orrin and his wife with more than enough food. Eventually, Orrin approached the owner of the woods, and asked if he could purchase the small plot where the tree grew. The owner had no plans for the area; it was overgrown and too hilly for crops. However, he never expected a poor farmer to be able to purchase land. Laughing, he agreed to a fair price, and sealed it with his signet, fully expecting to never hear from young Orrin again.

Tasking his wife with caring for the tree and the fields, he traveled to the city of Slowhaven, on a holy pilgrimage. On his way, he met a great many folk, some traveling to the capital, others returning from their journey; many he helped, sharing his apples with them freely. When he reached his destination, the cleric of the cathedral recognized him immediately, much to Orrin's surprise. As it happens, many of the people Orrin had visited the cathedral, and thanked their god for him. His old eyes twinkling, the cleric handed Orrin a small, heavy bag, and watched his confusion as he counted out the gold. It was a gift; merchants, travelers, and even highwaymen had given to the church in Orrin's name, and the cleric had been shown a vision - the money should go to Orrin. What's more, the gift was the exact amount Orrin needed to purchase the land.

Rejoicing, Orrin returned immediately and called upon the freeholder. He delivered the letter of agreement and the sum of gold to the man, but his joy was cut short. Angry at having been tricked (though the price was fair), the landowner demanded that Orrin be thrown in jail, as the only way he could have amassed such an amount was in robbery. Orrin, however, stood his ground; never once raising his voice or his arm, he spoke with such surety that the sheriff rebuked the land owner, and ordered that he honor his deal. Angry, the land owner complied, but in his haste, he signed over the entire forest to Orrin! Noticing his mistake, Orrin attempted to correct the man. Enraged, the landowner cut him short, crying, "That is the deal! You shall have not one inch more, nor one inch less!"

Orrin accepted, and that very night, he and his wife gathered their belongings and moved into the forest. As the years passed, Orrin and Lia planted many new trees; travelers brought them new fruit, and they planted the seeds within. In time, the entire forest was a single orchard, and a temple stood in the center. Men and women came from all over Mareten to worship at the temple, and to help in the harvests. Orrin was richly blessed for his generosity and kindness, by the people and by his god.

But even stories of hope contain darkness. Even with the great wall completed, when the Age of the Beastmen began, orcs and goblins and other foul creatures found their way into Mareten, down from the mountains and across the sea. Though they were not the wave of destruction as found outside the wall, the baleful beasts still they caused no end of chaos and destruction, looting cities and burning farms. Orrin's grove was no different, but Orrin and Lia swore to protect the land their god had blessed them with. Orrin, with an old shield and a pruning hook, and Lia with a pair of decorative swords, defended their home. At first, many stood beside them, but death and fear overcame. As the army of goblins and orcs bore down on them, none remained but Orrin, Lia, and their god.

As the morning light shone down, the army of Mareten crested the final hill, and came to a stop at the edge of the grove. They had tracked the war bands across all of Mareten. Though parts of the grove were torched or torn down, orcs and goblins lay slain as far as the eye could see. At the center of the grove sat Orrin, his back against the first apple tree, and Lia lay on his lap. As the commander approached, Orrin stirred, and lifted his pruning hook, its blade shattered, in salute. There, under his tree, staring into the eyes of his weeping bride, he died. But inside the temple, thousands of refugees were protected; Orrin and Lia had defended them with their lives.

Lia remained a devout defender of her faith. Her swords flashing in the afternoon light, she trained the widows and orphan girls as Bladedancers. The ancient cleric from Slowhaven made his own journey, to visit Orrin's Grove; when he learned of the death of Orrin, he stayed and continued Orrin's work, teaching the young men and women the ways of the Cleric.

Lia's twin swords, anointed with blood and reforged in holy zeal, are still held by the highest ranked bladedancer; they are said to glow dimly when beastmen are near. Likewise, Orrin's shield, battered and dented, still hangs in the great hall of the Temple of the Grove; even in the nights, light beams down from heaven upon it. Orrin's hook, little more than the stump of a grass-cutter, has been lost; whether it was buried with Orrin, or was lost, no one knows.